Tin bowl – Jebel Harim: Musandam.

Nikon F4 with Non-Ai 135mm f/2.8 Nikkor on Kodak T-max 400.
From my negative files.

Made at an abandoned (?) village on Jebel Harim Musandam: I question the abandoned because the owners would leave their Jebel accommodation and move to the coast for a couple of months each year, for fishing and general trade, so I was never sure.
The people of this area of Oman are very interesting in many ways, according to recent research the ‘Shihuh’ who occupy most of the mountainous area are a mystery.
Paolo Costa, former head of Oman’s Department of Antiquities say  “Ethnically, we don’t know who they are, there is speculation that they are the original inhabitants of Arabia, pushed back into the mountains by successive Muslim and Portuguese invasionsThe Shihuh are semi-nomadic – farming their hillside terraces in the winter and living by the coast in summer to fish and harvest dates – their summer homes palm frond huts, their winter ones low stone houses that blend almost invisibly into the mountainsides. Another of the Shihuh’s peculiarities is that the men carry a long-handled axe (called a jerz) rather than the traditional curved Arab dagger, or khanjar. “The remains of some prehistoric weapon?”  (From Aramco World. Vol:34)
I have one of these axes from my time in the Musandam.

Other than arriving by sea, getting into the Musandam was very difficult and in some ways dangerous for outsiders; not only because of the lack of access (mountainous with precipitous cliffs) but also because the locals had a fearsome reputation. Whether justified or not, it did dissuade outsiders which achieved the result they wanted.
They speak a dialect of Arabic (A mixture of Arabic, Farsi and Urdu) which has probably evolved through several hundred years of isolation. Another area on the coast called Kumzar has a language very similar; a mix of Farsi, Arabic, Baluchi, Portuguese and English.
Since the mid – 1970’s there has been a development programme that is modernising the Musandam but still maintaining its culture and traditions. It welcomes tourists with modern hotels, 4×4 adventure camping, Dhow cruises and I have enjoyed some of the best diving in the Gulf. (Large Sharks, whale sharks & tropical reef fish)

Tombstones Musandam.

A rework of an old negative from my days at Khasab:
Nikon F4 T-max400 @ iso320.

Unfortunately a number of these negatives got irrecoverably damaged when Cyclone Gonu hit Oman in 2007.
I was working on Jebel Shams at the time, needed stuff from Muscat and had a rather traumatic encounter with a deluge of water hitting the road we were on. Eventually got back to my house, only to find rather a lot of water in the rooms; one of my files got wet with rain coming through the window edges – it was all my Khasab negatives. Managed to save a number by rewashing in Kodak Photoflo solution, but some had gone beyond even the wonders of scanning and fixing in Adobe Photoshop.  I was a lot more fortunate than many people, I’m only complaining about negatives while others lost their lives, houses, belongings and some businesses never recovered.
Hay-ho  such are the tribulations of life.

Not much information about these tombs, rather a lot of them with no real indication of which village they came from, even their age was in doubt; I got a lot of conflicting answers for that question.

A Musandam Hermitage.

Hermit - The MusandamA Musandam Hermitage.

The three buildings in the above image, was the home of an old gentleman who as far as I could tell, had cut himself off from his immediate family and lived a very solitary life.
Unfortunately he is now deceased; although I did have the pleasure of meeting him on a few occasions when he was walking the mountain tracks.
I remember the first time I saw him, he was walking back from one of the local villages and I stopped in case he wanted a lift. He scrambled in and proceeded to have a loud and unintelligible conversation with me (it was some form of local dialect – probably Kumzari [see below] interspersed with the local Arabic) I can get by poorly ! with the later but not a hope with the former.
Over the months, I picked him up a number of times and was greeted with a big toothy smile along with the inevitable loud unintelligible chatter. I said yes & no interspersed with insha’Allah when I thought it appropriate; he always left with profuse expressions of thanks, so I must have avoided giving offence.
This is in no way meant to sound disrespectful, but – the expectations of someone living alone in the mountains above Khasab are that they would not present the most hygienic of demeanours….. Far from it, he was clean and what struck me as rather odd, very soft hands, but with a firm handshake. So although the place looks very desolate and unkempt, he was most fastidious about his appearance; albeit rather bedraggled.
I was sad when I heard that he had died.

From that well-known online encyclopædia:-

The Kumzari name derives from the historically rich mountainous village of Kumzar. The language has two main groups of speakers, one on each side of the Strait of Hormuz: by the Shihuh tribe of the Musandam Peninsula and by the Laraki community of Larak Island in Iran. On the Musandam Peninsula, the Kumzar population is concentrated in Oman, in the village of Kumzar and in a quarter of Khasab known as the Harat al-Kumzari. In addition, Kumzari is found at Dibba and the coastal villages of Elphinstone and the Malcolm Inlets. It is the mother tongue of fishermen who are descendants of the Yemeni conqueror of Oman, Malek bin Faham. Based on linguistic evidence, the presence of Kumzari in the Arabia region exists prior to the Muslim conquest of the region in the 7th Century A.D.
Although vulnerable, it survives today with between 4,000 and 5,000 speakers.



Abandoned village The MusandamNikon F4 with Tokina 35-70 f2.8 AIS AT-X.

This is from a negative that I saved after a whole file of them got wet when my house was inundated several years ago  😦
Thankfully a good soak in Photo-flo solution was able to save a good number of them. Although as you can see, there is some damage in the sky area as this was made on Ilford XP2 which is a dye cloud film, so not as hardy.
Most were images I had taken when I was working in the Musandam.

A little bit of history as to why Oman is split into three parts – Oman, Madha & The Musandam.
It goes back to the formation of the UAE in 1971. Prior to this, the area was little more than a collection of sheikhdoms (unlike Oman by this time) with not much in the way of formalised government. It was administered by the British as Oman & the Trucial States.
When the British withdrew from the region a decision was made to form the Trucial States into a single country, the United Arab Emirates. As you can probably imagine, there was a great deal of debate over which parts were owned by which sheikh.
Some areas were easy but were there was the possibility of dispute; the British simply asked the villagers which sheikh they owed their allegiance to. Madha decided to pledge their allegiance to Oman, so they become Omani.
With regards to Musandam; this has significant strategic importance as, with Iran, it allows control over the Straits of Hormuz. Hence Oman was able to maintain control of The Musandam in these negotiations, but didn’t win the rest of the coast, which is why Musandam is also not connected to the rest of Oman.

“bait al qufl” Jebel Harim.

The photograph below shows the door of a building called a “bait al qufl” (house of locks) built for protection from the elements. The floor, a metre or so below ground, has raised stone slabs for eating, sleeping and storage. The recessed door has a double locking system and opens inwards, one does not get in without being asked!

When I first came across one of these while trekking on Jebel Harim; the door was not locked and the place seemed abandoned, so what a shock I had when pushing the door open and stepping from bright sunshine into the dark interior – I fell in! Luckily my camera was on a tripod and not in my hands.