All Faces of Al Huqf
It’s the end of October 2011; temperatures are much lower, and the weather during the daytime is more pleasant. I was sitting in the office finishing off some of my work when my editor asked me about the venture story for the next issue of Y Magazine. I’ve been working as a press photographer in Oman since 2007 and one of my tasks is exploring The Sultanate and featuring nice places in the still “undiscovered” Omani interior.
Over the last few weeks I’d been thinking about the trip to northern Al Huqf, where nature created an incredible landscape.There are lots of rocks in very bizarre shapes often still in their anthropomorphic forms which look fantastic, especially at night when illuminated by the moon or the strong artificial light of my Land Cruiser.
With this trip in mind, the last thing to do in the office was to print out a Google Earth map of the area. A quick shop in the local supermarket and I’m ready to go. At home I re-checked my equipment: water, food, sleeping bag, GPS and most importantly my medium format camera Mamiya 7 along with a couple of slide films and a tripod. Assured that I had everything I set off into the night straight to Al Huqf which lay 400 km ahead of me. At around 4am as dawn was breaking I reached the point where I had to turn left from the highway to the desert. A last look on the GPS locator told me that 12-15 km ahead I would see the first massive rocks in the Al Huqf escarpments. The sunrise gave me a good opportunity to take nice shots and despite my tiredness I set up my camera on the tripod and started taking photographs. The light was very soft and warm. I took around 10 frames of the 6x7 cm slides. After an hour I moved to the next location driving carefully through the terrain.In Al Huqf the terrain varies with sand dunes, rocks, stony wadis, camel grasses or “sabkah” with many ups and downs giving you an instant Oman off-road experience! I drove along a big limestone “wall” where there were a lot of fantastic stony mushrooms, giant snooker balls or rocks that looked like a big chicken or a tennis racket! Seriously! I found an excellent location for camping in the shade of the big mushrooms. I prepared small bonfire and after small cup of tea I went to sleep. ).
Copyright © 2014 Discover OMAN • Photos by Jerzy Wierzbicki • Design by Pyrka
I woke up later that afternoon and surrounded by the silence and gorgeous landscape I decided to stay there for the night. After a big cup of strong coffee and some snacks I moved on foot between the rocks. I found a small crack in the limestone “wall” where it seemed like the water and wind wanted to cut the big rock at exactly that point. Behind the crack I found a small isolated chamber, filled with a small sand dune and stones. The silence there was incredible. Nowadays as we spend most A stony face of our lives in cities filled with loud sounds and aggressive lights, an experience of such total silence is very rare and value. In the evening I was quite tired and I found another place to camp for the night - time to eat something more substantial. On the big bone fire I prepare some rice with smoked tuna and a lot of strong coffee with milk. An hour rest was enough. I was around 30 km from the asphalt road and still a drive away from the black top road. During the night I drove south slowly and carefully. I had to stop a few times along the way and check the route. I passed a few ambushes in the form of soft sands or wadis filled of stones and reached the rock which looked like an enormous bird. Ducky Rock is the biggest form in the northern Al Huqf. This is one of the most fantastic locations for landscape photography in Oman.The place is perfectly isolated by the desert and far away from the main tourist tracks. Mysterious gorges are sheltered by the escarpments from the north. From the south Ducky Rock is surrounded very soft sand dunes, salty “sabkah” and unpredictable dimensions making driving very difficult, even for experienced off-roaders!
Ducky Rock looks like ancient theatrical scenery that was abandoned and forgotten many years ago. I arrived during the night, which was cold with a weak wind blowing. Being alone surrounded by such a stunning environment with the stars above me heightened my awareness and I felt shivers of excitement. It was a privilege to take photographs in such circumstances. The next day I reached the asphalt road having driven 110 km through the desert thus using 80% of my fuel. In Mahoot I pulled into the service station and re-checked my map. Muscat was more than 450 km and I planned to visit Nizwa on the way after spending that night somewhere between Mahoot and Sinaw. I found a small sand heap which had been twisted by the wind with almost dry trees and small desert shrubs.
I couldn’t sleep though as I was thinking about the next day. I arrived in Nizwa very early. The sunrise was fantastic; clear air, warm light and good visibility making great conditions for photography. Nizwa is an old Omani town situated in the heart of Oman around 170 km from Muscat. It is the largest city in the Ad Dakhiliyah Region. In the past Nizwa had been the Omani capital city. The architecture in the town is much more traditional compared to Muscat for example. There are many mud-brick houses in the central old town, a massive fort and narrow streets typical of medieval old towns. In the evening there is a specific atmosphere in Nizwa as it fills with weak artificial light and the smell of frankincense. There is a small animal market in the morning in the old bazaar. After a couple of lonely days in the desert I had to visit some place that was the absolute opposite of where I had just been, so I moved quickly to the bazaar. I only took two Nikons with me, one analogue and one digital along with two lenses, an ultra-wide angle 18 mm and a telephoto lens 300mm as I don’t like working with too much equipment.
The bazaar was very busy. A lot of Omanis wanted to sell their goats or cattle that day. The entire bazaar was filled with the bustling of sellers and buyers. I started taking pictures which nobody objected to. In fact it seemed like the people were used to being photographed. I settled within a circle where the animal owners were presenting their goat and spotted a Bedouin lady with an old Omani man.
They ignored me completely, focused only on the sellers and animals. I started capturing photographs of the Omani Bedouin lady in deep blue traditional clothes.
he fuss and turmoil of the place were helpful as it meant that I could take images without any additional attention which can make working in public places difficult. I spent all morning in the bazaar. At around 11 am the sun was much stronger and the light conditions for photography were poor. I took around 200 photographs including two rolls of reversal films. A little bit exhausted after the last few days, I set off slowly towards Muscat. I have two stories for my magazine and a few slides for my long term project about the Middle East. A successful trip all round!