Dhofar, the Land of Frankincense
You can’t travel far in Oman without hearing the word frankincense. Every Omani home burns this fragrant resin daily, it is an intrinsic part of Omani life. Not only does it make the home smell nice, it also keeps flying insects such as mosquitoes at bay. The best quality frankincense is steeped overnight in water which is then drunk at breakfast time to treat a variety of ailments. And inhaling the smoke is said to be good for asthma.
Gallery: on the road to the future?
I cannot, of course, photograph the future. I could perhaps take photos of futuristic sights and buildings, but they would still be very much of the present. People often talk about the future in terms of a road we are travelling, don’t they? And we also often talk about choosing a path or road, making a decision to go this way or that.
El Tatio: a steaming landscape
It takes a certain amount of sacrifice and discomfort to visit El Tatio. For one thing, you will sacrifice sleep, as all tours leave very early in the morning. The steam from the geysers is most active and visible at dawn, so you need to be there before sunrise. You must also be prepared to be very cold and to cope with altitude; the geyser field is at 4,200 metres above sea level. So is it worth it? Oh yes!
Rub’ Al Khali: the Empty Quarter
The Empty Quarter, otherwise known as Rub’ Al Khali, is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. It is so-called because this huge stretch of unbroken sand has defeated kings, adventurers, and nomads for thousands of years. In a region defined by deserts, the Rub’ Al Khali has come to be known as among the most daunting and inhospitable. And it is on an unfathomable scale.
Gallery: Mountain, Desert, Jungle or Ocean?
Some years ago the Wanderlust magazine used to have a regular feature in which it asked contributors and readers: What are you? Mountain, Desert, Jungle or Ocean?
Water in the desert: Wadi Bani Khalid
There is indeed something particularly awe-inspiring about coming across an oasis in a barren landscape. The contrast between lush greenery and bare rock or soil can be so striking. Wadi Bani Khalid is one of the best-known and most accessible of Oman’s wadis. But the small amount of development here has been done sensitively and it doesn’t detract from the visual impact of deep green waters, lush date plantations and stark mountains all around.
Lunch with a Bedouin family in Oman
Salma is an Omani Bedouin. She lives part of the time in a tent on the fringes of the vast Wahiba Sands; and part of the time in a modern house in the nearby town of Bidiyyah. She wore the traditional Bedouin face mask, designed to protect from sandstorms and the elements in general, as she and her daughter in law served our lunch of traditional bread, rice, dhal, chicken, fish and salad.
Reaching for the sky again in Africa
Once you have been in a hot air balloon, and loved the experience as I did, you will seize any opportunity to fly again. Leonardo da Vinci had it right, even though he himself had never flown, when he said, 'Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.'
Gallery: up, up and away, in the Namib Desert
Deserts take many forms, but to most of us the word conjures up rolling dunes as far as the eye can see. Such a desert is the Namib, home to the world’s highest dunes. Many of them surround the clay pan of Sossusvlei, and one of the best ways to appreciate the scale and sheer number of these dunes is from above, in a hot air balloon.
Around the world in ten photos: day two
The landscape here is a series of horizontal stripes in blue, green, beige and brown. It creates a calm backdrop for the flamingos as they feed, their pale pink feathers reflected in the still pools of water.