Oman is full of remote villages, forts and towers. During the current 41 year renaissance period of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, many of these ancient dwellings have become much more accessible through modern roads, but up until now, the mountain village of Bilad Seet is not one of them. There is a single track that takes you there from the main road towards Al Rustaq but 17 km of of that journey requires a 4 x4 and it cannot be rushed, which is just as well. As a passenger you can enjoy some breathtaking views of some of the mountainous regions of Oman.
I had painted this picturesque village a couple of time for clients using photographs they supplied but I wanted to see it for myself and make my own studies. A friend of mine, Mike Harrison, used to be a school inspector in Oman and Balt Sayt was one of the schools he used to travel to. At the time, the school was in a tent, but now they have their own building. I was in Oman in March, 2011 at the same time as Mike and he kindly offered to drive me there for the day in his 4 x 4.
Mike has a vast repertoire of stories from his time in Oman and other Arab countries. He has even written a book titled From Tagine to Masala which contains a collection of recepies gathered from Arabian trade routes. By the time we arrived in Balad Seet, had a wander around, chatted to some locals and I did a sketchbook watercolour, even Mike was ready for the humble tuna fish sandwiches I’d made. Some local goats wanted to join in the picnic but were told where to go.
The driving in the mountain regions of Oman is very dangerous. Flash floods can come at a moments notice and sweep down the mountain sides. One needs to check the weather forecast before setting out and keep an eye on the sky for rain clouds. We picked up a puncture on the rough terrain but fortunately it was a slow one and we were able to make it home.
One of my watercolours of Bilad Seet can be seen in my Sketchbook of Oman. The painting above of Bald Sayt can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland. You may have noticed 4 different spellings of Bilad Seet, Bald Sayt, Bilat Sayt and Balad Seet. I’ve seen all of these spellings in various books and on road signs. Anybody out there seen any other spellings?