Susan and I were saddened to hear of the passing away of Sultan Qaboos bin Said on Friday the 10th January. He had led Oman with great wisdom for almost 50 years. When he took over from his father, it was a nation of virtually no infrastructure, schooling or hospitals. Now it is a nation that has grown to great prosperity.
I knew little of Oman until 2005 when I was commissioned to do two paintings for a client there. I quickly became fascinated by this ancient land so I began to read up on its history. In 2007 we decided to visit this beautiful country in the Gulf which has such a diverse landscape. It has a breathtaking coastline with crystal clear waters, dramatic mountain ranges and vast barren deserts. In the south (Salalah) there is a verdant landscape in the summer months. The Khareef waters the parched ground and flowers appear. The culture is fascinating. The Omani people are very friendly and you always feel safe.
Sur to Muscat
On our first visit we were introduced to some wonderful people. I soon began to receive further commissions. This enabled us to return several more times. We soon began to see the vision of Sultan Qaboos for Oman develop further before our eyes. On each visit we saw big changes. We watched new motorways spring up, connecting coastal villages like Sur to Muscat. When we first went to Sur in 2007, the coastal road was only accessible by using a 4 x 4. Now there is a fast road that enables you to make the journey in just a couple of hours or so.
We also saw the Royal Opera House being built and in 2018 we were able to enjoy an opera being performed. In 2007 we went to Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) and had a picnic at Diana’s Point. Famous for a visit by Princess Diana, it was once a remote spot with an amazing view of the dramatic canyon below. On our first visit, we sat on barren rocks. Now there is the luxurious Anantara Hotel which commands the view. I’ve painted a number of commissioned watercolours of Jebel Akhdar over the years. One of them received the Artist Prize for the Royal Watercolour Society Competition in 2013.
Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq
In 2009 I met the US Ambassador to Oman, Gary Grappo at an exhibition preview in Oman. He wrote this insightful and personal article in The Fair Observer about Sultan Qaboos which is well worth reading. If you have not visited Oman, I would recommend it. We hope and pray that his successor, Sayyid Haitham bin Tariq will continue to fulfil Sultan Qaboos’ vision for this beautiful country. May he continue to maintain peace and prosperity for Oman which is situated in such a volatile part of the world.