The Sultanate of Oman

The Sultanate of Oman is on the southeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula, bordering the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and the war-torn Yemen. Despite Oman’s proximity to that war, there was very little evidence of the humanitarian catastrophe so nearby.

Oman’s oil wealth and use of imported labor is evident. Nevertheless, Oman does not exhibit the overwhelming urbanization and development of either Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Old Muscat, in particular was human-scaled with plenty of friendly pedestrian activity.

Oman’s coastline in the Muscat area is rugged and mountainous. The ocean-side outcroppings were ideal locations for the 16th century Portuguese forts, like the Al Jalali Fort that is the backdrop for the Palace. The mountains and stones they provide for construction gave Muscat some of it’s ambient color.

The images below are all from Muscat, the sprawling capital city. Click on one of the links above to see more work.

The Opera House, Muscat, Oman
The Royal Opera House
Dead Crab, Muscat, Oman
Dead Crab on the Beach
Police in the Harbor, Muscat, Oman
Police in the Harbor
Omani Taxi Driver
Omani Taxi Driver
Al Alam Palace, Muscat, Oman
Al Alam Palace
Al Alam Palace Gun and Fort, Muscat, Oman
Al Alam Palace Gun and Fort
Al Alam Palace Entrance
Palace Entrance
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat, Oman
Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Tower at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat, Oman
Tower at Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
Commerce in Mutrah Harbor, Muscat, Oman
Commerce in Mutrah Harbor
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Burj Khalifa, a Symbol of Dubai

Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, and a centerpiece of downtown Dubai, is also central to the Dubai government’s push to diversify its economy beyond oil. In pursuit of the dream of becoming a center for tourism, real estate and other investment, a new metropolis and collection of skyscrapers has sprung from the desert floor.

The Tallest Building - Dubai's Burj Khalifa
Burj Khalifa

Dozens of nearby buildings are under construction — including some that would dwarf the skylines of other cities. Construction labor is provided by South Asians and other foreigners at very low wages. The rules and legal rights of non-citizens, especially for those without wealth, remain unclear and subject to change. Dubai is one of the United Arab Emirates, and is ruled by its Emir, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

There is a gloss of modernity, consumerism, and openness to tourism and investment from around the world. But underneath — even for the casual visitor — there is also a tension caused by glimpses of exploitation of workers from other lands,  codes of behavior with invisible lines that must not be crossed, and a dispiriting effect from the lack of human-scaled spaces and structures in and around the downtown.

Many of these pictures were taken from the observation deck on the 124th floor of Burj Khalifa. There is a second, more expensive observation area on the 148th floor, 6 floors of corporate suites above that, and another 9 floors for mechanical, communication and broadcast equipment. 

The Giant's Fingers
The Giant’s Fingers
Dubai Mall
Dubai Shopping and Entertainment Mall
Looking Toward Dubai Creek
Looking Toward Dubai Creek
A False Clocktower in the Distance
A False Clocktower in the Distance
Observing the Observers, Dubai
Observing the Observers
Where Major Buildings Look Like Toys
Where Major Buildings Look Like Toys
The Next Hole is Dug
The Next Hole is Dug
The Emir's Dream
The Emir’s Dream

The Instant City

Camel's Nose

It isn’t exactly instant, but in the space of a few decades, Abu Dhabi has gone from a desert town to a metropolis. Skyscrapers are sprouting from the ground, and the camel’s nose of oil wealth is much more than just under the tent.

Development may be a strategy to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil, but it is hard to imagine who will occupy all these expensive new buildings coming onto the market all at once. On the other hand, just building them may be the more immediate goal right now.

Abu Dhabi harbor
Under Construction
Rising on the Shore
Rising on the Shore
New Apartments and More
New Apartments and More
Blue Wall reflections
Blue Wall
The Geometry of Money

The Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is imposing and beautiful – perhaps the most stunning structure in this modern city littered with immense and stunning structures rising out of the desert floor.

The courtyard, paved in a floral marble mosaic is approximately 180,000 square feet. The hand-made carpet inside is believed to be the largest in the world, measuring over 60,000 square feet, and weighing 35 tons. The chandeliers hanging in the center of the main rooms are studded with thousands of Swarovski crystals.

Over 3,000 people were employed in the mosque’s construction, from 1996 to 2007. Artisans and materials came from countries around the world, from India to the United Kingdom, and Italy to New Zealand. It is hard to comprehend the expense and the labor lavished on of this place of worship — intended as a monument to Islamic diversity and historical and modern art and architecture, according to the Sheikh after which it is named.

mosque1

Main Domes

mosque3

Interior Pillar

mosque4

Small Inner Dome and Ceiling

mosque5

Inner Courtyard and Minaret

mosque6

Large Chandelier

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“Small” Chandelier

mosque2

Exterior Walkway

 

Magic in the Garden

There is a magic in the garden. One can see the cycle of life, plants emerging, others flowering, some healing wounds, and still others dropping leaves and flowers in preparation for their next stage. By nature some are expanding, competing for air and water and space, while others live in cooperation providing benefits to their neighbors and partners. And of course, there is the rich diversity of nature.

Each time I visit it seems different. Not just different plants in bloom, but the magic and wonder of it has somehow shifted. Or maybe it is me that has changed, and I just notice different things. Here are a few I noticed during one of my recent visits.

Palm Flower

Palm Flower

garden6

An Old Wound

garden8

Bat Flower

garden1

Leaf’s End

garden3

Oblivious

garden4

Root

 

Walls and a Fence

There has been a lot of talk about walls — and one wall in particular — lately. As it happens, I’ve been making images of walls lately, too. Below are a few.

As you look at them, consider these things about walls (and fences). They can keep us out … or in. They separate us from others, but can also protect us from harm. They can be a canvas for light and reflections, or have designs of their own. Some can become homes to house people and businesses, while other  walls and barriers may define or limit our opportunities. But then, for some, creating and building these walls can be an opportunity in itself. What has been your experience with walls and fences?

Reflections on a Wall

Reflections on a Wall

Fenced In or Fenced Out

Fenced In or Fenced Out

Corrugated Steel Wall

Corrugated Steel Wall

Shed Wall with Door

Shed Wall with Door

New Walls

New Walls

Bank Walls

Bank Walls

No Exit

No Exit

New Orleans

The city of New Orleans is a rich mix of the modern and the old, of wealth and poverty, of music, historic buildings, a new flourishing arts district, and all the good and the bad of the culture of the Deep South.

In areas like the French Quarter the excitement — and sometimes drunkenness — of the tourists floats like a thin sheen over the hardships endured by the street performers and service staff, the poverty of nearby neighborhoods, and the failures of the public sector to provide services and maintain public facilities. Of course, visitors are encouraged to look past all that, but it is there and is a part of what makes New Orleans what it is.

Cottage on St Ann Street

Cottage on St Ann Street

The masks we wear

The masks we wear

The locals

The locals

All dressed up

All dressed up

Forgotten remembrance

Forgotten remembrance

Open street surgery

Open street surgery

Just before the night begins

Just before the night begins

His money, his life

His money, his life

Surveillance

Surveillance

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