(The rat and I above Wadi Arbreieen)

It’s often said that an artist’s pre-occupation with his work tends toward selfish obsession. Maybe so. When Alison Collins of the Majlis Gallery offered me the use of her 4x4, I certainly jumped at the chance of freedom – to drive into Oman and to follow where my whim would take me.

Propelled into Al Ain off a bewildering number of roundabouts, Jebel Hafit massif slipped away behind me. Then in late afternoon sunshine, the road to Nizwa offered the first intriguing sensation of shifting light on a vast topographical landscape.

My fascination with these two elements was fed constantly with sidelong glimpses along the way. A break from driving increased my sense of atmosphere, it becoming more important – effect above place. Or so it seemed. Then again, places demanded attention, their unique light. The richness of Wadi Tanuf, the faint shapes of the looming Hajar Mountains rising from Batinah Plain.

In contrast, but not to be outdone by gigantic scale, the quiet recesses of Wadi Arbeieen, the sound of trickling water at Nakhal and the cool descent at Al Alya each have their own special atmosphere too. The great Hajar Mountains reflect ever-changing light, wispy clouds, soft hazy outlines, endless displays demand longer stays – if only time permitted!

Oh! and the rat…
I meandered the water’s edge in Wadi Arbeieen and sketched, watched by a group of small children, shyly smiling, chattering. Time to move on, I drove slowly up the steep side of the wadi and onto the track across the high plateau. Bumping along the track, noting the interesting contrast of silhouetted thorny acacia trees against the blue/purple of distant mountains. It was then I realized I had a rat scrambling across my bonnet – at the base of the windscreen! Where he came from I don’t know, or where he went, but with open windows, I thought it best to stop and check under all the seats to make sure I didn’t have a passenger!

A country of endless surprises. Did Turner really paint 45,000 pictures in his lifetime?

He didn’t even get to Oman!

Next time I go there…