Discovering Nizwa after hours puts the city in a whole new light, finds Shaquel Al Balushi
Footsteps echoed around the streets, magnified in the silence, as the shapes of some men suddenly appeared in the doorway. As they stopped to talk, they were framed perfectly between the doorway and I clicked away, capturing the moment in the stillness of the night. Darkness surrounded them, but they were illuminated by the soft glow of the street lights, which threw shadows around them.
I have been to Nizwa, the old capital of Oman, many times but never during the evening. Nighttime Nizwa is so different. During the day, the city is hectic, bursting with life and often teeming with tourists visiting the fort and the old souk. As darkness descends, everything changes. It’s quite unique the way a place and your perspective of it can be altered when it is clothed in the dark cloak of night.
I was in Nizwa to see a ceremony celebrating its title as Capital of Islamic Culture 2015 and while I had some spare time before the festivities began, I grabbed my camera and headed off to explore.
The first thing that struck me was how much more relaxed the city is at night, with none of the hustle and bustle of the daytime. Everyone is winding down for the day and people head off into the night after a day’s work, some carrying bags containing their dinner. The light from the street lamps bathes everything in a warm yellow glow. These ambient colours alter your view of time and place. I entered the souq area and took some pictures of the local pottery on sale, lit up in green by a shop light. Shooting at night makes for interesting shapes and the contrast of light and dark from the shadows is wonderful.
While taking a short break on a step, I came across a young man sitting on his moped, chilling out and intently checking his smartphone, oblivious to the world around him. The light from a nearby lamp post was falling across him. It was almost as if it was choreographed and I took several photographs, none of which I think my subject was aware of. For me, the young man stole the show as far as photographs were concerned. I loved the moody, atmospheric feel to the images.
I ducked into a couple of the shops in the souk. One had hundreds of lights with coloured glass hanging from the ceilings, casting multi-coloured rays across the walls as they turned in the night breeze. It was quite cold when I stepped outside and I was glad that I had brought a jumper to keep me warm. In another shop I was struck by a display of khanjars – the traditional Omani dagger – hanging on the wall. A single blue one stood out among all the silver, a colour I had never seen used for a khanjar before. It made for an effective image, providing another contrast of colours.
I was also able to photograph the tiny details of silverwork in very sharp focus.
There was just time to head out onto the streets again for a few more shots before the cultural ceremony that I was covering started.
I really enjoyed my night study of Nizwa and would thoroughly recommend an evening trip there. Arrive in the late afternoon to capture the city in daytime before the sun goes down and a whole new Nizwa shows itself to you.
How to get there:
The journey from Muscat to Nizwa is easy and straightforward. Simply take Route 15 from the capital and follow the signs. You’ll see the fort rising above the date trees before you arrive there. Park up outside the walled souk – there’s usually plenty of spaces. With a stop for a quick coffee, it should take you around two hours.
GPS location of the souk: N22˚ 55’ 55” E57˚ 31’ 54”