After an exhausting climb, Shaquel al Balushi finds himself in the perfect position to capture some stunning elevated images of the coastal city of Sur
Although I have passed through the capital of the Ash Sharqiyah region several times – mostly en route to visit the turtle beach at Ras Al Jinz – I’m not terribly well acquainted with the city of Sur and have never stopped to explore it properly. With this in mind, I felt it was high time that I make the 200km journey southeast of Muscat and venture there for one of my Destination pieces.
I called a friend of mine, who is also a photographer, asking for some advice on places to check out during my trip and he put me in touch with the head of the photography association in Sur, who very kindly organised for two of his young protégés to meet me and act as my guides.
I was excited in anticipation of the insider’s view they would give me into their city, showing me the prime spots to get the best shots.
After parking my car opposite an Oman Oil station and meeting my two guides, they certainly did not disappoint me.
The place they showed me translates into English as Alaga and although this is not an official name, nor is it signposted, my guides assured me that if you ask anyone in Sur, from a local who has lived there all their life to an attendant at one of the petrol stations, they will all be familiar with the lookout point, which is also the site of a restored watchtower, and know how to direct you there.
Before I could get my camera out and start snapping away, though, I had a hefty climb to deal with. My eager guides bounded off full of energy, but I made the journey up the momentously large stairs at a more sedate pace. The workout was strenuous and if you are anything like me, you will need a good rest once you reach the top.
Luckily, the views made all the exertion worth it.
High up on Alaga point, I was afforded breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views of Sur and, reaching for my camera, began snapping away with the same enthusiasm that my guides had bounded up the stairs. I soon realised that Sur is a very beautiful city and Alaga is a perfect peaceful place from which to capture the essence of this beauty.
I could quite literally see for miles, from the curving bay and its lighthouse and ancient watchtowers to the buildings and houses that sprawl inland and make up the majority of the city. I also caught several glimpses of the traditional dhows that Sur is so famous for, given its rich seafaring heritage.
The main thing that appealed to me about this shoot were the colours. It sounds pretty obvious, but the white of the houses was so white, the sea was several shades of turquoise, deepening in colour the further out it went, and the blue of the sky was so blue. That’s what I love about the images, the crispness and clarity of the colour; it was all so clear. I also liked the fact that there was very little evidence of pollution in the water, which you can sometimes see around Muscat.
One of my favourite shots of the day followed something we call the rule of thirds in photography, in that all the linear features in the image flow from section to section. In this case it was the houses in the foreground, the sea in the middle, which then ran seamlessly into the sky above (below).
By the time I reached Alaga, it was early afternoon, as I had spent the morning exploring a few other places the city had to offer, but I would say that the best times to visit are either very early in the morning or in the evening, just before sunset. At these times, the lighting should be perfect and allow you to capture some fantastic photographs.
It was fascinating to see a side of Sur that I had never really experienced before and my recent visit has undoubtedly inspired me to return to this wonderfully vibrant coastal city and study it in further photographic detail.
How to get there:
The route to Sur is very simple. From Muscat, take road 17 all the way until it meets road 23. Take a left and head into Sur, travelling on the beach road with the sea on your left until you cross the suspension bridge. Take the first right at the roundabout and park at the Al Ayjah Plaza Hotel.
GPS Location of Alaga: N22° 33’ 43” E59° 32’ 23”