One expat, one camera, one country – Oman. With her new book of photographic impressions on stands now, Sabine Reining is taking the pulse of Oman – one shutter-click at a time.
She came (by chance), she saw (the magic) and she was conquered (by all that’s Oman). Seven years on, absence — of the warmth of the people and the beauty of the place — makes the German tourist’s heart grow fonder, and distance — a tiring 6,000km of it — frustrates her.
This is an incredible tale of love at first sight, and ever after, when Sabine Reining spied with wide eyes sitting on a plane hovering over the skies of Oman to make a landing. The view below was breathtaking. The love was instant, infectious and forever.
It was during a random layover in 2011 when Reining, 33, flew over Muscat. “I didn’t know much about the Sultanate prior to that day. When the pilot prepared for landing I was looking down at a world of magic. Oman has truly become my home away from home and a place I never want to miss again,” she says.
Reining has recently published her first book as a result of her exploration of the Sultanate. Simply titled Oman, it’s a photographic diary of her 30,000km journey across the country.
The book covers almost every inch of the Sultanate – from north to south, east to west, valley to mountain, and desert to coast.
“My book documents my travels through Oman and shows a wide selection of famous sights and hidden treasures,” she explains.
Working as a project manager for a non-profit organisation, “we educate and qualify long-term unemployed people and help them to find a job,” Sabine tells Y. Now, she is an avid promoter of tourism in Oman.
“It saddens me that so many people in the western world have completely wrong ideas about the Middle East. I remember very well how shocked some people were when I told them I was going to travel Oman by myself. It’s because they don’t know anything about the country. I wish they all could experience what I‘ve experienced: an oasis of peace and people who receive their guests with open hearts.”
Through her blog, more people are showing interest in visiting Oman. “People often tell me how much blogs influence them in choosing their next travel destination and help them plan their trip.”
“Blogs are – in my opinion – the best way to get an idea of a country and its people,” she says. “My blog seeks to engage adventurous travellers in the planning of their own journey to Oman. It’s a record of my experiences and encounters on my trips; it offers first-hand tips for sightseeing, suggested routes, recommendations for restaurants and hotels, as well as insights into the culture and traditions of Oman. That’s why they’re exceptionally valuable when it comes to promoting tourism.”
Y sat down with Sabine to learn more about her passion for photography and love for Oman. Excerpts:
As a social media-based blogger, does it still feel good to have a printed book in your name?
It’s a dream come true! Each of us probably has 10,000 pictures on our smartphone — but when do we actually take the time to look at them and remember the place or feeling? It’s nice to have created something sustainable in this fast-paced time where the latest Instagram photo becomes irrelevant after five minutes. When I feel very homesick for Oman I lie down on the couch, burn a bit of frankincense, read my book, and revel in the most beautiful memories. It feels fantastic!
So why ‘Midnight Oman‘ for your web andsocial media handles?
I’m a great admirer of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos. The development that Oman has taken under his reign is absolutely breathtaking. I’ve spent a lot of time reading his speeches…there’s one quotation from his inaugural speech of 1970 I remember in particular: “Yesterday was dark, but with God’s help a new dawn will rise in Oman.” An Omani friend of mine once said to me that His Majesty Sultan Qaboos has led Oman out of the darkness into the light. I wanted to create a name that refers to this beautiful metaphor. Midnight is the doorstep into the new day, the dawn of light…and Midnight Oman was born.
Do yourecommend Oman for solo female travellers?
Omanis are so friendly and respectful. They really go out of their way to be helpful. I remember one day I was in the small fishing village of Shana looking for turtles when my car got stuck in the worst mud hole ever. Local fishermen and policemen spent hours pulling my car out. Their commitment turned this horrible situation into one of my favourite Omani memories. Oh, and they informed me afterwards that no turtles lived in that place!
Quick, tell us the top five things you love about Oman!
The people: I don’t get tired of saying this…I have never met such friendly and warm-hearted people anywhere else in the world.
The adventures: I often describe Oman as a magic box. For those who dare to travel Oman off the beaten track, a new adventure awaits at every turn.
Its natural diversity: A cyan-coloured ocean, endless white beaches, clay cottages barely holding on to mountains reaching thousands of metres into the sky, green havens next to vast desert. Where else can you find such diversity?
Its heritage: Oman combines the old with the new in a wonderful and unique way. I hope with all the tourists coming to the country, Oman will find a way to preserve this.
The food: I love Omani food. Every time I return to Germany I try to cook my food Omani style – but I always fail and go back to Schnitzel!
Well, is there anything you dislike about Oman?
The distance: I wish Oman wasn‘t 6,000km from Germany
The heat: As a German girl who’s used to rain and cold weather, 40+°C sometimes kills me
The waste of plastic: This is actually a quite serious matter. When I go shopping in Oman I try not to use any plastic bags and usually get the weirdest looks. One day a hypermarket even sent its manager after me to ask if everything was all right, because I simply didn’t want to take a plastic bag for my purchase. I really think that a greater environmental awareness has to be developed to protect Omani nature. It breaks my heart to see all the plastic trash in the most beautiful places.