When Rachel MacIver first came to Oman, she was only planning to stay for two years. But just like most expats who found their way into the Sultanate’s shore, she stayed far longer. Time flew so fast that by 2019, she has been in the country for 15 years total.
“I wouldn’t want to swap my little rented house and life in Qantab for anything. I love the country which is so versatile that one can literally have breakfast on top of the mountain, lunch by the sea on a white empty beach and watch the sunset from a sand dune in the desert,” she said.
She came to Oman at a time when Google Maps didn’t even occur yet to the people who made it.
“My mum was a bit of a hippie and at some point, she took me out of school to travel around in Tunisia. To this date I am sure it was when my love for camels and dates began,” she shared.
“My mother was Danish while my father was 50/50 Palestinian/German. I grew up on a Danish island and it was in Denmark where I finish art school. I moved to Sweden where I worked for a local newspaper, married and had my two wonderful kids. After a while, even Sweden became too small. I spent years with the British Army living in places like Germany, England, China and Northern Ireland before finally finding my home in Oman,” she narrated.
Once in Oman, not having GPS or Google Maps didn’t stop Rachael from venturing to the different parts of the country. One of her fondest memories was getting lost in Ruwi as she and her mom were planning to go to Quriyat-Sur.
“We just couldn’t find our way to al Amerat and eventually Quriyat,” she said, adding, “we eventually found a traffic cop in the middle of issuing a speeding ticket to an unlucky driver. He stopped what he was doing to try and explain to us how to find our way but he soon realised that the two blondes in front of him weren’t exactly navigators so he abandoned the speeding fine, mounted his police motorbike and escorted us from Ruwi all the way to the ‘Eagle Roundabout’ in Al Amerat and pointed us in the direction of Quriyat.”
There were other memorable trips of course and there were many other places she explored. In every of her trip, she takes snapshots.
“People often ask me how I started as a photographer. The short answer is, I didn’t. I am not a photographer, I never learned to take photos and I know absolutely nothing about light or shutter speed. What I DO know about, however, is watching what is going on around me, and taking photos is my way of saving those moments and moods which make me smile, cry or laugh,” she said.
She added, “The book came about as a bit of an after-thought – not really planned. I used to sell my framed black/white photos to raise money for a project and printed a catalogue from where people could view and choose a photo for printing. The actual catalogue became quite popular and people started asking to buy copies, so I decided to collect a selection of my many photos and turn into a kind of coffee table book.”
As a contributing writer for Oman Observer, Rachael added snippets of her stories to accompany the photos in her book.
“Suddenly it was no longer just a selection of images, but rather a long illustrated love letter to Oman,” she said.
She would title the book ‘Oman – Not All Black and White’ referring to the fact that most of the featured photos are black/white with only a small detail kept in colour.
She said, “People often ask why I have chosen to keep that little bit of colour and apart from the
graphic effect where it will draw the viewer’s eye to where I want it, it also helps to remind
us that nothing we see is ever as simplistic and straightforward as we first think. Nothing is
ever just black or white.”
She added, “Oman as a country is no exception. You might see a country moving ahead at great speed finding its niche in the 21st century – or you might look at the
same country and appreciate the perseverance to stay true to its roots and heritage… Nothing is ever black or white.”
“What I have learned from people buying my book or framed photos, is that this is what attracts them to my pictures. They reflect something people can relate to, recognise… My photos are all from Oman and show the subject – warts and all,” she said.
The book is comprised of 129 photos all detailing Rachael’s eventful stay in the country.
“I printed 2000 copies and have almost sold out. I am not planning a reprint since I think it is time for a new project,” she shared. She recently has a book signing to be acquainted with people who bought her book.
Copies of ’Oman – Not All Black and White’ are still available from Dar al Atta’a charity book shop “Lets Read” in Avenues Mall, for as long as stock lasts.