People looked at me like I was mad when I said I was going to visit an Omani goat market. But from my research, Nizwa looked like a stunning place and I wasn’t disappointed, (when I finally got there that is!).
I checked into a hotel just outside of town, after arriving around 1am on a stormy flight from Colombo. After a few hours’ sleep, I went down to reception to ask the night manager to book me a taxi to town. “No madam”, he said, “No taxis in this town.” I hadn’t really banked on that response. “Don’t worry, he added, “just stand on the side of the road and someone will pick you up, Omani people are very hospitable you know.” Disbelievingly, I was sure a taxi would pass me at some point. But over an hour later, having attempted to flag down a couple of learner drivers (to me they look exactly like taxis), still nothing. Time was ticking, it was seeming like I was going to miss the market. Definitely too far to walk, I braved it, and started flagging down cars on the side of dusty highway. At last a group of men in an old truck with some goats in the back took pity and pulled over (it was obvious where I was going – I just pointed at the goats!) Thankfully, I was delivered just in time for the market, which (also thankfully), turned out to be every photographer’s dream.
Slightly intimidated by the raging bulls attached to their owners by very thin-looking ropes, I ventured across to the raised concrete area in the middle of the auction ring; a safe vantage point from which to view the proceedings. Personally I don’t think any photo is worth getting trampled for, but there were a couple of brave photographers doing their best matador impressions, jumping out in front of the cattle to get the best shots. Their tourist antics were pretty much ignored by the locals who were seriously busy bidding on the livestock. I went for the candid approach and concentrated on getting as many discreet shots as I could; the locals in their traditional clothes make fabulous photos. One of the other challenges to be prepared for is that the lighting is difficult to work with: the main auction ring has an overhead awning which casts areas of dark shade on an otherwise perfect composition. However, there is a lot of bartering that goes on outside after the main auction finishes, so if you do want some well-lit pictures, it’s a good idea to stay around for the end. Nizwa turned out to be a beautiful little town with a spectacular Fort and once you’re there it’s easy to explore on foot! All in all it was definitely worth the transport hassle and I ended up with plenty of interesting shots. Heading home, I finally managed to grab a seat in a Bangladeshi workers’ bus and jump out by my hotel for a much-needed bowl of hummus at a nearby café, followed by an afternoon nap!
Top tips for Nizwa market: Hire your own car and remember to bring a good zoom!