Oct 072013


Featured Photographer I have chosen for this week is different and kind of unique, even though he keeps on telling me that he is not a good photographer,  I beg to differ, the fact that he owned the camera than, and took photos of various scenery and culture of Oman during the 1950s and in  the middle of the war,  and managed to protect and preserve them for sixty years , this alone makes him among the best photographer.

Photos are all about Memories, and here today I am displaying your photos to Omanis and Non Omanis alike for scene of Oman many of us never knew existed, this is the very definition of preserving memories. Thank you John, for these lovely very precious photos of Oman during the 1950s,  and I am honored you have chose me to share it to the world.


The Story


me on my camel and was taken at the army camp at Ibri. I was commanding a company of the Northern Frontier Regiment.We captured some men and five camels running mines from Burami down to the Nizwa area. I and four of my soldiers then used the camels to patrol and these patrols are some of my most happy memories of my time in Oman. We were able to cover more ground than we could have done on foot and go where vehicles could not move and the enemy could not hear us coming. In addition we enjoyed Omani hospitality where ever we stopped overnight. We would patrol for two weeks at a time. Treasured memories!


In 1958 I was  Lieutenant in the British Army and serving with a tank regiment in Germany where we were facing the threat of a Russian invasion.
At that time all British men on reaching the age of 18 were “called up” to serve in the armed forces for 2 years. I was a regular officer having been through the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, as did your Sultan.  As a lieutenant I commanded a troop of tanks.

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This is part of the first oil company convoy of equipment moving from Muscat to, I think, Fahood. Note the donkeys which were the normal mode of transport. The photograph was taken near Izki in 1960. The journey from Muscat to Nizwa was a slow and bumpy affair.


The problem was that with the constant turnover of National Service soldiers, those serving for two years, one no sooner had trained your troop to a good standard than many left at the end of their two years of service so it was a little frustrating. As you know I was in Oman as a result of the Sultan asking for British help to put down a rebellion led by Ghalib, Talib and Suleiman I was one of a small number of British officers who volunteered. I had never been out of Europe so life in Oman was a totally new experience. I was supposed to go to a language school in Beirut to learn Arabic but things became critical in Oman and we were sent straight out to Oman without Arabic. Some how we muddled through!! As it happened many of the soldiers were Baluch from Pakistan and did not speak Arabic so that was another complicating factor.




 shows a string of bombs dropped on rebel positions on the jebel above Khama Camp. This camp no longer exists, Izki does but in a very different form.



photograph is of Izki army camp. The main track from Muscat to Nizwa runs across the bottom of the photo.


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The Norther Frontier Regiment Camp at Saiq in 1959.


At various times during my 2 years in Oman I served in Kamah Camp where I commanded a company of the Northern Frontier Regiment and also had 110 donkeys which were used to supply the company of soldiers based at Saiq. I also spent some time with a company at Izki and Saiq also at Ibri which is where I spent a lot of time doing camel patrols with four Omani soldiers because the rebels were running mines down into Oman from Buraimi. Incidentally one of these mines blew me up when I was driving a Landrover along the landing strip at Firq a couple of mile from Nizwa and the person with me was badly hurt.


A Pioneer aircraft under repair at Ibri in 1959

A Pioneer aircraft under repair at Ibri in 1959



As I mentioned previously virtually everything moved by camel. This photograph was taken near Izki army camp. At the time that I took this shot I was commanding a company of the Northern Frontier Regiment based at Izki and we spent a lot of time searching camel convoys for weapons and mines. Mines were our major concern as they took a heavy toll of our vehicles. I was blown up at Firq and the person with me was badly hurt.


By the time my service in Oman was over things were very much quieter but of course some ten years later became very much worse in the South of Oman with incursions from Aden. I left the regular army in 1964 but continued to serve as a reserve officer until 1982, while pursuing a civilian career, finally retiring as a Colonel in 1982.



This road into Muscat, on the right of the picture, was the only road in Oman to have a hard surface.Taken in 1959.



Mother and daughter, Nizwa in 1958.



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Gathering fodder on the Jebel Akhdar in 1968.



a man making cooking pots in Nizwa souk


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As regards photography I have to admit that I have never been more than an occasional “snapper” having never had a lesson. I only wish that modern cameras had been available during my time in Oman. The problem was that really good cameras were bulky and were not really practical when running around with a rifle on the mountain.




Duru gathering in 1959.


Another one of camels but also on the right hand side an army truck which had hit a mine.


Thank you John again for this lovely story.

© Images/Photos may not be copied, printed or otherwise disseminated without express written permission of salimphoto.com or Salim Al-Harthy. Should you wish to discuss about the photos, you can contact us here


For The complete series of this Amazing Photo Documentary, please click here




  65 Responses to “Oman 1950’s By John Rayan (Introduction – Part 1)”

  1. These are amazing snaps which tells the history of Oman’ military. Wonderful to know about it.
    Hats off to Mr. John.

    • Rajan,
      Thank you for your kind comments I have many more photographs of my time in Oman. I have been amazed at the transformation of your country. I was fortunate to see a way of life that has vanished forever. Much has changed for the better except perhaps the traffic jams in Muscat!!

      • Thank you for such fantastic visual documentation. We have seen sea change in Oman since our arrival here…

      • Hi John
        Thank you for sharing your memorable experiences and excellent photos. Have you thought about sharing your story with the Historical Society and/or the Ministry of Education? I would think that your source of rich memories and photographic records will be of interest to them. No doubt the new generation would benefit from being aware of such history as it is all too easy to take for granted the modern country we live in now!

        • Thats the plan Sue. John has over 200 Photos, of which I am about to receive them all. I am working on cleaning them and showcase them here on PARTS. Once I show them all, than I will have a clear idea, which photos are the best for the ministry to have a look at them.

  2. Wow, Mr. John! Thanks for these and for giving Br. Salim your memories!

    • Safiyyah,
      Some Moslem faithful who follow a violent path get a lot of bad publicity in the West. I know that Oman presents a very different picture. Long may it continue.

  3. Hi John, As one of your sisters, here in California, I want to congratulate on having taken these most significant photographs of your time in the Oman many years ago! I think you did a remarkable job of photography considering the much less sophisticated equipment available in the 1950’s. You captured the real desert atmosphere, and the hardship of war…

    I’m so glad that you have secured these images for your Omani friends, and for yourself and for us. Thanks so much for sharing this remarkable period of your military career!! Love, Pat

  4. HELLO JOHN from another of your sisters. Loved seeing all your pictures from one of the most memorable times in your life. i had already seen the first photo, one of my favorites, but the others were revealing,. Such an open landscape at that time with not too many creature comforts, but to you a hospitable, special place in every way. So glad all your happy memories still hold strong and delighted you are sharing. Love Anne

  5. Some very nice pictures. Gives a good impression of just how much Oman has changed in a “short” period of time.

    • Jarno, You are so right the changes have been dramatic. In the 1950’s there was so much poverty and virtually no education or health services. Best wishes , John

  6. Amazing…..

    • Arnold, Thank you. Just for the record the first photograph is of a British Army Doctor helping a Nizwa woman. He was I believe the first doctor to visit Nizwa where trachoma an eye infection which caused blindness was prevalent. This “hakim” was very very busy.

  7. It’s a treasure. I am sure the photographs and the stories must be nostalgic to lot of people here. Every single photo is a gem. Thanks John, what should we say?

  8. It’s a treasure. I am sure the photographs and the stories must be nostalgic to lot of people here. Every single photo is a gem. Thanks John, what should we say? WONDERFUL

    • Abdul, Thank you. I wish I had made a better job of my photography but at the time I was unable to see the future. Best wishes. John.

  9. Many thanks to you John. May I get some of my country Oman photos. I like them a lot and I am sure so many Omanies do.

    • Hussain, If I go back to Oman I will bring my photograph album and perhaps Salim could make copies. I have about 200 photographs. Best wishes, John.

  10. awesome Mr John
    Thanks to share the precious old memories with us. god bless you
    Rajan Salalah

  11. Did not even think i would get a chance to see pics of 1950’s that too so many. Thanks for the posting

  12. Hi John and Salim. Thank you very much for sharing the wonderful photographs of Oman and providing an insight to the History of Oman

    • Manjunath, The credit must go to Salim. It was by chance that I contacted him and it was his idea to publish them on his blog. Best wishes. John

  13. Wonderful photos. Thank you both for sharing them.

  14. Thanks for sharing your memories John, great photos… a truly beautiful place Oman, curious to know what camera did you use back then ?

    • Tim the camera was a Konika. very ordinary camera.I do not think they are made any more, I still have it but have not used it since the end of my time in Oman. Regards, John

  15. Wow! I’m in Oman from 2000 to 2010, I’v only known the modern side of Oman. But seeing your photos I can really appreciate what all the changes that have been made to let this country develops and grow!!

  16. dear john and salim,

    as an expat working here for over 2 decades, i have developed a strong sense of belonging to oman ! these photos and your nostalgic recalls have been a treasure to me and am quite thankful to you, john. also, as many others have expressed, it would be a pleasure to have all photos available and the most perhaps nice way of sharing would be to create a blog and post them with suitable anecdotes and recalls. it would be a great treasure for many many, i am sure. as john has recalled, omani hospitality is matchless !! mr. john, can i know where are you currently living and do you visit muscat sometimes please ? would be a pleasure to just to meet you, if you visit muscat . also, mr. salim, would be a pleasure to get in touch with you…

    thanks and best regards and wishes

    mobile 99420057; email – chella99@gmail.com

    • Chellamani I live in Southern England and have been very fortunate to have been invited, twice, to visit Oman by an Omani friend who was in the Northern Frontier Regiment at the same time as me. He also has a house in England which he visits each year.

  17. What a fantastic account of Oman’s history. Keep similar photo’s coming. Brilliant!

  18. These are amazing snaps which tells the history of Oman & the Military life. I am travel buff and i can co relate very few places. hats off Mr. John. Would love if you can share some other stories with the pictures.’

  19. Br. Salim and Mr. John, you know, I was thinking, you can do a gallery show/exhibit of these and the other images, perhaps even publish a book.

  20. wow,Royal salute to you SIr.Thanks for sharing

  21. Thanks john from a Dutchman living in Oman. Love your pictures, they are a treasure.
    Henk – Muscat

    • Henk, Once I have sorted out some problems, my colour slides are rather old, Salim might be able to display some more.
      Best wishes, John

  22. Saffiya, already on it. John gave me exclusive rights of his photo, and this what I am planning to do with them.

  23. Dear John Ryan: Thanks you for these extraordinary pictures and captions. I went hiking up from Khama in February 1999 with an elderly British teaching colleague at Nizwa Teachers Training College named Robert Morse who claimed to be working from a crumpled copy of a memoir from 1958, but, by the way he pointed out rebel positions in the hillside crevasses along the route, I was never sure that he was not, in fact, an SAS trooper revisiting the past. Does that name ring a bell by any chance?–Regards, J. Matthew Moravec

    • Matthew I do not remember anyone of that name. However the SAS had 2 squadrons and to be honest the only one I remember is their Commanding Officer Lt/Col Tony Dean Drummond. I was with a company of the Norther Frontier Regiment which took part in the assault on the Jebel Akhdar. I was about 50 yards from 2 SAS troopers when they were killed.
      Regards. John

      • Thank you for the prompt response, John, and for adding those rare (if presumably painful) details to your retrospective. It so happens that I may be meeting up with a mutual ex-colleague in Salalah over the Second Eid break, and he may be able to provide more answers about Robert Morse and those memoirs. If not, I will continue to let my imagination run wild on the matter, as it is prone to do when I am surveying historical sites across Oman, as if much could be wilder than the reality of that one shot of Muscat itself with the only surfaced road as of 1958…Thanks again so much.

  24. Thanks for sharing these fascinating photographs. Your accompanying notes help give a real insight as to how it was in Oman during that period. I look forward to the next series. From my point of view this is the best thread to appear in Omanforum in a long time.

    • Sue you are very generous. I had no idea that the photographs would generate so much interest. They have been in my attic for the last 50 years or more.
      Best wishes, John.



  25. Most grateful to you for sharing these photos John. Why not come and visit. The Historical Association of Oman needs to hear from people like you!

    • Una, There are Oman nationals who served in the Sultans Armed Forces in the 1950’s who I am certain would be able to give a much more comprehensive account of those times, I was only in Oman for a short time, 2 years. Best wishes, John.
      P.S. I am amused that I would appear to have evolved into an historical figure. Only joking!

  26. Hi John,
    thnx for the lovely pictures. My name is Bader and I’m Interested on my country’s (=Oman) history and I have writes a lot about it. Is there any way to get touch with you?
    Thnx again

  27. Having lived and worked in Oman for 10 years I have seen only glimpses from Oman as it used to be. Your photographs open a door to that very time window where the big change started. Thanks for sharing. There are well hidden away in this blog and deserve to be wider known. If you keep this blog alive I will build a link from the stories on Oman that I have written and collected to ensure that more will find you here.

    Thanks, shukran

    Jan Schreurs

    • Jan

      This blog been alive for over four years, and not exactly HIDDEN :). I enjoy over thousands of visitors daily and growing. Rest be assured its always be here. John, is sending me photos on daily basis. Therefore I decided to make his photo as some sort of Series (part1, part2 etc). Stay tune.

      • If you want to do something with them like the historical society, write a book, etc., be careful how many you put here.. Once you put them here, they are considered “published.” Some publishers aren’t interested in stuff that’s already out there.

  28. fantastic…. A good piece of history.. which cannot be recreated.. hats-off Mr.John..

  29. Hai, mr.jhon, awsome snaps….thankyou for these valuable shots…i really wonder about your struggling on these great job. thank you very much..

  30. Simply fantastic stuff Mr.John!! hats off to you!!

  31. I love the culture of Oman, after watching these snap. my thoughts are All native peoples will salute to the photographer to save their culture how they were 40years back and now. And they can proudly say to new generation how we grow up and what is our culture.

  32. Omani should know that how hardly their country was saved by enemies. Many of English officers and Baloch soldiers were killed defending Oman. And my father was one of them.
    And lovely memories John.

    • Oh yes I do remember one of the wars I was to small my father was in one of the war he was fighting for the country the enemy was attacking with some tear gas I do remember my father had carried me dropped me to there Dr friends house I saw them wearing some kind of a mask on there faces in muttrah hospital.
      Thank you for sharing Mr John.

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