Our Oman: ‘I captured Queen Elizabeth’s first visit to Oman in 1979’

Energy Saturday 07/July/2018 21:09 PM
By: Times News Service

The first Omani photographer at the Ministry of Information still remembers the first picture he took of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said at his palace in 1970.
“I can’t put my feelings into words, as I never imagined myself taking pictures of His Majesty,” said Taghlib Al Hilal Al Barwani. “All I can say is that I was feeling extremely happy and lucky to see him up close.”
Al Barwani explained how he ended up working at the Ministry of Information.
“I was working at one of the media organisations in Dubai when I heard the news of His Majesty the Sultan becoming the ruler of the Sultanate on the radio,” he said.
“It was then that I decided I had to return to my country, Oman. I packed everything within a month and returned home.”
“When I moved back, I had no job, so I started working as a freelance photographer and took pictures of His Majesty the Sultan,” he recalled.
“I was staying in Muscat where I met Sayyid Hamad bin Hamoud, who was the advisor to His Majesty at the time and later became the Minister of Diwan. He told me that they needed a photographer and asked me to meet His Highness Sayyid Tariq bin Taimur Al Said, who was the first Prime Minister of the Sultanate.”
“After the meeting, I was asked to get in touch with Sayyid Abdullah Tai, the then-Minister of Information, who hired me as the head of the photography department at the Ministry,” added Al Barwani.
“I joined the Ministry on January 1, 1971 and never looked back.”
Al Barwani recalled that his work at the Ministry required him to travel with the Sultan.
“As a photographer, I used to go to the palace every day to take pictures of His Majesty, and I followed him on all the tours and conferences he attended in the Emirates, Cairo, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, and many other countries,” he said.
Among his collection are the pictures he took of Sultan Qaboos visiting people in different cities and villages in Oman, as well as the first visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the Sultanate in 1979.
“At that time, we didn’t have advanced technology to publish pictures right away,” he said. “So I would come back to Muscat – if I was out of town – to develop the pictures and then publish them in the press.”
“We even introduced His Majesty to different parts of the Sultanate through mobile cinema, before the television came in 1975,” said Al Barwani. “We used to go to the interior in our Land Cruisers and show people pictures of the Sultan.”
He said his workload increased as the years went by, which required him to hire people to help him do the job.
“In 1975, I went to work for the television department and was the first cameraman, recalled Al Barwani. “I started filming His Majesty for all the exclusive footages and public appearances he made. Apart from this, I also shot documentaries and took pictures, until I took an early retirement in 1996 and opened my own studio.”
At 77, Al Barwani still runs a studio in Ruwi, in the heart of Muscat.