“Every love has its landscape. Thus place, which is always spoken of as though it only counts when you’re present, possesses you in its absence, takes on another life as a sense of place, a summoning in the imagination with all the atmospheric effect and association of a powerful emotion. The places inside matter as much as the ones outside. It is as though in the way places stay with you and that you long for them they become deities.”
- Rebecca Solnit, from A Field Guide To Getting Lost
After numerous visits to the mountains of Ras Al Khaimah, I still cannot say that I am very familiar with the landscape. When Saleh, the guide who has been exploring those rugged structures for years, learnt of the project’s three-month duration and the number of visits I would conduct, he exclaimed that this time would not suffice.
I purposely set out with little research and had a few things in mind to look out for to translate into the work: the theme, the subject matter and certain motifs. The established scene of sierras is perpetual. It is where an angel spoke to a prophet.
Where God revealed himself to the mountain and it fell to its knees.
A sea creature as colossal as the topography it occupied was the last of its kind.
In RAK, there’s a mountain that, on a clear day, shows off a single white streak that encompasses its upper circumference. They tell me that this mountain acted once a guide to weary sailors that sought home.
Rugged, secluded and almost mysterious, a house sits at the edge of the mount. Built by hands foreign to this land, you find personal traces carved into the stones. Hewed onto the house are religious verses written in Urdu script, and a couple of geometric shapes unsystematically placed on random bricks. Those foreign hands are the transient beings set upon this rugged backdrop. Sometimes I wonder if they were asked to carve into the stones as such, or if it was a self-initiated act of ingenuity and benevolence.
“My brother is getting married on the 16th. It’s a mountain wedding. You should come.” A hazy blue-eyed man offered.
On a Friday morning, there’s a cricket game that takes place. The players acknowledge my camera and allow it to move on the field’s periphery.
A dozer operated by a 40-something year old man gnaws at the mountain, making way for a new road. The immovable structure begins to break away, its grandeur and longevity now reduced.