Three Views of Oman: Society and Religion 1945–2006

By Wilfred Thesiger, Charles Butt, and Edward Grazda; edited by Raina Sacks Blankenhorn

Collected here for the first time is a history of images of Oman, one of the most developed and stable countries in the Arab world and among the earliest adherents to Islam. A sultanate, the country sits along the east coast of the Arabian Peninsula. From early days of world trade through the port of Muscat to contemporary engagement with international diplomacy and the West, Oman has always evoked beauty and mystery in equal measure. This art-house quality volume reveals an intimate picture of the country as its contours emerged over the last 80 years in the eyes of the West, as captured in images by English explorer Wilfred Thesiger in the 1940s and ‘50s, British Army major Charles Butt in the 1960s, and award-winning American documentary photographer Edward Grazda in the first decade of this new century.

Sir Wilfred Patrick Thesiger (1910–2003) was a British explorer and travel writer born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Thesiger is best known for two travel books, Arabian Sands, which recounts his travels in Arabia and describes the vanishing way of life of the Bedouins; and The Marsh Arabs (1964), an account of the Madan, an indigenous people of southern Iraq. Thesiger took many photographs during his travels and donated his vast collection of 23,000 negatives to the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford.

Charles Butt served as a major in the Sultan’s Armed Forces from 1966 until 1978. A keen amateur photographer (and member of the Royal Photographic Society), Butt took over 10,000 cover photographs while living and serving in the Middle East.  These photos now form part of the Charles Butt Photographic Collection.

Edward Grazda studied photography at the Rhode Island School of Design and has shot extensively throughout Latin America and Asia. Grazda’s work has been collected by New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Museum of Modern Art, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the San Francisco Museum of Art, among others. Grazda teaches photography at Harvard University and the International Center of Photography in New York.

Raina Sacks Blankenhorn is the executive vice president of the Institute for American Values and the founder of the Institute’s Center for Global Engagement, where she serves as an editor of IjtihadReason.org, an online journal published in Arabic and English.

What They Are Saying:

Three Views of Oman is a great example of the dialogue of cultures. Rather than repeating the Orientalist approach that has weakened so many Western studies of Arabic societies, this book builds a new bridge between two civilizations with different histories but shared values.” — Radwan Ziadeh, George Washington University

“This album illustrates that photography does more than capture moments of physical reality on paper. It is a medium between the contemplator and our widely strange and unknown world. Through the camera eye a window stays open, transferring moments from the past into the future, letting us participate again and again in something that has been, in a sense, lost. Three Views of Oman is a wonderful experience.” — Michael R.N. Jansen, Aachen University