Black Gold and Frankincense

Photographs of Southern Arabia
by the Early Oil Explorers, 1947-71

by Michael Quentin Morton
Hardback: 404 pages (half in English, half in Arabic), 
142 b+w photographs, 56 colour photographs, maps
ISBN 9789948050797 

When the author's father, Mike Morton, arrived with René Wetzel and Tony Altounyan in Aden at the start of their first expedition to southern Arabia in the autumn of 1947, they met Wilfred Thesiger, the great explorer, who was about to embark on his second crossing of the Empty Quarter. Their meeting was a crossing of paths both real and symbolic: the oilmen’s path led to the future, the search for oil and the promise of wealth and rapid change, while Thesiger’s path led to the past, the Bedouin way of life, of camels and encampments in the desert. Each, in their own way, compiled a lasting record of the people they met and the places they encountered.

Black Gold and Frankincense, in English and Arabic, expands on the author's first book, In the Heart of the Desert, with photographs of local people in a variety of settings: in their villages, at water wells, working in salt mines, riding camels,  dancing, attending weddings, or simply posing for the camera. For many of these subjects, this was the first time their photograph had been taken. The book also depicts the ancient monuments and artefacts that the geologists found on their journeys, and concludes with the advent of the oil age in the countries known today as Yemen, Oman and the UAE. 

Black Gold and Frankincense is currently unavailable in the United Kingdom, having been published by the National Archives (NA) in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Click here to read about their publications.