If you were wonder what Salalah is like, here's an account of an EWer's trip there.
17 July 2013| Last updated on 15 June 2017
It all started the day I saw the ticket sale newsletter from an airline. Immediately, I booked the cheapest destination - Muscat in Oman. Coincidentally, I had seen a recent report where Muscat was listed as the second most popular destination for 2012 by a famous travel website and we were very curious about it.
Officially, the country is called the Sultanate of Oman, bordering the UAE to the northwest, Saudi Arabia to the west and Yemen to the southwest. Along with its capital, Muscat, my friends wanted to visit Salalah too, the country’s second city. Our purpose was mainly to catch a glimpse of one of the popular tourist destinations in the Gulf. We knew four days would not be enough but a short break was exciting. Hotels were cheap during this time as it was off-peak for travellers.
Everything was a first to us. From the airline to the experience in another Gulf country, we reached Muscat early Sunday morning. The one hour flight from Dubai was too quick to even have our coffee served. Visas were not a problem as we applied in advance at the Oman Embassy in Dubai. For GCC residents, you can get your visa upon arrival depending on job title.
A friend took a map and started looking at it. We hired a car for a day for our city tour. We drove down the coast of Gulf of Oman in Old Muscat. The main road was just three lanes each side with small number of vehicles. No heavy traffic, less crowded (since businesses are closed from 1pm to 4pm), it was a perfect day for us. First stop was the Muttrah Souq, one of the well-known in Oman. You can see great selection of garments, antiques, jewellery, and perfumes. Best time to visit is morning as it gets busy during the evening hours.
We drove down to the east in Qasr Al Alam Street and were amazed by the Sultan’s Al Alam Palace. The location is near Al Milani Fort and Al Jalali Fort and is surrounded by military. They say canons are fired here to mark the start and end of the day.
As the afternoon approached, we drove back to Muttrah business district to have some lunch and purchased our bus tickets going to Salalah, Oman’s second most visited city. It was totally different to a Dubai afternoon. Businesses were closed from 1pm to 4pm. We even wondered if the restaurants were operating. Alas! Late lunch was done and we headed to a three-star hotel in Al Kuliyah Street to spend the night and relax.
The next day was a turnaround as I wasn’t able to pick up the phone confirming our Muscat City tour with an agency. A last minute decision was made and we phoned a local friend to guide as to east of Oman. We travelled for two hours going to Nizwa. We witnessed the vast mountain landscape of Oman; the four-lane road was delight as few vehicles travelled. We reached the entry point of the Green Mountains where 4x4 vehicles are waiting for RO35 only. The scenery was spectacular we were taking pictures of every visitor information board, I remember the last post was about 3,000 meters above sea level. Be prepared to bring sweets or chewing gum to ease the pressure on your ears!
The Nizwa Fort used to be the residence of the governor and is now a museum. We arrived just before 2pm (time it closes). Canons are still exhibited there and pots and antiques are still sold at the souq. It was a great place to visit if you want to see the old days of the city.
We got back to the airport before 7pm to catch the bus going to Salalah. I had done my research before I came to Oman. Public coaches are available via Muscat International Airport to Salalah bus station. Tickets can be purchased at the bus station in Muttrah for RO7.50 (AED72) and travel time is 12 hours.
On our third day, we arrived at Salalah bus station. We had arranged a tour guide and so he was there to pick us up. Our first destination was Eastern Salalah, considered as the best bird-watching area in the Middle East. Seagulls and falcons were to be seen along the shoreline of the Arabian Sea. Along the way, coconut trees were dancing in the wind just as we passed by the Sultan’s three palaces. It was like the old Dubai where camels walked down the road and you wouldn’t dare bump into them. We came across a land area overlooking the magnificent beach of Salalah. We went up the Green Mountains and watched the cows, donkeys and camels mingle with each other. It was the perfect place to relax, smell the fresh air and embrace nature.
Next stop, West Salalah! We heard a lot about the place from its history to wealth and tourist attractions. During the summer, the monsoon festival known as Khareef, takes place here. You can witness different music and dance performances from several groups, enjoy the sale and exhibition of Omani products and have fun with sports events during summer months.
We went to Jebel Qara where the tomb of Prophet Ayoub, known as Job in the Old Testament, is located. It is an important site for the city. For those who wish to visit, you need to cover your head, shoulders and knees. Going down the mountains, we headed to Mughsayl Beach which is 40 km west to the town. It is a beautiful golden beach with magnificent view of the sea rough mountains and cliffs. During the strong currents of the sea, you would see the blow holes producing water fountains up to 15 metres high.
Our last stop for our Oman tour was the Frankincense located near Khor Rohri 37 kilometres from Salalah, a World Heritage location by UNESCO. Our tour guide took a knife and removed frankincense oil from the twig. You can smell the aroma of this beautiful item, considered as the white gold of Oman. Frankincense can be bought in the souq from RO 1 to RO 5 depending on the size.
Our tour in Oman was awesome we should have extended our trip. I recommend visiting Oman during the off peak season to get affordable rates from hotels. If you are going to Salalah, best time to visit is during the Khareef Festival in summer. Weather is warm, it’s one of the places in the Middle East you can enjoy a tropical summer below 40 degrees!
Xarisa, Sharonne & Mike