My Pre-Blog Travels – Enchanting, Exotic, Salalah, Oman, Part II

If you ever want to go off the beaten path in the Middle East, you must head to Salalah, Oman. This breathtakingly exotic town on the Arabian Sea in the south of Oman is a quite popular draw for Mid Easterners yet virtually untouched by the Western world.

Hundreds of camels being herded down the street

Its annual khareef or monsoon season, which cools the heat of the sweltering desert and turns the dusty brown landscape into lush green, is its primary draw for Persian Gulf residents. If you see enough rain and cool weather at home, though, and aren’t interested in more, there are still a million reasons to head to Salalah. I first visited this ancient city in 2009, before I began blogging. Now that I have this outlet to share my travels with the world, I want to bring you Salalah.

Boarding the flight from Muscat to Salalah

Boarding the flight from Muscat to Salalah

In addition to its awesome desert greenery, Salalah is famous for the little scrubby trees that thrive on its rocky ground and produce one of the sweetest spicy scents on earth – frankincense. Southern Oman is one of the very few spots in the world in which frankincense trees grow, and from these trees oozes a golden resin that, once dried and chopped into bits, can be burned, steeped in tea or chewed like gum. Omanis believe that frankincense has health benefits, from helping respiratory conditions to reducing swelling. They’re probably right.

Resin seeping out of a frankincense tree in Salalah

At any given moment as you’re riding through the desert outside Salalah, where the frankincense trees grow, you will likely see wild goats and camels wandering around or being herded down a dusty road by a shepherd. A completely common sight to the Omani eye, I was thrilled with each bit of wildlife I saw.

Herd of goats crossing the street near Salalah, Oman

Baby camel drinking from its mother

Another piece of wildlife I stumbled upon was a little disturbing. Mirbat, a tiny, ancient village about an hour outside Salah has a harbor, and when my guide Ali took me here, several boats had just arrived and dozens of men were hauling their catch off the boats. What was the catch? Hundreds of sharks. The sight was so shocking, I later googled shark fishing, to see if this was a legal activity or not, and from what I could determine, it is. Amazing.

Men hauling sharks off a boat in Mirbat, Oman

Hundreds of dead sharks lining the ground in Mirbat, Oman

One of the less shocking and more beautiful sights in Salah is its mosques, one of which was near my apartment the second time I visited.

A mosque in Salalah, Oman

That’s right – apartment, not hotel. it is actually rather common for locals to rent short-term apartments rather than hotel rooms when they travel in the Gulf states, and Ali found one with a great location and for me, for less than a cost of any hotel I could find in Salalah.

My living room in Salalah, Oman

The living room of my four-day rental in Salalah

Left to my own devices one morning, I walked across the street and discovered the fish, meat and fruit and vegetable markets. Ali told me they’re typically hopping in the very early morning, but by the time I arrived the scene was pretty calm. That was fine with me. It’s still one of the most exotic markets I’ve seen in my life.

Severed cow legs from the knee down

Cow legs for sale?

The meat market in Salalah, Oman

These men don't look too happy to see me photographing them, do they?

Markets of a different type stand along the roadsides in Salalah, selling camel meat, bananas, coconuts and other exotic tropical treats. Yes, although Salalah is in the desert, it also stands on the Arabian Sea, which means humidity comes along not only with the khareef but can be present throughout the year, making this particular piece of desert quite tropical. Coconut juice, I discovered, tastes a bit odd but is pretty good.

Me drinking coconut juice in Salalah, Oman

There’s many more reasons that the ones listed above to visit Salalah. Read my first post on this amazing ancient city and stay tuned for more.

How to get there:
Salalah is a one-hour flight south of Oman’s capital city of Muscat. Oman Air, one of my all-time favorite airlines because of its comfortable luxury, flies there many times a day. You can also take a bus from Muscat, which is an approximately 12-hour journey.

How to get around: English is less spoken here than anywhere I’ve visited in the world, so I think it’s really best to hire a guide, unless you’re very comfortable getting around in off-the-beaten path cultures by yourself. You can find a guide on line or ask your hotel to call one for you. If you want to go it alone, there are car rental agencies in town.

Where to stay: There are several hotels in Salalah, although the only one I’ve stayed at is Haffa House,, which I highly recommend. If you want to rent an apartment while there, ask your guide to help you so you end up in a good one without paying too much.

10 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Indra says:

    Interesting article. Check out my web page about Salalah visit in 1997

  2. Sabina says:

    Hi, Indra – I would like to. Can you give me the link?

  3. This is really interesting. I’ve never read travel stories from Oman before I found your blog. And I, too, would have been excited about the wildlife in the middle of the road.
    Ayelet – All Colores recently posted..Across the Border from Buenos Aires: Uruguay StoriesMy Profile

  4. Sophie says:

    You lucky girl! Salalah and the southern parts of Oman, even the Empty Quarter… all high on my list.
    Sophie recently posted..The Belfast murals – a photo walk through recent historyMy Profile

  5. Sabina says:

    Ayelet, I’m happy that I’m your first source for Oman stories. This is one place I’m definitely heading back to. Twice is not enough.

  6. Sabina says:

    Sophie, as you have been virtually everywhere, I’m surprised you’ve never made it to Salalah! You obviously must go.

  7. Steve says:

    Wow, you got to see a lot of cool things while you were in Salalah. What a shock it must have been to see all those sharks being hauled in. I have to say that I don’t think I’ve seen anything like that before.

    Those cow legs remind me of when I saw a stack of huge cow tongues and a pig’s head in a market. It makes me wonder what dishes you can make with those things.

    I’ve learned a lot about Oman from your posts about it. It seems to me that I knew that Frankincense came from this area, but I didn’t know that you could chew it.
    Steve recently posted..The #1 Way to Make the Most Out of Every DayMy Profile

  8. Sabina says:

    Hey, Steve – Salalah is just so exotic. I love it. Yes, the sharks were shocking. My guide said he’d never seen such a sight either, and of course he’s lived in Salalah his entire life. Since you’re really interested in the Middle East, you should try to make it there some day. I’m happy you’ve learned about Oman from my posts!

  9. Rozalin says:

    really love your blog, although I am from Oman never thought that there are these much of interesting and amazing places in Salalah. And thanx for you I decided to visit it next month. Also, I will try to do the same with different places around Oman.

    The apartment you staid in looks clean and great, do you have the owner number of the agent, I would love to have it while my visit there.

  10. Sabina says:

    Rozalin, I think you will just fall in love with Salalah. I’m so happy to learn that I encouraged you to visit next month! I actually don’t have the apartment owner’s number. My tour guide/friend found it for me. If you want, I can email you his phone number and he can possibly help you with this. Please let me know.

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