April 22, 2023. (Day 98)
This was our 4th visit to Salalah, and this time we booked a private tour with Boris and Sonia. We were told that we needed to wear masks here, and it was curious that all of the guides waiting with the buses didn’t have masks on but we were checked as we left the ship. You have to take a shuttle to the port gate here, and we knew our guide would be waiting in a green jeep. The shuttle passed right by even though we wanted to stop at the jeep and we went into an adjoining area which meant we had to walk back to the jeep. Once we reached our guide, he told us that you only need masks in the port area and we didn’t see another person with a mask on for the whole day!
The day was totally different from anything we did on previous visits. Good thing we had a jeep because some of the roads were very crude dirt roads with many switchbacks (they call the one we were on the most the “snake road”.) You can see why! Our guide, Naseeb, was a great driver.
The landscape is very rocky with some plants. There are many frankincense trees. The use of frankincense is mostly in church services but Naseem said it is also good for stomach ailments and for clearing the lungs of smokers. Who knew? During monsoon season, it is much greener than now, but there still seems to be enough vegetation for the animals that we saw all over the place. Camels, donkeys, goats and cattle roam and chomp anywhere they want and are often in the road. Sometimes they came right up to our jeep, and Naseeb was prepared with some snacks for the camels. Apparently they find their way back home every evening. He told us there are brown, black and white camels. We saw mostly brown ones but did spot one white one.
We went to so many scenic areas and the “secret” beaches. Here are some of them.
We went to one area with three blow holes and the sound of the sea before they “blow” is thunderous.
We saw so many beautiful beaches and they were mostly deserted. In one or two places we saw people camping in small tents. Naseeb said they do get tourists from all over the world.
Next our trip took us way up into the mountains on the way to Yemen. Naseeb asked if we had our passports. We did not, as the ship keeps them all most of the time so that when the authorities from each country we visit comes on board, they can stamp them all at once. There are a few countries that require a face to face inspection (South Africa was one) but once we show our passports they are collected again. So we were wondering if we would have gone to Yemen?! But no, we had to stop at a checkpoint and when Naseeb told the military guard we didn’t have passports, he just said not to go into Yemen. Apparently Oman and Yemen have a very friendly relationship. Prices are less in Yemen so many Omanis go there to shop.
Naseeb was taking many pictures and videos of us. He had an ipad in the jeep with lots of picctures of previous guests and he asked us if he could use ours. Some of these pictures were ones that he took.
We stopped at a roadside stand and waited while Naseeb purchased snacks for us. This delicious Omani specialty is called fatheera. it is a flaky pastry stuffed with cheese. Some had honey and some just the cheese. We all loved it.
Our last stop before a late lunch was at the Fazayah beach. The part we went to was very private and you could change clothes right out in the open. I had my bathing suit on already. Sonia and I had a nice swim. Naseeb had snorkel equipment that I started with but there was nothing in the water to see just off the beach. The water was too rough to swim out by the rocks so we just enjoyed jumping the waves. Well, except for the one that knocked me down! No one got a picture of that!
The homes here are huge. They tend to have large families. The women mostly stay at home with the children but they are allowed to have jobs if they wish. We only saw one woman as a guide when we were on the pier. We saw three boys in traditional garb going to homes for treats to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The population of Oman is about 2 million wiht 300,000 living in Salalah. Sometimes we saw isolated villages with homes being built. The people are very friendly. Even the military guards smiled and waved.
Our last stop was at a restaurant near the port called the Oasis Club. Naseeb knows the owner so we were allowed in – it is a private club and very fun for families. There is ping pong, pool and many other game tables and children and adults were playing all of the games. The food seemed very American – Norm and Boris had fish and chips (the best ever, they declared) and Sonia and I had vegetable and shrimp stir fry.
It’s hard to capture everything – it was such a great day and gave us an entirely new view of this beautiful country and its people.
Back on the ship we had a middle eastern dinner going on in the terrace and we went rather late and enjoyed some of the local specialties, but no fatheera, unfortunately. I am so glad we got to taste that. Maybe we can get some at. our next port in Muscat, Oman on Monday.
Great post! Your descriptions of the landscape and the animals were really vivid. I’m curious, did Naseeb mention anything about the culture or history of the area?
Yes, he did talk about the Sultan and the open mindedness that has created better job opportunities, salary
increases and women’s rights. There have been peaceful protests in the past but all is pretty peaceful now. The incense trade contributed to prosperity in the past. I have posts from our past three visits that covered some of this info too, you can always use the search bar on the site and past posts can be searched. Just enter Salalah and they will all come up.
Yes, he did a good job of explaining the culture under the current Sultan where pretty much everything
in the country has improved. Education and medical care are free and the people are mostly Muslim but mostly do not dress in Muslim garb. I have previous posts from our past 3 visits that tell more about that, you can use the search bar on the site – just type in Salalah and you will see all three…
When we were in Oman several years ago, we went on private tour too and went to some of the same places you went – especially the blow hole along the coast.
We think we went on that same zig zag road with all the frankincense trees and camels.
The food looks yummy.
Rick & Marilen