An Oasis in the Desert
Last weekend it was finally time to embark on the much anticipated trip to the city of Salalah in the region of Dhofar in southern Oman. Salalah is the one place I was told I had to get to during my time in Oman. Extensively different than the rest of the country, the city is often described as an oasis in the desert.
The only down side: it was a 10-14 hour drive from Muscat. As there are only a few major highways in all of Oman, there was no straight route to Salalah and it includes a lot of driving through the desert with few to no places that are stop-worthy. One could always fly, but seeing as I am a poor college student, this was not plausible. Luckily my roommate Allison & I were able to find a ride with a friend from the center & his cousin; effectively escaping having to take a bus down. So setting out later than the students who were going the same weekend, I rested in the car a majority of the way down & lasted the whole 10 hours.
Pulling into the area around Salalah the next morning was almost unreal. From the desert outside, you could see the clouds starting to gather around the mountains and the closer we got, the more green it became & more fog began to appear. The lush mountains seemed to quite literally emerge from the mist. Soon the fog became so thick one could barely see more that a few feet in front of them. It was the first time it hit me that I hadn’t seen rain or anything close to it since May. Quite an odd sensation indeed.
After checking into our hotel room & taking a much needed nap, we set out to explore the area. We drove up into the mountains & marveled at the all-around green.
Parts of it reminded me of different places the US or pictures of the hills in places like China. If it wasn’t for the dishdashas & abayas, I’m not quite sure I would have been able to tell I was in Oman. The first of 3 stops that day included visiting the local wadi. This wadi was much different than the visit to Wadi Shabb on the jumbo trip. With lots of trees & a few paths for walking, to me it seemed more like a park/valley to be used for family outings. Not as rocky or adventurous, but beautiful nonetheless. After that we headed to the beach while our friends & acting drivers/tour guides went to pray. The water felt great, but because it is monsoon season, we were not able to swim. Instead we spent our time writing & playing in the sand, racing the waves that kept washing our drawings away (sometimes its good to still act like little kids). That night we attended the local festival that was going on. I couldn’t help but comment (multiple times) about how much it reminded me of the county fair. There was music, rides, booths to buy crafts, popcorn stands. It was an Arab fair & I was really excited about it.
The next morning we made a quick stop at Haffa Souq (souq = market in Arabic). The souq is known for selling the product that Salalah is most famous for - frankincense. I don’t think I had seen so many incense in one place before.
If you’re looking to buy, this is the place to go. After catching lunch on the beach, we headed to one of my favorite parts of Salalah. It was a beautiful area of the coast with large cliffs and crashing waves. Standing above the water & looking out, it was another one of those moments that I can’t seem to believe that this is my life. With the misty green mountains behind us & the rolling ocean in front, it was almost surreal. Walking on the paths to get to another look out point, I couldn’t help but comment on how I felt like I needed to be on some sort of important quest to end up in a place like this. It is simply one of those time & place moments in this world that really can’t be captured in words; you just have to see it yourself someday.
That evening we picnicked Omani-style (quite literally getting food & pulling over on the side of the road – any road – laying out a mat & eating right there). Unfortunately it was slightly raining, but that didn’t stop us & we managed to stay out there chatting for nearly 4 hours. The next morning it was back to the car for another 10 hour car ride back to Muscat. A lovely weekend it was indeed, in quite possibly one of the most unique places on earth.
Omani Fun Facts:
26. It is illegal to hit a camel with your car. If one crosses the road in front of you, make sure you stop!
27. Drivers don’t pump their own gas in Oman. There are workers specifically for this. It’s a bit of a flash back to the 50s.