Take a Holiday from Dubai to Salalah
As the thermometer has crept up thoughts turn to cooler climes, but if you don’t have the time to travel far look no further than Oman. “Is that not still unbelievably hot?” I hear you ask. Well the answer is yes, apart from a small corner of the Arabian Peninsula that catches the Indian summer monsoon from mid June through to mid September, transforming the land into a green oasis called Salalah.
Located on the Indian Ocean, Salalah is Oman’s second city and the capital of the southern province of Dhofar. Despite its location the thermometer rarely gets above 30 degrees. This tropical climate makes way for wildlife and nature associated more with East Africa, such as the Baobab trees.
Salalah is the port of entry in Oman for people visiting the famous desert of Rub Al Khali or the Empty Quarter. This is the largest desert in the world, measuring 1,000 km in length and 500 km in width and lies to the west of Salalah, a mere 100 km away.
Salalah can be reached with a 2 hour flight from Dubai with Oman Air, and budget airline Fly Dubai or by driving from Dubai, but this can take nearly 17 hours so I would recommend breaking your journey en route. There is a good choice of hotels including Hilton Salalah Resort, Salalah Marriott Resortn Salalah Rotana Resort and the Crowne Plaza Resort which offer great holiday packages.
The real attraction of Salalah is its temperate climate, the striking mountain scenery just after the monsoon rains and its white beaches that stretch for miles, but it is also a great base to discover some interesting archaeological sites of this southern region. It is easy to get around the city of Salalah by taxi or on foot but if you want to visit further afield you will need to hire a car or book an organized tour.
In Salalah one can visit the museum located in the cultural center, to give you an insight into this area with displays from Wilfred Thesiger’s photographs of Salalah in the 40’s and 50’s. You can also enjoy exhibitions of pottery, Omani jewelry, traditional clothing and basketry. In the town is the main traditional souq called Al Husn Souq where you can buy the famous product of this area – frankincense. Salalah was the largest producer and the center of frankincense bringing characters such as the Queen of Sheba to the area and giving the region its ancient wealth.
Driving around the surrounding areas of Salalah you are struck by the tempting palm fringed beaches and countryside with unusual sites for the Arabian peninsula of coconut, banana and papaya plantations.
Salalah is also host to UNESCO world heritage sites such as Ubar. Trade in ancient times was centered on the highly valued frankincense and cities sprung up and disappeared because of this trade. One of these was known as Ubar. Known as the Atlantis of the Sands it was lost almost completely, but today thanks to help from NASA and an archaeological team this is now a UNESCO site near the town of Shisr and worth a visit.
Another UNESCO site to visit is Thor Rori an ancient port which played a very important part of the frankincense route. Today little remains of the city except the ruins of a palace-cum-fort however, the setting is very dramatic and worth a trip. Just near Khor Rori is said to be the location of the legendary Queen of Sheba’s Castle.
West of Salalah is Mughsail. This is a bay with cliffs at the end where you can see blow holes.
Whether it is ancient UNESCO sites, palmed fringed beaches or interesting souqs Salalah makes for a refreshing break away from Dubai.