Salalah

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Salalah is the capital city of Oman's southern Dhofar region. It is often considered to be the second city of the Sultanate, although some of this designation is probably due to its distinction as Sultan Qaboos' birthplace.

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Points of Interest in Salalah

The old city is confined to the area called Al Haffa (Hafah), on the seafront..

  •    Al Baleed Archeological Park, As Sultan Qaboos St,  +968 23 303577, e-mail: incense@omantel.net.om. Sa-W 8am-2pm, 4pm-8pm; Th-F 4pm-8pm. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, these extensive ruins were once the 12th-century trading port of Zafar, visited by Marco Polo in 1285. OMR 2 (includes admission to the Frankincense Museum).
  •    Museum of Frankincense Land, As Sultan Qaboos St (on the grounds of the Al Baleed Archeological Park),  +968 23 303577. Sa-W 8am-2pm, 4pm-8pm; Th-F 4pm-8pm. This excellent museum has displays on the history of the port and of the region. Admission included with Al Baleed entrance fee.
  •    Salalah Museum (in the Salalah Cultural Center). Sa-W 8am-2pm. This museum houses an eclectic collection, with sections devoted to regional geology and history. There is also a permanent display of Wilfred Thesiger's photographs. Free.
  •    Burj an-Nadha (Burj al-Nadha, Clocktower). The clocktower may not be a sky-scraper but it is indeed the icon of Salalah, featured in the coat of arms of Dhofar Governate. The tower looks stunning during nights due to the colorful light display.
  •    Tomb of Nabi Umran (Tomb of Nabi Imran), Al Matar St (next to Lulu Hypermarket). Umran (Imran) was a local Arab prophet, believed by some to have been the father of the Virgin Mary, and believed by others to have been the father of Moses. The sarcophagus is 33m long! Visitors should remove their shoes before entering, and women should cover their heads with a scarf. Free, tips gratefully accepted.
  •    Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, 23 July St and An Nahdah St. Sa-Th 8am-11am (for non-Muslims). Completed in 2009, this mosque can accommodate 14,000 people. Conservative dress required; women must have their ankles, wrists, and hair covered.
  •    Sultan Qaboos Palace, Al Bahri St. Sultan Qaboos was born in a fortress at this location, which is now the grounds for a modern palace. It is not open to the public, but tourists may photograph it from the outside.
  •    Traditional Dhofari houses, Al Bahri St (along the coast). To see some older Yemeni-style architecture, drive east on Al Bahri Street along the beach.
  •    Footprint of Prophet Saleh's Camel, A Daqah St. A shrine housing the footprint of an enormous camel in the bedrock. As related in the Quran, the camel was said to have appeared from nearby mountains as a miracle, yet was killed three days later by unbelievers who refused to recognize the Prophet Saleh. In punishment a severe earthquake was said to destroy the entire city and its inhabitants. As in other religious sites, visitors are requested to remove their shoes and women should cover their hair. Free.
  •    Gun Souq, As Sultan Qaboos St. A small informal open-air market for vendors selling all types of weapons, from antique rifles to traditional knives and daggers. Best in the early morning.
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About Salalah

Background

Salalah and Dhofar are historically famous for the frankincense trade. The region has tended to be rather independent over history, although this has changed since Qaboos' ascention to the throne. The Jibbali (Arabic: those of the mountains) tribes maintain a slightly distrustful stance to the government in Muscat, although this is more a stance of custom than anything else. Interestingly, the tribes speak a different language to the Arabic spoken throughout the Peninsula, although visitors are unlikely to encounter it.

The region is famous for its khareef (monsoon), and the Khareef Festival is an annual event here. Salalah is affectionately called by many nicknames including 'the Switzerland of Oman', 'the oasis', 'the perfume capital of Arabia' and 'the paradise of Arabia' because when all other Arabian countries are blazing hot, Salalah experiences the khareef season and cool drizzles.

Read

  • Maria Dekeersmaeker, The DNA of Salalah, Dhofar: A Tourist Guide. Written by a Belgian journalist based in Salalah, this unusual book is a treasure trove of facts and history, organized thematically.

Activities

  • Salalah Festival (Khareef Festival). Aug-Sep. Held annually during the khareef period, this festival celebrates Dhofari culture and traditions with food, music, and entertainment.
  •    Khawr Salalah (As Sultan Qaboos St and Al Khawr St). Nov-Apr. Avid birdwatchers can find many species of birds within the city itself, as this lagoon is noted for attracting flamingos, ospreys, and many migratory birds. Bring your binoculars. Free.

Diving

  • Extra Divers Salalah (in the Crowne Plaza Resort),  +968 92 873560, e-mail: salalah@extradivers.info. 4pm-6pm. Organizes guided tours for diving and snorkeling, and conducts a full range of PADI courses. Most of their dives take place outside of Mirbat, where they also run a dive center. The center is closed during the khareef from the end of May until 1 October.
  • SubAqua Dive Center (in the Hilton Hotel),  +968 9989 4031, +968 9989 4032, e-mail: salalah@subaqua-divecenter.com. Offers full dive packages in the waters by Salalah as well as by Mirbat. Offers PADI courses.

Food

If you decide to visit places outside Salalah city (good advice for traveling anywhere in Oman), remember to carry some food packed for emergencies (fruits, fruit juices, sandwiches recommended) as there are few restaurants outside the city. Always carry several bottles of drinking water since you may not find any store on the highways. There is, however, a delightful ocean-side cafe on the way to Mughsayl and the tidal geyser there.

Budget

  • Al Kutaini Restaurant, 23 July St,  +968 23 294179. Offers a wide range of continental dishes but specialize in Pakistani cuisine.
  •    Annapoorna Restaurant (Al-Saf Saf), Al Ferdows St (off of 23 July St). A traditional South Indian Restaurant serving only vegetarian food.
  •    Bawarchi Restaurant, Al Salam St (near Badr Al Sama Hospital and Oman Oil petrol station),  +968 23 297750, e-mail: bawarchioman@gmail.com. Daily 11am-3pm, 6:30pm-12:30am. Authentic Indian and Chinese food. Special price for group bookings, take away and delivery available.
  •    Bin Ateeq, 23 July St (New Salalah),  +968 23 292384, e-mail: mail@binateeqoman.com. Daily 9am-1am. Part of a small chain of Omani restaurants, and a good place for Omani food.
  •    Bin Ateeq, 23 July St (Middle Salalah), e-mail: mail@binateeqoman.com. Daily 9am-1am. A second branch of the popular Omani restaurant.
  •    Cascade Tandoori Restaurant, 23 July St (near Bank Dhofar),  +968 23 288233. Daily 11am-3:30pm, 6:30pm-12:30am. Offers a large range of Indian dishes, particularly well-known for their vindaloo.
  •    Chinese Cascade, 23 July St. Chinese restaurant offering decent food. No buffet.
  • Chopsticks, 23 July St,  +968 24 783384. Indian-styled Chinese restaurant with decent food. No buffet.
  •    Hassan Bin Thabit Restaurant, 23 July St,  +968 23 291010. Daily 8am-1am. Serves Arabic, Chinese, European and Indian cuisines.
  •    Ittina Cafe, Atin Rd (on the road to Ittin-Garziz, turn right at the second roundabout, about 10 min drive from Salalah). +968 9814 1067. Offers decent food and an excellent view of the city.
  •    KFC, Ar Rubat St. American fried chicken, sit-down restaurant and drive-through.
  • Khareef Salalah Restaurant (near Al Awqadayn Roundabout),  +968 2321 0030. A sister branch of Hassan Bin Thabit Restaurant, with a varied international menu.
  •    Pizza Hut, As Salam St. Always an option for any Americans wanting a taste of home, delivery available.

Mid-range

  •    Baalbeck Lebanese Restaurant, 23 July St (near the main market),  +968 23 298834. A small family restaurant serving very good Lebanese food. Has excellent hummus, tum and shwarmas.
  •    Browniz Coffee House, As Salam St (across from the Salalah Cemetery),  +968 23 297575, fax: +968 23 298787, e-mail: info@browniz-coffeehouse.com. This cafe/restaurant offers a good range of European food. Free wi-fi.
  •    Good Hopes Restaurant (formerly Woodlands Restaurant) (in the airport). Surprisingly one of the better restaurants, licensed.
  •    Lebanese House Restaurant, Al Salaam St (Bait Lubnan),  +968 23 212100. This restaurant offers good Lebanese food at a reasonable price (10 OMR for 3 people - starter & main incl. 1 drink each). Delivery available.
  •    Oasis Club, Port Rd (Raysut),  +968 23 219248. Sa-W 12pm-3pm, 6pm-11pm; Th-F 12pm-12:30am;. Offers a wide selection of international cuisine at a very reasonable price (a fraction of the cost of the hotel restaurants and better quality). This restaurant is also fully licensed. Take away and delivery available.

Splurge

The restaurant outlets at the Hilton Salalah, Marriott and Crowne Plaza offer high-end dining services. Both restaurants do a la carte as well as buffets.

  • Hilton and Juweira Boutique- for the ultimate (and maybe the only) romantic dining experience in Salalah. Reserve one of the small pavilions on the beach and enjoy top quality food while you listen to the sound of the sea.

Drinks

Alcohol is available at high end hotels like Good Hopes Restaurant in the airport and Oasis Club near the port. Liquor permits are only available to non-Muslim expatriates.

For a refreshing drink, stop at any of the many road-side vendors selling fresh coconut. They will lop the top off a green coconut for you for 2-300 baizas.

Shopping

Frankincense is the souvenir purchase in Salalah, and only visitors who avoid shopping will not be offered some. Frankincense is available in several different grades differentiated by color, the lightest colors considered to be the highest quality (and the costliest). Hand-crafted incense burners made of local Dhofari clay are also good purchases. Myrrh is relatively easy to find as well, as are the myriad Omani perfumes on offer throughout the country. You can also buy a khanjar, the traditional Omani dagger.

  •    Handicraft Souq, Tatawur St and Al Marqaz At Tijari St (near KFC). Sa-Th 9am-1pm, 4pm-10pm; F 4pm-10pm. A good place to pick up traditional hand-crafted items.
  •    Haffa Souq (Al Husn Souq), As Sultan Qaboos St. The Haffa souq (market place) is the best place to find frankincense and incense burners, as well as a wide range of other collectibles including handicrafts and souvenirs. You'll need to practice your bargaining skills before you go shopping there. Better would be to have a local resident accompany you while you shop, so you know you are paying for the real thing.
  •    New Souq, 23 July St.
  •    Family Book Shop, Al Matar St (in Assafa House). Carries books in English and Arabic, and a good place to find maps.
  •    Goal Sports, As Salam St (opposite HSBC Bank),  +968 23 296624. Carries outdoor sporting goods, including camping supplies.

Grocery stores

  •    Al Isteqrar Hypermarket, Al Fayha St. Groceries are on the ground floor, while a food court is upstairs.
  •    Lulu Hypermarket, Ar Rubat St and An Nama St,  +968 23 288133. Sa-Th 8am-11:45pm; F 8am-11am, 4:30pm-11:45pm. A branch of the UAE chain. This is a good place to pick up picnic supplies or camping gear.
  •    Lulu Supermarket, 23 July St and Al Matar St,  +968 24 504504. Sa-Th 9am-11pm; F 9am-11am, 4:30pm-11pm. More centrally located than Lulu Hypermarket (see listing above), but with a much smaller selection of deli options, and no camping gear.
  •    Spinney's, An Nahdah St (by the An Nahdah Roundabout). Small supermarket for international food.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Salalah on Wikivoyage.

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