Salalah, Oman

Trip Start Apr 02, 2011
Trip End May 15, 2011

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Tahitian Princess

Flag of Oman  , Z̧ufār,
Wednesday, April 8, 2009

On the tip of the Arabian Peninsula within the Sultanate of
Oman lies the city of Salalah. The area is protected from the harsh high heat
of the desert by a range of mountains and receives much of its water thru the
summer monsoons that blow in off the Arabian Sea. This combination of different
weathers gives the Salalah area a tropical climate that is not enjoyed by the
other countries of the Arabian Peninsula. This morning we docked at the
Port of Salalah which is located about twenty kilometers from the city of
Salalah. Oman is one of the oldest countries in the Middle East as it became a
country in 1560 AD. It is ruled by Sultan Qaboos as a monarchy with a
democratically elected Assembly. Unlike Dubai the country of Oman is improving
the country's infrastructure while trying to maintain the uniqueness of its
history and culture. And it has lots history as a very early center of the
spice trade with Frankincense and a key gateway to the orient for trading. The
country has remained independent throughout its history as a country. 

The port of Salalah is mainly a container port that infrequently has cruise
ships stopping in at its port. But on this morning the White Lady pulled into
the port and docked just after the sun had broken above the horizon. So in the
misty sun light the Tahitian Princess slowly pulled into port. Although we were
expecting a bit of humidity as the local area is in a tropical region, it was
very warm and very dry. When we left the ship at 7:30 AM, the sun was rising in
a cloudless sky and the temperature was into the 80's and starting a continuous
climb into the 90's as the humidity remained dry. We had arrived in Oman
between the cool winter season and the hot summer season. The weather would be
warm but climbing to hot by the afternoon. The luck of the White Lady in Port
would once again hold and the day would be a good touring day.

Harriet was reminded of the Palm Desert/Indio area of California as she walked
down the gangplank onto the dock in the Port of Salalah. The temperature felt
like that of the Indio area in February when the Indio Date Festival is held.
The date trees and general structure of the ground added to the illusion of the
Indio Desert area. 

We were planning on taking the shuttle that was provided to take passengers, not
taking the ship's tour, to the front gate of the port. As a commercial container
port, there were no facilities for cruise passengers within the port. The
non-tour passengers would take the shuttle to the front gate and then dive into
a large pool of taxis waiting to provide transportation into and around the
city of Salalah. A chance meeting with one of the guides for the ship's
organized tours provided us with a different and better option to see the area
of Salalah. The Tour Guide's son was starting his own tour business and was
willing to take us around the area for four hours at less than half of what we
would have to pay for the least expensive tour offered by the ship. Paul had
sent us some suggestions of attractions for the port and this formed the
majority of the list of stops that we wanted to make on our self tour. None of
the sites and stops were of any problem for the driver so we quickly struck a
deal and was ready to begin the tour in the new Hyundai Sedan with that most
needed of accessories; a fully functional air conditioner.  

Our driver was named Ali and he decided the best route to cover all of the
sites and items that we wished to see during the four hours we would need to
complete our tour. He had a new car that still had the new car look and feel.
We had selected a young Arab man of almost twenty one years of age as our tour
guide and driver. His English was good but limited. So with the air conditioner
on full; we drove out of the front gate of the port and pass the local taxis
out onto the main highway that would take us into the City of Salalah. As we
would see for the remainder of the day, the area was a little dusty from the
constant dust of the desert, but it was not dirty. There was no trash or
graffiti lining the highways and byways. New construction was going on
everywhere that we looked but not at the frantic pace that we had observed in
Dubai. This was a more measured and planned construction that appeared to blend
in the history and culture of the area. Our first destination was passed the
city into the surrounding mountains at  the location of the Burial Site of Ayoub Job
(pronounced Yob in Arabic). This is the burial site of Job.  Job who was tested by the devil in the Old Testament and thru all the trials and tribulations that were visited upon him; he did not lose his faith or his love for God. As we found out this story from
the Old Testament was also told in the Koran and Job is equally revered in the
Christian, Moslem and Jewish Regions.  Situated about twenty kilometers
out of the city on top of one of the surrounding mountains was the burial site
of Job. The new car quietly and smoothly took us from the low desert area of
the city of Salalah into the higher desert areas of the mountains. As we
climbed higher into the mountains surrounding the city, we passed herds of cows
and scattered groups of building such as homes, schools, and an army post in
the mountains. As we climbed higher into the mountains, we passed by the cattle
and camel herds that began to appear. We saw herds of camels being watched by
herders and large groups just wandering the mountains on their own. But even
the camels that were wandering on their own had signs of man on them in rope
harnesses. We both were excited, but Harriet was especially thrilled to see the
camels. Now we knew that we were truly in the lands and deserts of Arabia. Even
though we were driving thru the lands that Job of the Old Testament had lived,
we could see the careful and constant upgrading of the country's
infrastructure. There were either street lights lining the mountainous highway
or new street lights strategically lying by the sides of the road waiting for
the construction crew that would soon come by and install them. 

Our driver pointed off to the side of the road and informed us that Job's Tomb
was located just off the main roadway. We turned and headed down a smaller but
still well paved road that wound down and then back up the mountain side to the
site of Job's Tomb. A unique event occurred before our vehicle but one that
appeared to be common in the area; a heard of twenty plus camels began crossing
the road just in front of our car. We waited and photographed the camels as
they passed both in front and behind our car in their crossing of the highway.
As we climbed the last section up and around a curve, we came into view of a
Mosque surrounded by a white stone wall. We pulled up in front and started into
the grounds of the mosque area with another smaller building that covered the
tomb of Job. But before we would go in we needed to walk up to and watch some
local camels that we lying leisurely near the entrance of the mosque area. Out
guide graciously offered to take our picture with the camel. Here we learned a
new word of camel; the word was Ta-Ta and it meant to lie down.

But our main goal for this stop was to see biblical history,
so after a few photographs; we turned and walked into the compound, pass the
flowering bushes, by the small Mosque and onto the short path to the house that
covers Job's Tomb. In a small white and green single room house located in a
bush garden on the side of the compound was Job's Tomb. The inside of the room
was composed of a six foot wide  walkway
around a long narrow grave covered in an ornate green cloth and border on the
front and back by two stones that resembled old tombstones covered with a
different cloth. The grave was about sixteen feet in length and had flowers
that had reverently been placed on the grave to honor those remains that once
belonged to a man blessed by God. It was a simple but reverent environment. The
walkway around the grave was covered with matching carpet. Everything was old
but well cared for and clean. We felt humbled and privileged to be able to
visit this site. As we walked out of the tomb area and back to the car there
was a silence and loneness that occupied the site, as we were the only persons
to be at the tomb so far this morning. Later in the morning there would be
tourist buses full of passengers from our ship coming here to view this
historical site. But for now it was only for Harriet and me to behold and
remember the sights of the area. 

Back down the mountain we drove. Pass the herds of camels; pass the schools and
army post  and onto the floor of the
desert that stretched level before us pass the City of Salalah and continuing
on until it finally ran into the Arabian Sea. We headed into the older section
of the city to another mosque that marked the location of the tomb of Nabi
Iman, the father of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The mosque and building that
covered the tomb of Nabi Inman was built after 1965. In the 1960's the tombs lay
in partial ruin; open to the heat and rain that makes the tropical climate that
is Salalah. Now it is located in an enclosed area beside of a small mosque in a
long narrow building that was also white and green in color. Again we entered
after removing our shoes and saw a long covered grave surround by a six foot wide
carpeted walkway. The coverings were also green with other ornate cloths lying
crosswise with small bouquets of red flowers. This tomb like Job's was about
three feet tall and long. This tomb was much longer than Job's and stretched
for approximately thirty feet in length. Like Job's tomb this tomb was also
well maintained and clean. Like Job, Nabi Imam was also a well-respected figure
in both the Christian and Muslim Regions. 

Salalah is an old city that dates back well before Christ and was a historical
port for trade with other civilizations such as Africa, Egypt and India. We
next drove to the fortified town of Sumharam which was on the other side of
Salalah as the port. The site housed a modern museum and the archeological
remains of the fort that once was the center of the area before Salalah. It had
a large fort area with irrigation that flowed from the mountains down and thru
the fort and beyond to the farming lands just outside of the fortified town.
From the museum, we saw coins from the time of Alexander the Great, tools from
before the iron and copper age, and flints that formed arrow and ax heads from
before the time of metal. Chinese artifacts were there to bare testimony to the
early trade with China. Many of the items were from several thousands of years
before the birth of Christ. The center of the museum has a large open plaza
which housed an ancient Frankincense Tree in the center of the plaza. This tree
was one of the region's reasons for importance. From early days before current
religions, old regions used frankincense as a burning incense to cleanse the
air of smells from sacrifice and other sources of odor. The incense was an
offering to the gods. The importance of Frankincense extended into the New
Testament with the Three Wise Men offering Frankincense as one of the three
tributes to honor the newborn baby called Jesus. Oman is one of the few areas
that can successfully grow frankincense trees, as they are native to the
region. Salalah was on the famous Spice routes that led to the discovery of the
new world as explorers were looking for a possibly quicker route than around
the Horn of Africa.  Just outside of the museum were the ruins that make
up the archeology site of Sumharam. We walked out into the ruins and explored several of the ancient building sites. Between the ruins and the museum was a large
canal that appeared to be one of the original water and irrigation canals that
ran thru the ruins into the farming area beside the old fortified city. On the
banks of the canal were the remains of two ancient vessels that once took the
traders and cargos out to other exotic and ancient ports to trade spice for
other items needed by the local population or to be used in other trades.

Time is passing and we have one more main area to explore before returning to
the ship. We once again board the car for a ride into Salalah and to visit a
local Souk. Souks are shopping areas in the Arab neighborhoods. When we arrived
at the shopping area we were greeted by two of the Ship's tour buses as this is
one of the main shopping souks in the city. It is a small street about three
blocks in length  with small shops on both sides of the street. The alley ways also contain shops. The main shops of the souk are clothing shops that are loaded from floor to ceiling with merchandise. Each shop contain one or more shop keepers willing to negotiate a special price for any article of clothing or other article that attracted your attention. We had been informed that to negotiate with Arabs, you need to use
indirect means. Hopefully crafting a few sentences that would cause the shop
keeper to lower his price without simply stating "Will you take this much
less?". Yes, it works along with the good old American way of showing the
money that would be loss if the shop keeper is unable to meet a negotiated
price. Harriet has a new blouse to attest to our successful negotiations. We
became so caught up in the souk shopping, that we stayed almost thirty minutes
more than we had anticipated. But our driver was extremely patience and waited
at a small outdoor restaurant drinking coffee and smoking a cigarette

Our time was also passed the time negotiated for the  tour so when we returned to the ship we were
about half an hour late. We compensated the driver with a good tip and returned
to the ship for a meal and plenty of liquids. 

Looking back at Salalah, we saw a modern city that is growing but still
retaining its heritage and character. The city was as clean as can be expected
for a city in the desert. There was no litter or graffiti in the city that we
saw. There were old areas but we did not see the decay that was so evident in
India. It was a good port that we may again visit and enjoy.  


Where is Harriet? Hunt 

This hunt will also have a degree of difficulty, but I think it will quickly be
solved. Harriet is shopping in the souk. Join her as she can now show you where
the best bargains are located. 

Shelby on April 8, 2009
She's standing almost
behind the snack shack shop thing directly behind the face of the old man ;)

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