|| Part 6: Salalah,
Taqah, Mirbat, Wadi Dawkah|
24.12: Munich -> Istanbul -> Muscat
27.12: Muscat -> Rustaq -> Sohar
28.12: Sohar -> Ibri
29.12: Ibri, Al Ayn, Jabrin fort, Nizwa
30.12: Ibri -> Bahla -> Misfat -> Ibra
31.12: Ibra, Al Qabil, Wadi Bani Khalid
01.01: Al Qabil -> Wahiba desert
02.01: Wahiba desert -> Sur
03.01: Sur, Ras Al Hadd
04.01: Sur -> Muscat
05.01: Muscat -> Salalah
06.01: Salalah, Taqah, Mirbat
07.01: Salalah, Wadi Dawkah, Nabi Ayoub
08.01: Salalah, Mughsail
09.01: Muscat -> Istanbul
10.01: Istanbul -> Munich
Muscat -> Salalah
Hamdan Plaza, Salalah. OR 52.65 (OR 45 + 17% - see the note below at
Jan. 9th) for a huge
room, actually a small
apartment with a kitchen, a small room with table and fridge, toilet
bathtub/shower, huge and elegant room with large bed, sofa, TV, lots of
furniture, phone. Free WLAN in the room which however is quite slow.
The room us actually not bad value. The
is the location, in a commercial centre, far away from downtown Salalah
(around 5-6km). A car is necessary, but then in the same building of
the hotel there are a supermarket and other shops. I booked this place,
because the Marriott is too far away from Salalah (around 80km) and the
Hilton is too expensive.
The hotel has two restaurants. The
one on the 5th floor is good.
sunny, blue sky, warm. In Salalah a
little bit warmer (26°C when we arrive), windy.
wake up call comes at 6:55am. We actually could have slept until 7:30am
or so, because the airport is fairly close to the hotel Ibis and there
is not so much traffic on the motorway.
we are in
the car and drive to the airport. Before 9am we reach the airport, then
I remember that the petrol tank needs to be full, so I drive to the
petrol station. We are back at the airport shortly after 9am. There we
return the car to the Budget car rental, then check in at the Oman air
It's 9:55am when we finally pass the
security check and
reach the gate area with the shops. This is a relatively small airport
- nothing comparable to Dubai airport with its huge shopping centre.
11am Oman Air flight takes off with a small delay and lands in Salalah
at 12:30pm. Then we retrieve the luggage and proceed to the arrivals
hall. At the Budget car rental we pick up a category B car, a Nissan
the car navigation system does not work initially, so we ask people for
directions. Around 1:30pm we check in the hotel Hamdan Plaza.
Shirley takes a rest, I bring the two small girls to the pool. Quite a
long walk to reach the hotel pool. The pool water is quite cold.
after 4pm I drive into town alone, while Shirley rests with the kids in
hotel. The plan would be to make it to the beach, but since the car
navigation system initially does not work, I drive a bit
around, getting lost in dead-end streets. Finally the car navigation
system picks up a GPS signal and I'm able to find the way to the beach.
Salalah is a pleasant and laid back town in a very
It's a mix of tropics (lots of coconut palms, banana trees) and desert.
It's a reasonably clean city with a few touristic sights. The highlight
is the beautiful white coral sand beach, which stretches for many km
30-50m wide. Sand soft like pillows.
shortly before sunset on the beach, with amazing colours and
atmosphere. Colonies of water birds looking for food in the shallow
water. Lots of photo opportunities, I need to bring the kids here
tomorrow. Sunset here is at 6pm, half an hour later than in Muscat.
after 6pm I'm back in the hotel, where I have lunch with Shirley and
kids. In the evening we don't do much.
Salalah -> Taqah -> Mirbat -> Salalah
Hamdan Plaza, Salalah.
same as yesterday: sunny, blue sky,
get up at 8:45am and have breakfast until around 10am. Shortly before
11am we start driving towards Mirbat. The first stop is a water spring
called Ain Hamran (or Ayn Hamran). This is one of the many springs
which originate in the mountains surrounding Salalah.
GPS navigation system is operational (for some reason the Nokia 5800
phone this morning needs a while to get a GPS signal), getting there is
quite easy. There is a four lane motorway (max. speed 120 km/h) until
Taqah. To get to the spring you have to drive towards Taqah, then
get out at the roundabout.
In Oman they have
roundabouts, which are quite dangerous, because it can happen that a
car from the inner ring wants to get out of the roundabout when a car
from the outer ring does not want to get out of the roundabout or wants
to use the next exit. I guess you are supposed to change lanes in the
roundabout, but this is not a safe mechanism.
spring is actually quite unimpressive. The only impressive thing is
that there is a spring in the middle of the desert. We spend about 20
minutes there, from 11:20-11:40am and while there we run into a
herd of goats who are drinking water at the spring.
stop is the city of Taqah. We reach the beach of Taqah at
This is again a nice, wide white coral sand beach, which probably
continues until Salalah.
We spend half an hour
now it's very hot - the temperature must be around 30°C, but is
bearable because there is so much wind. The sun is very strong.
Taqah town and have a look at the castle. This is actually a quite
small fort built in the 19th century by the local sheikh. The building
itself is relatively unimpressive, but the rooms are well
restored and nicely set up. Some contain exhibits showing life in the
fort and in Taqah.
In the meantime it's 1pm and it
would be a
good idea to have lunch somewhere. But the only restaurant listed in
the navigation system directory in Taqah is full of flies, so we just
have a drink there and instead buy some snacks in a nearby shop.
1:50pm we continue driving to the next destination, the city of Mirbat.
On the way we run into a street sign pointing to the ruins of the
ancient city of Samharam, so we make a stop there, between 2 and
Samharam was a pre-Islamic era settlement,
a harbour used
mainly for frankincense. The ruins are in a very basic state - just
stone walls, no sculpted stones. Interesting however to find such a
place in such a remote area.
We then continue
driving to Mirbat,
arriving there at 3pm after one stop along the way. There is actually
nothing to see in Mirbat and it's quite hot at 3pm. I guess in the
summer it must be unbearably hot in Mirbat. The only attractions in
basically the harbour area which is nicely set up and a local fort,
which however is currently closed for restorations.
start driving back to Salalah. At 4:40pm we reach Salalah and
I spot some stalls selling
fresh fruits (bananas and coconuts) along Sultan Qaboos street. Brief
stop for some coconut juice and bananas. Excellent small bananas,
locally grown in Salalah.
After this brief stop we
reach the beach
at 5pm. Nice, wide white coral sand beach. Large groups of water birds
feeding in the sand. We'll spend the next 50 minutes there, with the
two small girls playing in the water with the sand, having fun with
We then drive back to the hotel, but on
make an unplanned stop at a KFC restaurant. We end up having some kind
of unplanned dinner there, which means that we skip the real dinner in
We are back in the hotel around
the day was not long enough, in the evening we go shopping to the
nearby Centrepoint mall. I'm surprised at how much energy Alissia, this
year old girl has. After a full day out, she still wants to play with
the games of the kids corner at almost 10pm.
Salalah -> Wadi Dawkah -> Nabi Ayoub -> Salalah
Hamdan Plaza, Salalah.
sunny, blue sky, warm, windy.
manage to finish the breakfast by 10am. After that I ask at the
reception where it is possible to see fankincense trees and how to get
to Wadi Dawkah. They don't understand what frankincense trees are and
have never heard of Wadi Dawqah. After some explaining they understand
what I mean and it turns out that the "dawkah" in Wadi Dawkah is
actually pronounced the English way as "doh-ka". It's just the spelling
which is a bit weird. That was also the reason why I could not find
this place in the Navteq maps and the Nokia navigation system - because
the spelling is different.
According to the lady in
these trees are everywhere, even here in Salalah. Yes, indeed? Sure,
there are some near the hotel and she can show me by car where they are.
in the room I manage to convince Shirley to visit the Wadi Dawkah
frankincense park. She does not know what frankincense is and probably
is not interested anyway, but I guess she is not too crazy about
whole day in the hotel and does not want to let me go alone anyway.
around 11am we are in the reception and the receptionist drives to a
place near the hotel where there is a frankincense tree. More than a
tree this actually seems to be kind of an oversize bush with thick
leaves (similar to the ones of a cactus).
to the Wadi Dawkah park. On paper it's just a distance of about 60km,
doable in (well) less than one hour. In practice we'll reach this place
1 1/2 hours later, and here is why.
First of all
motorway, or road along which you can drive fast. Partly the road is
winding up the mountains, but more significant is that the fact the for
most of the stretch the road is full with roadworks. Apparently they
are building the motorway from Salalah to Muscat and they are adding
the second couple of lanes. There are speed limits in many parts of
Then we make a couple of photo-stops
along the way.
The terrain is quite cool and would be even more photogenic if
everything was green (as is the case during the monsoon season). Now
everything is mostly brownish.
Another problem is
are no street signs at all regarding this place. Without a GPS
navigation system or somebody who knows the place, it is impossible to
find Wadi Dawkah.
Later we understand why. Wadi
currently being rebuilt. The road is being repaved, and the site
facilities are being built. I guess this is why the local government
does not want people to go there.
So, initially we
miss the exit
(let's say the place where you leave the motorway, because there is no
motorway exit yet). Then we ask some locals, turn back and finally find
spot where you have to leave the motorway and after passing through
terrain we reach the place, which is actually very close to the
Wadi Dawkah, or let's say the part
tourists, lies in a plain with many frankincense trees. The site is
fenced-in, perhaps to protect the trees against the animals.
spend 20 minutes there. Shirley refuses to leave the car - too hot, sun
is too strong and she is not interested anyway. Then, at 1pm, we drive
back to the hotel and this time the trip takes just 50 minutes. At the
hotel Shirley and the kids get out and enter the hotel.
before 2pm I start - this time alone - to the next place. This is Nabi
Ayoub, the tomb of Hiob. This is supposedly an interesting place, 20
minutes by car from Salalah. In practice there are just a few not so
impressive buildings there, none of which is interesting.
drive back to Salalah, but before I make a stop at the Ain Jarziz
spring, which I noticed while driving to Nabi Ayoub. It takes a while
to find this place, because nothing is properly marked with street
signs and the navigation system fails about 100m from this place.
Jarziz is a popular recreation area for local people from Salalah. It
certanly is much more impressive in the rainy season, because right now
very little water is coming out of the spring.
when I drive back to Salalah. I call Shirley on the mobile phone. Would
she like to go anywhere? Nope, the kids are still sleeping. So I key in
the next tourist attraction from the Navteq list, the Salalah bird
It turns out after some careful checking
that now this
bird sanctuary has been closed and the maps of the navigation system
are once again outdated. Apparently this bird sanctuary no longer
exists or it is being rebuilt.
By 5pm I'm back
in the hotel
room. The kids are still sleeping, so I leave again and head to the
beach, this time the beach in west Salalah. I'll be on this beach and
on another one until after sunset at 6pm.
of local people on the other beach at this time of the day. There is a
beach football match going on. By the way, lots of beach football here
I'm surprised Oman has never won anything or participated in the world
At 6pm I drive back to the
hotel. At 7pm
we have dinner in the Chinese restaurant, at 8pm we drive into town.
Window shopping in the souq area. Lots of frankincense for sale. I
wonder what the going rate is.