My Impromptu Trip to Salalah [Quarantine Day 23]

Down memory lane once again and this time I’ll take you on a journey to mesmerizing Salalah, Oman.

Oman was nowhere on my list of countries I want to visit. But a brief phone conversation and a simultaneous Google flight search led to an impulsive decision to go to Salalah, Oman, to visit a sibling who’s temporarily based there. That’s when I realized that this would be my first trip to a middle-eastern country. I’ve traveled extensively across Europe but Asia and the Middle-East have not yet figured into my travel plans.

I was in for a pleasant surprise because with its Dhofar mountain range and sandy beaches the color of shimmering gold on the shores of the Arabian Sea, Salalah is enchantingly beautiful.

I had my first taste of luxurious Anantara in Bangkok, (read my Thailand post here), and so I was thrilled to spend my first afternoon in Salalah at its luxurious ocean-side restaurant. The next three days flew by as we explored the sights and did nothing more strenuous than eating and sleeping, lol.


A prelunch mojito for me and a cosmopolitan for my lil sis at the Anantara, Salalah


Living in Detroit where middle eastern food abounds, it’s no surprise that it’s my favorite cuisine.

I’m fascinated with infinity pools – do you see the one here to my right?

Ayn Razat, a perennial natural spring and one of the main sources of water in Salalah, was free of tourists, giving us plenty of time to explore the caves in peace.

Inside the cave at Ayn Razat

The other cave was inviting me up but I wasn’t appropriately dressed for it, lol

We drove on to Wadi Darbat stopping along the way to admire the scenery.

A random stop along the way made for a majestic view


A picturesque place to have a picnic, with cascading waterfalls and camels for company.


Took the “path less traveled” to reach the falls and along the way, an obliging camel allowed me to have a photo session.

And then there were seven! It was stupendous to see these beasts in their natural habitat!

The drive to Mughsail Beach and the Marneef Caves was taken with numerous stops to simply soak in the beauty. Driving alongside the gorgeously uncrowded beach, I wondered how anyone in Salalah could remain indoors when surrounded by so much natural beauty.


A breathtaking view of the ocean and the mountains.


Our private cabin for a picnic lunch on our private beach, lol.

We’d packed more middle eastern food from a deli for a picnic lunch.


Falafel sandwiches taste so much better with the sand, sea, and mountains keeping company.

Can you tell, I couldn’t get enough of the camels?


Tiny footprints in the sand

The sun’s beating on my back and making me squint, but the caress on the gentle breeze makes me so happy.


The sea was calm and the tide was out so the “blow-holes” were sadly MIA
[Blowholes form when seawater bubbles up with a roaring sound through natural holes between the rocks]

The winding road rising steeply up the mountain, then descending into a valley and then rising again.

The next day, we drove up to Jabal Samhan, the highest peak in the Dhofar Mountains.

Slowing down for camels crossing the road never got old.

We got a bit lost along the way but we didn’t mind because the car had plentiful fuel and passing scenery was “breathtaking”. At the top of the stunning 1300m-high viewpoint, the fog was so dense that we couldn’t see a thing.


Walking through the clouds sure felt like Paradise.


The untouched beauty of Jabal Samhan

As they say, time flies when you’re having fun and my mini, impromptu trip soon came to an end but not before buying chocolate and Oman’s famous Frankincense.

   
An out-of-this-world display at a popular downtown chocolate shop.

Time flies when you’re having fun and our three days flew by too quickly. Salalah airport is small but nicely maintained. Check-in took all of 3 minutes and after a tearful goodbye to my sister, I went looking for the lounge. [Yes, I was also surprised to learn that Salalah airport had a lounge.]


The business lounge at Salalah, Oman.

And for the first time ever, the lounge was located directly across from my gate. Lunch was pretty good – with many vegetarian choices [Delta lounges, take note]. And they even served beer. l literally left the lounge 2 minutes before boarding began.

10 hours later, exhausted from a journey that should take no more than 2-4 hours including airport time, I was back in my favorite city, Mumbai. Why they don’t have direct flights to Salalah from Mumbai, boggles my mind. The whole Sharjah halt is like touching your left ear with your right ear behind your head.  And, gosh, the 4:50 am departure and arrival times makes traveling from Mumbai to Salalah super tiring.

P.S.

  • US citizens need a visa to Oman although the online visa application process is short, simple, and results in visa approval within hours.
  • They’re crazy strict about making sure we have a return ticket and a visa which makes me wonder how many people illegally enter Oman or if that’s even possible.
  • The OMR is stronger than the USD and that was a sobering cold-water-smack in my arrogant American face, lol.
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