Salalah

Travel Guide Middle East Oman Salalah

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Introduction

Salalah is the capital city of Oman's southern Dhofar region. It is the second largest city in the Sultanate, and has the distinction of being the Sultan Qaboos' birthplace. For most visitors, Salalah is the gateway to Oman’s most southerly governate of Dhofar – a historically independent, and culturally and ecologically unique region.

As the traditional regional capital, the city’s history stretches back two millennia, when, thanks to its strategic location, it was an important stop on the frankincense and silk trading routes. In the 19th century the region was incorporated into the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman, and Salalah served as the country’s capital from 1932 until the accession of Sultan Qaboos in 1970, who relocated the capital to Muscat. Salalah was the Sultan’s birthplace in 1940, and his mother was a member of a prominent regional Jebbali tribe; to this day the Sultan maintains close ties to the city.

Today Salalah is still known for the cultivation and trade of frankincense (albeit now on a smaller scale), and is famous for its summer khareef (monsoon) and annual Salalah Festival, when visitors flock to the region to escape the blazing hot temperatures elsewhere on the Arabian peninsula. As lodging and eating establishments outside the city are scarce, it serves as a useful and interesting base for travellers wanting to explore the wider area at any time of year.

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Sights and Activities

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, ✉ incense@omantel.net.om. Sa-W 9AM-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. RO 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 33 m 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. According to 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 have destroyed 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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Events and Festivals

Salalah Tourism Festival

While July and August may be too hot for a visit in northern Oman, these months are great for Salalah and the surrounding areas. During this time of the year, the region experiences Khareef season, a time when monsoon rains bring in life to the land, making for stunning tropical landscapes. This high tourist season is the time when cultural celebrations and parades are held in and around town to entertain both locals and tourists.

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Weather

Most visitors come to Salalah during July and August to enjoy the annual khareef, when the nearby wadis are full of water. Occasionally streets flood, and ocean currents are too strong for swimming or diving. The crowds leave in September along with the rains, but the vegetation is still green, and hotel prices have started to come down.

Diving is only possible during the dry season, from October to the end of May, and this is also the optimal time for bird watching. May and especially June are the hottest months of the year, with humidity steadily increasing until the rains bring relief again in late June or early July.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Avg Max27.5 °C28.4 °C30.2 °C31.8 °C32.8 °C32 °C28.5 °C27.1 °C29.3 °C31 °C31.3 °C29.1 °C
Avg Min18.7 °C20 °C21.9 °C24.4 °C26.6 °C27.3 °C24.8 °C23.7 °C24.3 °C22.6 °C21.6 °C20.3 °C
Rainfall0.9 mm0.4 mm6.1 mm6.3 mm7.9 mm7.6 mm21.9 mm25.1 mm9.9 mm4.6 mm0.4 mm4.7 mm
Rain Days0.41.50.30.50.52.87.483.20.10.10.3

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Getting There

By Plane

There are flights to/from Dubai, Muscat, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Doha.

By Car

Driving to Salalah from Muscat takes roughly 12 hours, and can either be an amazing and memorable experience, or a very uncomfortable one depending on what kind of traveller you are. The first 5 hours are very scenic, as you pass Rusayl, Nizwa and other small towns. However, it's barren desert and oil fields for most of the remainder of the trip, with the only larger settlements along this stretch being Haima and Thumrait.

Travelling at night is usually better than driving in the heat of day (arriving in Salalah at night is a must, as the city lights from the high-altitude entry point are gorgeous). Watch out for renegade dunes on the way. There are several stops along the way for food, drinks, a cigarette break, or nature calls – you should take every opportunity to stop, as there might not be another one for many more kilometres.

By Bus

Oman National Transport Company runs buses to/from the Ruwi station in Muscat three times daily, with the trip lasting 12 hours. Bus transport to/from Muscat is also offered by Malatan Trading (As Salam St, tel. +968 23 211299) and Bin Qasim Transport (tel. +968 23 291786), both with identical fares.

By Boat

There is at least one operator in Muscat that will charter you to Salalah.

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Getting Around

It is possible to explore parts of Salalah on foot, as most places of interest are close to each other. During warmer times of year, though, walking may not be the best idea.

The usual unmetered Omani taxis operate here, with the average taxi fare for travel within the city 500 baiza.

If you hire a car, 2WD cars are adequate for most sights within Salalah itself. Outside of Salalah, however, many places of tourist interest lie off road, and SUVs are recommended particularly during the khareef season because of slippery terrain. Book your car well in advance if you plan to visit during this peak period, as rental agencies often run out of vehicles.

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Eat

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.

  • 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, ✉ 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 (RO 10 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.
  • Ajwa, 23 July St (near Bank Dhofar). Offers Pakistani and Hyderbadi food. No buffet.

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Drink

Alcohol for non-Muslim visitors is available at high end hotels like Good Hopes Restaurant in the airport and Oasis Club near the port, as well as at the bars in the Crowne Plaza, Hilton, and Juweira Boutique hotels.

For a refreshing drink, stop at any of the many roadside vendors selling fresh coconut. They will lop the top off a green coconut for you for 200-300 baizas.

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Sleep

During the annual khareef from July-September the population of Salalah balloons with visitors from elsewhere in Oman and the Persian Gulf, so if you plan to visit during this time it is essential to make reservations well in advance. During other times of year rooms are plentiful and rates are more reasonable.

  • Al Hanaa Hotel, 23 July St (across from Lulu Hypermarket), ☏ +968 23 298305, +968 23 290274, ✉ alhanaa@omantel.net.om. Within walking distance of downtown.
  • Arabian Sea Villas, Dahariz Beach (near the Crown Plaza Resort), ☏ +968 23 235833, fax: +968 23 235830, ✉ seavllas@omantel.net.om. An Omani-Belgian enterprise located directly on the beach of South Dahariz, adjacent to the coconut groves. This is one of the best budget options in Salalah; rates include breakfast and wifi (available in the breakfast/coffee room). Note: it is best to book a room directly by email or telephone, as the booking service on the website caters to German tour operators, with significantly higher nightly rates. RO 30-40/night.
  • Crowne Plaza Resort Salalah, Dahreej, ☏ +968 23 235333. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. A better alternative for luxury accommodation as the property is much larger than the Hilton and more importantly it is close to the city centre. RO 72+/night.
  • Dhofar Hotel, Al Matar St (near Lulu Hypermarket), ☏ +968 23 292300, fax: +968 23 294358, ✉ dhfhotel@omantel.net.om. The hotel offers basic accommodation at very affordable prices. Located in the city centre it is a convenient option for those who are not looking for luxuries or a beach-facing hotel. Service is very friendly and hotel is reasonably clean. €80/double.
  • Haffah House, Al Matar and Ar Robat Sts, ☏ +968 2329 5444, ✉ reservations.salalah@shanfarihotels.com. Old rooms, basic but decent. Very close to the airport and in the centre of the city so it's easy to reach any place you want to get to, reasonable swimming pool, gym and tennis courts. Banking and rent a car services are available in the same building.
  • Hamdan Plaza Hotel, Al Wadi St (across from Lulu Hypermarket), ☏ +968 23 211025. Free breakfast with wi-fi.
  • Salalah Beach Villas, Ad Dahariz St, ☏ +968 23 235999, ✉ beachspa@omantel.net.om. Located directly on the beach. RO 30+/night.
  • Crowne Plaza Resort Salalah, Dahreej, ☏ +968 23 235333. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. A better alternative for luxury accommodation as the property is much larger than the Hilton and more importantly it is close to the city centre. RO 72+/night.
  • Hilton Salalah, As Sultan Qaboos St, ☏ +968 23 211234, fax: +968 23 210084. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: noon. A popular choice for European visitors. It is located roughly 12 km outside the city and runs a daily shuttle service to and from the Gold Souq. However, the hotel cannot really be recommended as the service is appalling and a general sense of "the inmates running the asylum" pervades. RO 59+/night.
  • Juweira Boutique Hotel, Taqa Rd (Marina Town), ☏ +968 23 239600, fax: +968 23 239622. From Juweira you can get a clear view of the artificial 'Juweira Island' which is spectacularly illuminated during night. There are many wonderful cafes, lounges and restaurants in Juweira. There is also a fashion boutique and a children's play area. RO 65+/night.
  • Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, Al Mansurah Street (Al Baleed), ☏ +968 2322 8222, ✉ albaleedsalalah@anantara.com. Recently opened beach resort providing a myriad of activities including tennis, volleyball, and badminton courts, petanque, and beach football. Doubles OR 132+.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

You can find internet cafes in some places, but they are not very common in Oman, mainly also because there's no free press. To use the Internet, individuals, companies, and institutions are asked to sign an agreement not to publish anything that destabilizes the state.
Wifi is on the rise including free wifi spots provided by Omantel, mainly in Muscat and a few other places.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country code for Oman is 968. The general emergency number is 999.

Dialling out from Oman you will need to dial 00 + International Code + Number. Dialling into Oman callers use +968 followed by an 8-digit number.
These 8-digit numbers generally start with a 9 if it is mobile number, and with 2 for land line.

Telecommunication services in Oman are provided by Omantel. The company has a monopoly on the land-line telephone and Internet markets.
To avoid high costs when using your cellphone in Oman, buy a local SIM card, which are readily available in the country. Make sure you have an unlocked cell phone.

Post

Oman Post provides postal services in the country. Post offices generally open from 8:00am to 1:30pm Saturday to Wednesday and 8:00am to 11:00am Thursday. Services are reliable and relatively fast, though if you like to send a package internationally, you could also try and use international companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx.

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Accommodation in Salalah

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This is version 10. Last edited at 12:03 on Jul 15, 19 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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