Our first foray into the Persian Gulf was a soft landing in the small southwestern Omani city of Salalah. Would I have preferred the geographically blessed, historical capital of Muscat? Yes, clearly. But the cruise line never consulted me on the itinerary so here we are in obscure Salalah.
To make the best of a port that had scant little internet presence for me to research in advance, we booked a tour with the cruise line. And as always, with limited expectations, comes great travel.
Salalah, it was quickly revealed, was both the birthplace of the current sultan and a very important hub in the ancient frankincense trade. The former status promised well maintained landscaping, streets and and heritage castles. The later produced fruitful archaeological activity in old Yemeni trading ports and a world class museum dedicated to the fragrant sap.
We breezed though the souk dedicated to this exotic export and left smelling like a miasma of biblical products: frankincense, myrrh. Although the visit was rushed, we still managed to buy stuff ’cause, you know…Americans.
Our final stop took us further from the city. Much to Kalina’s delight, our winding mountainous trip was delayed on several occasions by groups of dromedaries casually wandering down the road. It’s not the custom for Omanis to enjoy the beach so we had this dramatic stretch of coast to ourselves, blowholes and all.
As a result of my tabula rasa mentality, I was utterly dazzled by Oman’s surprising mix of ancient and modern. Unfortunately, a brief cruise stop doesn’t lend itself to anything more than scratching the surface of a place. But it does provide a sampler of highlights and the lure of further exploration. Basically it’s the tapas of travel and in Oman I’ve decided that I will surely have another round.