Salalah sundries

Ostensibly, the time to visit Salalah, Oman is during the khareef – a monsoon season from June to September that renders the desert city and its surroundings lush and green. It also leaves the city inundated with outsiders, wanting to see and experience the khareef. People who have visited Salalah during the khareef have told us how every inch of spare field, beach, and road shoulder is packed with campers and picnickers, enjoying the cool temperatures. And every employee while we were there mentioned how crazy crowded it gets during the khareef – traffic, tons of people, inflated prices, and every attraction you’d want to see is swarmed by the teeming masses.

To avoid the crowds, we decided to visit Salalah in the off-season. To avoid the 15-hour+ drive from Sharjah along a mostly two-way, two-lane road, we decided to fly. There is a direct flight from Sharjah, which made it easy.

Of course, in visiting Salalah during the off-season, we also missed the khareef. We could imagine the green-potential of every wadi and mountain we visited, even though most of our surroundings were the same old brown we have at home.

HOWEVER. This same old brown was punctuated by lots of banana and coconut palm plantations, as well as frankincense trees. Frankincense grows well here and it is the reason Salalah was ever a center of trade. Also: cows. There were full-on Omani cattle ranches in the hills here. It was crazy to see cows in stone-wall-hemmed pens, with an Omani villa in the background serving as hacienda.

A few highlights from our trip (we're home now):

Sterling's second flight (his first was to Muscat a few months ago). The flight attendants carried him around for a while and even took him inside the cockpit to visit the pilot.

Good thing the tooth fairy knows where Salalah is!

Salalah Gardens Mall. We needed groceries, ok? And there is a Carrefour here. Don't judge. I wonder if this mall is in a conservative neighborhood. I felt extremely underdressed in a short-sleeved t-shirt and jeans - every other (admittedly Omani) woman there was in full-on abaya + niqab. Interesting.

Omani dresses for the girls. An Omani man sitting at an outdoor restaurant asked Magdalena where she's from and she answered without hesitating, "UAE!" That caused a lot of laughs from the crowd.

Sterling and his kumma (Omani hat). He was passed around among the vendors at the souq and by this time, he was all funned out.

Signing the guest book at Taqa Fort. I checked on our way out and Magdalena had written, "I like it."

This is the ruler's bedroom at the fort. I love the design and colors here - very Indian-influenced, or maybe Zanzibar-influenced?

Wadi Darbat. Couldn't swim in it because poisonous snails.

Fresh coconuts, every day, 200 baisa (55 cents) each. Just a dude with a roadside stall and a machete. After you drink it, he cuts it open so you can eat the meat, too.

Miriam and the frankincense tree.

The ruins of the ancient port city of Al Balid, which was supported by the frankincense trade. That stuff made the world go 'round for a few years there.

This picture looks fake but it isn't. There were camels grazing in some kind of estuary near the ocean and the colors were just so.

The beach.

Fat baby legs dusted with Indian Ocean sand. Mmmm.

We had a great time in Salalah. Maybe someday we'll brave the hustle and bustle and go for the khareef, but I sure did enjoy the laid-back vibe of Salalah during the off-season.

April 4th, outsourced

Spring Break in Salalah