Saturday, November 24, 2007

City Guide: Salalah, Oman

Salalah is widely known as a popular holiday spot within the Middle Eastern regions. The second-largest town in Oman, Salalah is famed for its scenic beauty, thanks to prevalent monsoon seasons between June and September. The monsoons fill up the wadis and cover the mountains with lush greenery. The Smahan Mountains are a popular tourist attraction, proving to be a visual feast for all the senses.

The city is primarily known for its frankincense production. The frankincense inscene is regarded to be a famous and notable produce of the area. Frankincense trees can be seen growing across the Smahan Moutains and by the streams - the town has even been decorated with large statues of frankincense burners, a true dedication to its history with the mythical fragrance. The old Haffa Souq is the best place to pick up frankincense, as well as a number of different fragrances in oils and their natural forms.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the land’s history with frankincense, visit the newly opened Frankincense Land Museum at the Al Balid Archaeological Park. The park itself is a UNESCO heritage site where visitors can bear witness to the ancient architecture and structure of the region. The Frankincense Land Museum has two halls that will educate visitors on the history and geography of the region, as well as present knowledge about Oman’s marine history.

Including the Haffa souq, there are three main souqs in Salalah. Along with the Old Souq, is the Gold Souq and the new souq. For antique selections of Omani jewelry, the gold souq will be able to tempt you with many stores and choices. The new souq is where visitors can pick up some exquisite handicrafts such as local dress, handicrafts and all kinds of handmade silver Omani jewelry.

Other attractions in Salalah are its extensive nature and wildlife. It’s an ideal place for bird-watching, and camels and goats can usually be seen wandering at east on the major roads.

For accommodation, there are plenty of choices from five-star resorts to seaside holiday villas. Choose from the Hilton Salalah Resort or the 45-acre Crown Plaza Resort. If you’re looking for something more affordable, try the Salalah Hostel for a low-cost, yet well-equipped accommodation.

The ideal time to visit Salalah would be between October and April and during the monsoon season when the weather becomes far cooler than the rest of the neighboring regions.