Salalah – from the taste of the Arabian sun and the scent of the Omani sky
Do you feel the sensual vibrations that the name leaves on your tongue? Salalah – euphonious sounds that are both revelation and promise. In them lie oriental desires that give new dimensions to your travel dreams. Whether endless long dream beaches with powder sugar white grains of sand, emerald green lagoons, trusting looking camels or the most precious incense in the world: Salalah exceeds all imaginations of a fairy tale from 1001 nights. Depending on the season in which you visit Salalah, the city presents itself in a different guise.
While the winter months are characterized by dry periods, the urban chameleon changes color in the summer months. Influences of the monsoon Khareef transform the arid savannah scenery into green-flowering buds that stretch up in the dance of mist molecules. Optimal climatic conditions for the blessing of incense to flourish under the protection of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. In places like Salalah’s ancient incense port, discover how the scent of the noble incense opened the pores of heaven to begin its triumphant march across the world.
Hotspot Salalah – vacation dream in the Caribbean southwest of the Sultanate
Salalah is the major city in the Sultanate of Oman closest to the equator. Located in the southwest of the country, it is Oman‘s No. 1 travel destination and the capital of Dhofar province. The pearl on Oman’s southern coast is teased by the waves of the Arabian Sea and is a popular destination for a beach vacation in Oman. Due to their distance, Salalah and the state capital Muscat seem like opposites. Over 1,000 km of driving and more than 11 hours of travel time justify a domestic flight, which is extremely useful between Oman’s two airports.
Top highlights of Salalah – unforgettable impressions for a lifetime
If you do not (yet) plan to emigrate to Oman and do not know whether you will enter the sacred earth a second time, you should make good use of the time available. To dive headfirst into the beauty of Salalah without tedious research, simply follow recommendations. Although the coastal city has far more to offer than recommended in the usual travel journals, four top destinations crystallize as absolute must-sees of a trip to the fabulous Salalah. Enjoy unique moments from 1001 nights!
Sultan Qaboos Mosque
Even from a distance, the magnificent church with its alabaster-like facade reminds us of cookie dreams and cake fondant. The only difference: the fairy-tale decorations and minarets are not made of marzipan, but of stone and stucco in perfect architectural art. Green palm leaves gently swaying in the wind frame the sacred building and provide charming contrasts when the mosque takes position for your souvenir photo.
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque in Salalah has a big sister: the house of worship of the same name in Muscat. However, the mosque in Salalah is much less crowded. This is partly due to the fact that streams of visitors are well distributed, and partly to the short opening hours. Non-Muslims have about two hours each day (except Fridays due to Friday prayers) in the morning to soak up the beauty of the structure. Noble chandeliers and precious carpets capture the devout silence of the prayer hall and preserve the mysterious magic of the Orient.
The mosque was inaugurated in July 2009. With a capacity of 3,200 worshippers, it is the largest in Dhofar province. The sacred walls extend over a fabulous 4 hectares in the midst of well-tended gardens on one of Salalah’s main arteries. Although the Sultan Qaboos Mosque is located right in the center, it exudes a heavenly tranquility. Sufficient possibilities to park your car in the immediate vicinity will relieve you of any parking worries.
Before you can see the vaulted corridors, the prayer hall and the ablution rooms used ritually before prayer, you have to pass the strict access controls. Regardless of gender, all areas of skin except feet and hands must be kept covered from the ankles up. Hair on the head and neck are to be additionally veiled by women with a cloth. Since shoes must be removed before entering the prayer hall, it is advisable to wear sandals and socks. So you don’t have to walk barefoot where many others have walked before you.
By the way, as a non-Muslim, avoid the light green carpet runways. For you as a tourist, the dark textile is reserved.
Al Baleed Archaeological Park
If you want to experience pure Omani history, Al Baleed Archaeological Park should be at the top of your bucket list. The ancient city, whose history dates back to 2000 BC and in whose ruins every stone tells its own story, was already considered a booming trade center in Marco Polo’s time in 1285. It housed one of the most important ports in the Indian Ocean and was considered extremely prosperous in the Sultanate of Oman. With its fantastic view of the sea, Al Baleed was economically and ideally the gateway to the world for the Omanis. Besides frankincense and gold, horses were also an important commodity of Al Baleed.
In close proximity to Al Husn Palace and Al Hafa Fort Market, you can visit the ancient ruins that have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is usually accessible from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for a small entrance fee per vehicle. By the way, the vehicle is a golf cart that carries you through the massive area. Stomp through the dusty grounds of the remains of the Al Baleed Mosque with its 144 columns dating back to the 4th century A.D. In the light of sunset, Oman will unfold all its mystical magic here.
Al Hafa Fort Market
Behind the rather unspectacular name hides the most spectacular sight of Oman at all: the only incense souk in the world. If the scents don’t already show you the way, just follow the call of the sea. Close to the beach, the Al Hafa district presents a fascinating world of flavors unparalleled in the world. Let yourself be infected by the friendly smile of the Omanis, when you are offered myrrh, sandalwood and the eaglewood tree incense oud next to the real frankincense. By the way, the smiles here are mostly communicated through pairs of eyes, as the incense traders are traditionally deeply veiled.
Prepare yourself for your desert trip with a headgear at the Al Hafa Fort Market. Artfully attached tassels are typical for the country and decorate your head in a conservative way. As a man, you come into possession of a typical Kumma here. These are round caps, richly embroidered. Many products are made in real handwork. If your beard needs a fine-tuning, you can treat yourself to a special experience in the incense souk. In the skilled hands of real barbers you will experience pure Omani face treatment. It doesn’t get more authentic than this! Al Hafa Fort Market is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and immerses evening shopping in the mystical deep blue ink of Omani nights.
Fazayah Beach, Mughsail Beach & Taqa Beach
The beaches of Salalah are something like the “Wizard of the Emerald City” for the idyll on the Arabian Sea. Nowhere else do the white, rippling whitecaps of the surf contrast more excitingly with the deep emerald green of the shallow waters near the beach. If you want to experience this paradise once in your life with skin and hair, you will find in Salalah some of the most beautiful dream beaches in the world. Slip off your sandals, hang out in the sea breeze and follow the fading footprints left by the bare soles of your feet in the wet sandy surf of Salalah’s most beautiful beaches.
Fazayah Beach is a remote but all the more picturesque pearl after a slightly bumpy drive southwest in an SUV. Rock formations break through the picture book idyll and create secluded swimming bays. With a bit of luck, you’ll have a few spectators now and then as you escape the heat into the sea. Leisurely camels trotting through the sand create a cinematic caravan scene in real-time mode.
A bit more northeast and again close to Salalah, another oriental-Caribbean treasure chest is presented to you on a silver platter. At Mughsail Beach blow holes impress, which spit out geyser-like water fountains depending on the swell. A refreshing change in the sweltering heat of the country.
Taqa Beach, located east of Salalah, offers a fantastic opportunity to capture spectacular beach panoramas on your camera with the view spot Taqa Pluto.
“Pearl fishing” around Salalah – fantastic attractions just a stone’s throw away
Zig Zag Road
When you take a fountain dip at Mughsail Beach, treat yourself to a ride on Zig Zag Road afterwards. It winds serpentine up the barren mountain and offers stopping bays from which you can take spectacular pictures of the sea glistening in the sun and the jags already covered.
You are looking for seclusion and want to go diving? In Mirbat you can explore a unique underwater world, but also immerse yourself in impressive Omani history at Mirbat Castle. The fort is the last contested bastion in the world. A visit to the tomb of Saint Bin Ali in the mausoleum brings inner reflection.
Anti Gravity Point
Not far from Mirbat you can give free rein to your play instinct. The Magnetic Hill whistles at gravity and lets your vehicle roll up the hill as if by magic in neutral. The whole thing also at a sporty pace of 40 to 60 km/h. The ominous place of action is indicated by the bulging street sign “Location of Gravity”.
300 years old and a contemporary witness of the life of the former Wali. The former governor of the sultan lived princely and with the specially built residential fortress extremely security-oriented. Visit the private chambers and get an idea of how everyday life was at that time, separated by gender.
The mountain is the centerpiece of the Qara Mountains, and around it paws numerous incense trees. Natural pools are fed by spring water and form a soft contrast to the hard rock of the surrounding rock caves. If hiking in the heat is too strenuous for you, you’ll find secluded spots for a shady picnic.
Gigantic stalactites adorn the vault of the semi-cave. From up here, Salalah is at your feet. To avoid the hazy haze of the urbanization on your camera lens, it is recommended to head for the View Point early in the morning or at sunset. In a Yemeni barbecue restaurant you will surely even find a suitable sundowner.
In the eastern part of the Qara Mountains, the cascades of the river plunge more than 170 meters during the watery times of the Khareef monsoon. Donkeys, goats and dromedaries, around whose mouths an unwavering grin seems to emerge, shuffle leisurely through the river valley in search of scrawny stalks. Pure seclusion!
Jabal Samhan & Tawi Attir
If you want to know how it feels to dance on clouds, the high mountain Jabal Samhan is your heavenly dancefloor. Baobab trees line the way until you come across a funnel-shaped collapse doline in the mountain village of Tawi Attir. The karstic terrain, fed by wadis, is a wonderful hiking destination. Let your soul take a seat on cotton-soft cloud banks and enjoy a breathtaking mountain panorama.
At 250 meters, the canyon-like sinkhole of Teiq is one of the largest of its kind. During your hike there, you will nevertheless pass living creatures in the barren terrain. Cacti greet you with outstretched thorns and with a little luck the Desert Rose gives you her most beautiful smile during the desert bloom.
It will be interesting if you want to get an impression of the irrigation system of the Omanis (“Falaj”). In Ayn Tabrook you get a detailed impression when your eye catches sight of the numerous springs and canals. Another highlight, which UNESCO has included in its collection of world heritage sites worthy of protection.
Nabi Ayub Mausoleum
Prophet Job, whom you may know from the Old Testament, found his final resting place here in the middle of the mountains. Rare – but allowed here – is that you as a non-Muslim may enter the mausoleum and even photograph the tomb. For Muslims, this place is a kind of pilgrimage site. A mini-mosque surrounded by oleander, acacia and mango trees completes the morbid ensemble of the afterlife.
Once in a lifetime to gaze at the starry sky above the endless expanses of the desert? The fascinating firmament of the Rub al-Khali sand desert will be in your memory for a lifetime. While camping, spend a night in the dry wilderness and watch the moon weave its luminosity in the play of shifting sands between dune mountains.
Lost City of Ubar
Also known as the “Atlantis of the sand,” the lost city was condemned to perish in the sand more than 2,000 years ago, according to the Koran, as a punishment from Allah for the sinful lifestyle of its inhabitants. It was an important transshipment point in the caravan network of the former incense trade and renowned for the trade in Arabian horses. Today you can find here an excavation site.
Follow the scent of air-dried gum resin along the Arabian Incense Road to Khor Rori – also known as Sumhuram. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed sandstone remains of the port city bear witness to the natural-scented gold of Dhofar Province and are living Omani history in its purest form.
In the desert valley of Wadi Dawkah, the devil is in the details. About 5,000 incense trees far and wide adorn the rubbley backdrop. The aromatic resin is still harvested here according to millennia-old tradition. As the “cradle of incense,” the fragrant UNESCO World Heritage Site should be your main environmental destination in Salalah.
Dolphin & Whale Safari
You can observe the imposing and colossal mammals in their natural habitat on a trip beyond the coast of Dhofar. From Salalah Marina you set course for the depths of the sea, while a fresh breeze drives the scent of incense from your nostrils. Take a breath please!
Home to numerous winged animals is the spring Ayn Sahalnoot. Discover bird species like you’ve never seen before. Watch as the ball nests built by wild pigeons sway in the tree branches and become part of an ornithologically extraordinary exciting wildlife.
Shipwrecks & kelp forests
If you’re going to dive, then it should be really worth it. Dive centers on the coast of Salalah offer an excellent starting point for your dive to dazzling coral reefs, shipwrecks and deep green kelp forests. Float through the picture-perfect underwater world of Salalah and meet the illustrious ghost pipefish for a high five.
The spring carries water all year round and is therefore a true Omani rarity. Sultan’s plantations reveal a variety of vegetables, and in the Botanical Garden, water lilies and other flower beauties are displayed in their full glory. Picnic oases invite you to linger while the sounds of the feathery fauna enchant you. However, you should avoid contact with the water, because the common water snail can unfortunately be really mean with the transmission of infectious diseases.
Khawr Ad Dahariz
A cluster of flamingos regularly gathers at the monsoon and river-fed shallow water lagoon. The fresh water mixes with the salinity of the sea, depending on the wind and weather conditions, and is the No. 1 port of call for the cute pink fellows, who sometimes just pose lazily with their heads in their feathers for your souvenir photo.
The pretty fishing village at the end of a wadi not far from the Yemeni border is deserted and beautiful. Against a rugged mountain backdrop, you can picnic undisturbed on the sandy beach and dream of returning.
Salalah’s troubled past
Salalah, as it holds its place in people’s hearts today, looks back on a recent history that was mainly characterized by the incense trade. In fact, however, the roots of the city go back to the 4th/5th century. Century B.C. back. The ancient South Arabian port city of Sumhuram, located about 40 km to the east, left its ancient ruins to modern Salalah. Between the 12th and 16th centuries, the urban district of Al Hafa became the center of commercial activity, with souks where the incense business still flourishes today. Al Hafa Fort Market is a real world sensation. As the only incense souk on earth, it continues to uphold the country’s fragrant tradition.
The Sultanate of Muscat took over the city in the 19th century. In 1932, Salalah was given the honor of becoming the capital of the Sultanate of Muscat and Oman. The fairy-tale jewel retained this position until 1970, when Muscat, under Sultan Qabus ibn Said, became the titleholder of what is now the capital of Oman.
Between 1965 and 1975, Salalah was caught in the crossfire of the Dhofar rebellion. To escape the rebels, Sultan Said ibn Taimur sought shelter in his city palace. This was also his last act. Since he was never seen in public again, his subjects were under the assumption that he had died.
360° Emergency Compass for Salalah
Salalah is the third largest city in the Sultanate of Oman with a population of about 163,000 in the inner city area. Adding the surrounding districts, about 416,000 people are native to Salalah.
For all consular matters, the German Embassy in Muscat is your mission abroad. You can find them at this address: Diplomatic Area, Al-Khuwair, Jami’at Al-Duwal Al-Arabiah Street, Muscat. Phone line desired? Dial the phone number +968 2469 1218.
Medical care in Salalah meets European standards. In case of emergency, contact Sultan Qaboos Hospital. It can be reached at the telephone number +968 2321 1151. Make sure you have health insurance abroad!
The police are located near the Sultan Qaboos Mosque. However, the phone number +968 23 290099 does not replace the emergency 9999.
You can hop in a cab directly at Salalah Airport or call +968 9914 3222 to arrange one to your desired destination at any time.
Restaurants in Salalah – international and Arabic gourmet cuisine
An experience for all senses awaits you in the exclusive 5-star restaurant. Belonging to the Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, this chic establishment offers Mediterranean cuisine at the highest level. From Al Baleed Archaeological Park you can reach the city in 20 minutes. on foot the same under the table set with fine damask linen. Rattan armchairs offer you a box seat deluxe on the terrace at sunset. Sniff the salty breeze of the sea and feel the glowing red blaze of the setting sun on your pupils while first-class service caresses your soul. Beef grilled over an open flame and thyme-rubbed sea bream wrapped in parchment paper are menu highlights that will romp with love on your tongue.
After a quarter-hour walk from the Sultan Qaboos Mosque, you’ll reach the upscale Lebanese restaurant. Vegetarians and vegans in particular get their culinary money’s worth here. A neat little terrace offers you the opportunity to enjoy tasty dishes in the authentic ambience of Salalah’s urban streetlife. The excellent service will spoil you with a changing offer of vegetables, fruit, lassi and tea, in addition to delicious hummus cuisine, without charging you for it. Whether as an appetizer or main course, grilled meat variations are the most common menu choice. Salalah deluxe!
Shopping in Salalah – modern and traditional shopping on a grand scale.
Salalah Gardens Mall
With the mall, you have your sights set on a shopping temple where the metropolitan shopping craze is omnipresent. In the impressive complex on Ar Rubat Street, traditional Omani architecture merges with numerous stores and boutiques of international labels. Here you will also find the only Carrefour hypermarket in Salalah, where you can find everything you need to live on a European level. A gigantic food court offers you fantastic treats when a hole has eaten not only into your wallet, but also into your stomach. Knülle from shopping? Take a seat by the fountain with its changing colors – a relaxing end to an exciting shopping trip. The mall is open daily from 10 am to 10 pm.
If you want to take the pure Arabia home with you, you have the possibility to find it in the traditional open-air souks. An elegant and upscale alternative is Souk Aswaq Salalah, attached to Salalah Gardens Mall. Three small halls are lined with cute stores where you can buy local products such as incense, perfume and clothing. Treat yourself to a detour to this traditional oasis and breathe the spirit of the real Arabia in an authentic atmosphere.
Hotels in Salalah – when your dreams of Omani nights bed down on luxury
Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara
You want to reside once so really fancy? The exclusivity that is already the order of the day at Al Mina Restaurant continues throughout the hotel complex. Walking in the lap of about 700 palm trees, Arabic round arches and typical Omani mosaics will quench your thirst for an exterior in a class of its own. Visualize the meaning of the same in the infinity pool, if after a day on the hotel’s private beach and fresh water lagoon you still haven’t had enough of the promise of the sea. In sleek rooms and elite private villas, you’ll bed your head on comfortable organic cotton. Is it possible to dream more luxuriously? The in-house Signature Spa Treatments are pretty darn dangerous competition.
Salalah Rotana Resort
A little further east, in the direction of Taqa, another 5-star luxury hotel offers a menu of Omani hospitality, sheer white sandy beaches and opulent oriental architecture. Let yourself be pampered by the high-end service in a picturesque setting.
Salalah Gardens Hotel
This 4-star hotel in the budget range is cheaper, but no less cozy. Located next to the Salalah Gardens Mall, you’ll spend the night away from the beach in a fine ambience inspired by Oriental architecture. The glistening rays of the Arabian sun will reliably tickle you awake every morning.
Going out in Salalah – classical Arabic sounds bring night owls to bed
If you’re a non-Muslim who wants to sip alcoholic cocktails until the first soft rays of sun dip the sea into a tangerine-colored Oriental carpet, the hotels’ bars and clubs are your shuttle through Arabian nights.
With the Plaza Premium Lounge and the Indian Social Club, you’ll dance through time and space in the company of Omanis in a heat-filled atmosphere. Capture the magic of Salalah at night in the zenith of Omani stars!