Salalah – Oman

Early breakfast, surprised it wasn’t packed as on previous port days. We guessed that people were worried about the heat and/or Arab temperament (terrorism) and decided not to risk it and stay on board.

We were issued with our tour sticker in the Grand Bar and then issued with a port embarkation card on leaving the ship. This was checked on the bus at the exit to the port by the military. Though we were on an English guided excursion, the majority of passengers were of other nationalities. Probably their own excursions had been fully booked and they opted to use their ‘school’ English rather than miss out. One of the ship’s entertainment crew did join us to act as an interpreter for the Italians, it is my experience that of all the nationalities, the older Italians are the least likely to speak English.

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Salalah is the 2nd city of Oman and the birth place of the present leader, 75 year old Sultan Caboos. He is well liked by the people having  brought them from poverty to riches during his reign. He was educated in the UK as a child and then at Sandhurst. He built the first roads, schools, hospitals and social housing. These being free to all citizens. Women have their own schools. He is a recluse and no-one appears to know anything about him. After talking with our guide the population do not know if he is married, whether he has children or who will succeed him.  Caboos has written down his wishes and placed them in a wallet, when he dies, the government will open it and find out who is the lucky one to take over the leadership. They seem very happy with the situation.

Driving through the country side it looked like any other Arab country we have visited, but apparently in June to August the monsoon arrives and everything turns to green. This is the most popular time of year for tourism as the Gulf states flock to the area to savour the cool temperatures (20- 25 degrees) and enjoy the greenery and rain. Today, it was hot, dry, and brown.

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Our first stop was to Mugshail which is a beach with rocky formations that contain ‘blowholes’. When the waves crash in, they emerge spectacularly through these sending jets of water high into the air. They are at their best at high tide, and we arrived at low tide. Looking into one of the holes, the air pressure of the wave travelling through the tube  blew my hat off. Despite hearing the tremendous roar of moving water, the best we saw was a feeble spurt, but we are easily satisfied, particularly at these temperatures.

Next stop was high in the mountains at Jebel Qara and thankfully cooler. This was the reason for our booking this tour, a visit to the tomb of Prophet Ayoub, better known to us as Job. The story goes that he was a man of great faith and wealth, two wives and many children. He lost is wealth and in a double blow he caught leprosy. The people in his village  threw him out and with one of his wives travelled to Salalah. His wife cleaned houses so she could afford to look after him, but when things got so bad she had to sell her own hair he prayed to God for help. For his patience in staying faithful his wish was granted and his leprosy disappeared. One wonders whether his wife got her hair back? He was revered and buried on the mountain in his own rather large grave.

The tomb itself is quite modest by religious standards, though as he was reputed to be very tall (over 6ft) the grave itself is quite large and covered in a bright green cloth. We had to be respectful when entering his tomb and this meant removing shoes, wearing trousers and long sleeved shirts, the women also had to hide their hair under a scarf. Obviously this made it extremely hot for we Europeans. Outside, incarcerated in a small brick structure is reputedly an imprint of his foot.

Travelling back down the mountain to the heat of the plain, we arrived in Salalah itself and spent the obligatory time in Al Husin Suq (souk) for some shopping. Salalah is in the area called Dhofar and is famous for its  frankincense and here the shops abound with the stuff. Surprisingly, for an Arab country the shop keepers do not call out or hound you like feeding time at the zoo. There reward was that we bought some frankincense, myrrh and gold.

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Well, to be truthful the last two items really were a hat and a t-shirt, though the shirt was yellow.
We tasted the frankincense and Sue thought it was lovely and I thought it was foul. I am afraid that our children are going to be the judge of that on a Friday night when we return. Something to look forward to?

After a city panoramic tour we returned to the ship in time for lunch. A Danish lady joined us and in conversation told us that her husband had just come out of the ship’s hospital, he had been there for several days. At 75 yrs old (she was much, much younger) she was worried about him having a heart attack. Perhaps she should have come with us to see Job?

Sue spent the afternoon on deck listening to ‘Los Paraguayos’ (guitar duo) and reading her book, I spent the time in a very quiet gym.

Dinner was informal and the show was titled: Grand Cabaret of Costa NeoRomantica Introduces Legends. Pop songs with dances. The singers were reasonable but the dancers  are really very professional.

Relocating to Deck 11, we sat and listened for half an hour to the guitar duo that Sue had enjoyed during the afternoon. On our customary trot around the deck we had the extra treat of watching four searchlights scan randomly across the sky. Quite exciting. I suppose they haven’t been used earlier as we they would have just broadcast our position to Blackbeard, but we are out of pirate waters now.

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We watched a bit of Al Jazeera before falling into bed.

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