Saturday 7 June 2008

Oman: things to do in Salalah

We asked to see the manager regarding our bill enquiry. Strangely enough, he was in a meeting. Returning to the front desk after breakfast, we were directed to a member of staff in a nice jacket who used a form of hotel management logic which defeated all rational argument. Minutes later, she revealed she was not in fact the manager, but an under-deputy-sub member of the managerial staff. We were advised to consult the hotel customer service representative who eventually concluded that there was not an error on their website….unless we could prove otherwise.

And so to the souq. We wandered around the narrow passages past small alcoves fronted by Omani ladies sitting on the floor among bags of frankincense and other local pungent products. Mrs M purchased a straw drinking vessel (because we needed one) while I fought off numerous barbers keen to have someone in their shop. We dripped like boiling kettles in the stifling corridors. Returning to the car, Mrs M spotted a group of men selling small arms, knives and silver jewellery. She haggled for a ring while I discussed the provenance of a .303 rifle.
Back in the cool comfort of the Prado, we drove into the hills to the site of Job's Tomb (one of four such tombs in the Middle East). The road was under construction and the underside of the car is now coated in sticky tar. We found the building at the top of the hill and entered the sleepy site, past a gang of workers taking lunch. The tomb lies in a simple room which did not take long to visit and we headed back to the car. The splendid views of Salalah from this location could only be imagined through the clouds.

On the way down the hills we spotted a few
camels and started to count. We gave up after about 200 when we encountered a flock of over 100 wandering across a road on their way to lunch. Camels have no road sense.

Back at sea level, we continued westwards to
Mughsayl where Mrs M had originally intended to spend a couple of nights after the Crowne Plaza. The difficulty she had finding information about the rest house became understandable as the site contains only remnants of the buildings left by Gonu last year. This devastation did not deter a gang of workers building new shelters on the beach. I am sure they will be fine.

We snacked at the end of Mughsayl beach before walking into the rocks to one of the Salalah's
main tourist sites, the blowholes. Sea water in this area is funnelled into caverns in the rocks and directed upwards through holes with great force. Very difficult to photograph – particularly with the camera and lens covered in salty spray.

We were melting by this point and returned to the hotel, stopping briefly at the bird sanctuary in Mughsayl. Bird sanctuary is over-selling it a bit; it is merely an area of coastal vegetation fenced off to protect if from grazing animals. Nonetheless, the birds seemed to like it. We concluded that there should be more of these places in Oman – no more hotels and golf courses please, just nature parks and wildlife reserves. Oh, that's right, they don't make any money.

Back at the hotel, we rested. As the sun set (behind thick cloud), we walked along the blustery beach before dinner. Mrs M was grumpy because I did not want to eat in the depressing hotel restaurant so we ate in a beach-side bar. She got her own back by feeding a stray cat. We called it quits.
I slept like a pit pony.

No comments: