Insider Journal: A Visit to Salalah in Oman on Seabourn Ovation

Olivia Balsinger

Insider Travel Report - June 3, 2019

After a delightfully restful day at sea on the Seabourn Ovation as the ship sailed down the coast of Oman on the Arabian Sea, we finally made it to Salalah. Prior to embarking on our “Arabia & Antiquities” itinerary, I had zero idea that this capital city of southern Oman’s Dhofar province even existed. But after my friend Jonathan and I spent an entire day in this desolate yet strangely stunning city with a local guide our Seabourn excursion, I now feel more knowledgeable about the place.

Salalah is famous for its Arabian Sea beaches, fruit plantations and waters brimming with sea life. While during our visit the area seemed extremely desert-like, with rolling desert dune and a strikingly dry heat, we learned from our tour guide, Mohammad that the landscape completely changes come summer. The Khareef, an annual monsoon, transforms the desert terrain into a lush, green landscape, even creating seasonal waterfalls.

We decided to embark on another Seabourn excursion, dubbed “Sultanate Heritage: A UNESCO Partner Tour,” in order to better understand the dynamic and fascinating history of the region. After leaving port we visited Al Balid, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and once a prosperous medieval-era port. We enjoyed free time exploring the town’s well-preserved fort and also learning about its history. We learned that it was once one of the world’s most important harbors for the export of frankincense.

After visiting these archaeological ruins, we drove to Taqa, another ancient center of the frankincense trade. Today the area is actually a well-populated fishing village renowned for its traditional white-stone houses and its historic castle. We walked around for a bit on our own before driving to Samhuram, located near the great lagoon of Khor Rouri Creek. This UNESCO World Heritage Site dates back to 3,000 B.C. and vividly illustrates the heyday of Arabia’s frankincense trade with the Far East and Greece.

During our tour we also stopped at the Museum of the Frankincense Land, which featured The Maritime Hall and the History Hall. All exhibits showcased the area’s involvement in the ancient spice trade and dynamic history.

Before we returned to the ship, knowing we had a themed Arabic Night party that evening, we made a pit stop at the Al Husn Souq. Using our bartering skills, which we had acquired two days prior at the Muscat fish market, we shopped for jewelry, scarves and other local handicrafts. I bought myself a colorful scarf made by an Omani woman from a local village.

After getting back on board, we had a few hours to rest up and prepare our costumes for the Arabian Night themed party on the top deck. Most all guests—some I hadn’t encountered once yet onboard—made their way to Deck 9 and rocked out to music provided by the Club Quartet Music Society, along with The Band (a guitarist, pianist, saxophonist and a singer).

Come midnight, following what may have been the busiest day of our trip thus far, we went to bed, the catchy Arabian tunes still playing in our heads. Luckily, we would have five sea days now to relax and enjoy the amenities of the ship as we sailed to Al Aqaba in Jordan.