Salalah, Oman's Best Kept Secret
As the birthplace of Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Al Said, there’s certainly something regal about Salalah and its rich history. The second-largest city in the Sultanate of Oman boasts untouched golden beaches juxtaposed with staggering mountain ranges that wouldn’t look out of place as the backdrop to a Star Wars movie. With FlyDubai offering reasonably priced business-class flights for the short hop from Dubai to Salalah Airport, there’s no better way to travel to this idyll than in the lap of luxury.
Where to Stay
When compared to the hustle and bustle of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Salalah Rotana Resort offers the perfect escape from city life. This plush five-star hotel has barely been open nine months and yet it’s already fully booked with tourists coming from as far afield as Italy, Germany and England to indulge in some serious rest and recuperation. The largest free-standing hotel in the Sultanate is just 15 minutes’ drive from Salalah Airport, but its beach is what really makes this place live up to its nickname, the Jewel of Arabia. Salalah Beach is spread over 15.6 million square metres, with an 8.2km beachfront you’ll never tire of strolling along.
The waterfront resort boasts luxurious rooms and suites located on lagoons, and an elaborate network of manmade Venetian waterways connects the property to the Indian Ocean. At Rotana, five-star opulence is seamlessly infused with traditional Omani hospitality and the heart of the hotel features high ceilings and a central internally lit handmade red clay dome complementing the wooden finishing and decorative Mashrabiya latticework windows.
In-room furnishings have been carved from desert rock while Arabesque geometric designs and stone archways resemble atriums. With four restaurants, the resort offers the perfect mélange of dining options, from casual beachside options to high-end Middle Eastern and Western cuisine. If you want to rejuvenate, then a visit to Zen the Spa at Rotana is a must. We waited until our last day to treat ourselves to a deep-tissue massage and left feeling completely refreshed and rebalanced.
Salalah Rotana Resort exceeds the expectations of even the most discerning guest, but be sure to prise yourself away from the luxury and check out Oman’s biggest export, frankincense. The aromatic resin is harvested from trees grown all over the southern Oman coats and can be bought ready to take home in its souks.
Salalah for the Stars
One Direction heartthrob Louis Tomlinson whisked his girlfriend away there last year, and actress Isla Fisher was born less than an hour away from Salalah Rotana Resort.
Sultan Qaboos Palace
This fortress isn’t open to the general public, but tourists line up to have their pictures taken outside the great gate. If you’re lucky you may even see the Sultan, since this is said to be his favourite residence in Oman.
The clock tower is an important symbol for Salalah and appears on the Governate’s coat of arms. It’s especially beautiful at night, when the clock’s colourful face is illuminated.
Museum of Frankincense Land
This centre highlights the history of the area, including its long links with frankincense. From ancient shipping routes to the process of harvesting the resin, you’ll learn all you need to know here.
Al Baleed Archaeological Park
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ruins were part of the 12th-century trading port Zafar, and explorer Marco Polo is known to have frequented the area.
If you want to find traditional Omani weapons both new and old, visit this small informal open-air market for vendors selling all types of munitions, from antique rifles to traditional knives and daggers.
Taqah Castle used to be a tribal leader’s private residence. Now owned by the government, it serves as a museum and showcases lots of exhibits illustrating the old Omani way of life. The castle’s ground floor once housed a prison and some storage rooms, while the family quarters were upstairs.
Currency Dhs1 = 10 Omani rial
Getting There Return flights with FlyDubai start at Dhs1,020, www.flydubai.com
Getting Around Salalah Rotana Resort runs tours and taxis to all destinations, priced according to group size