Salalah is the second largest town in the Sultanate of Oman is known as the “perfume capital of Arabia”.
A group of 3 ladies and myself organised a private tour of the region in a modern air conditioned 4WD to see the Soup (market), Job’s Tomb, frankincense and the blow holes. It worked out to cover two tours at about half the price of the ship’s single excursion – but who needs morning tea?
Al-Husn Soup is said to be the best place to buy genuine frankincense. Most shops were closed as Friday is their day for prayer. I was daubed with so many locally made perfumes – I must have stunk. Although the ladies with me all liked the perfume on my left arm – I wonder want it was!
There was also an amazing range of knives and swords; I was even shown a large flick knife – all very cheap; but I’m sure customs might not like any purchase.
All that can be seen of the Sultan Qaboos Palace is the wall with its huge door.
A visit to Job’s Tomb situated on an isolated hilltop overlooking Salalah is just over 30km away. In religious terms the tomb is probably the most important site in the region to Christians, Jews and Muslims. The guide explained the family tree (shown on the wall in Arabic) starting with Adam and the association to these three religions. Based on the size of the grave you would surmise he was at least 8 to 9 feet tall.
Weaver-bird nests in the surrounding trees are everywhere. I beautiful yellow bird.
Back to Salalah then onto Mughsail, some 48km to the west on a spectacular bay ending in sheer cliffs where the mountains reach to the Yemeni border. Camels grazing on the plains wonder aimlessly across the road. Flocks of flamingos in the marshes. The local blowholes unfortunately were not blowing.
Up into the mountains we found the Boswelia sacra – the Frankincense tree. Frankincense is an aromatic resin obtained from the Boswelia tree by scraping the bark and allowing the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. Although the frankincense I acquire, now fixed to the top of my camera, had not yet hardened and I could feel the oil from the resin. Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 years.
Since leaving Salalah, the ship headed into the Gulf of Aden during which time all passenger communications has been disabled until the Red Sea on the 6th April – “in accordance with guidance provided by the authorities” whoever they might be. I’m assuming this has to do with the recent pirate activity in this zone.
“This area at present is considered a High Risk Area due to the presence of Somali Nationals harassing shipping passing through the Gulf of Aden” – I’ll call them pirates. It’s a distance of 409nm and is known by the nickname “Pirate Alley”.
The ship is travelling at full speed and their staff has closed the small rear lowest deck on level 5 (used by the staff). There is barbed wire along the back and both stairwells to level 6 are also closed and barbed; fire hoses fixed to the back railings on level 5 and 6. All windows closed and the staff had shifts through both nights on guard.