Imagine traveling to an Arab country with green covered mountains, waterfalls, lagoons and where the weather is perfect all year long. It was my first experience in Oman and Salalah was a place I was anxious to see for a while and I must say I was pleasantly surprised.
We arrived to Salalah airport from Muscat in the early morning. Having arrived from the layover from the newly opened Muscat airport, the Salalah airport was just as sparklingly new. We met our driver who welcomed us with fresh towels and were off to our destination, Al Baleed Resort by Anantara. As we were on our way I couldn’t help but notice how quiet the city was, also how clean and spacious the streets were.
Arriving to Al Baleed Resort, we were escorted to our villa, which consisted of a living room, bedroom, mini kitchen and pool. Just by taking a quick look I could tell that the inspiration behind the interior is traditional Arab designs with the Sadu patterns all around the living room. After having an energizing nap, we went to have lunch in Al Mina, a Mediterranean restaurant overlooking the infinity pool and the ocean. Oman is known for their freshly caught seafood so it was only natural that we would give it a taste. Whether it was calamari, sayadieh rice or just the regular fish and chips; It was cooked in the utmost freshness and was delicious.
Walking around the resort was like strolling around a tropical island with palm trees and rock covered walkways. Although it was in the middle of summer, unlike other Arab countries, Salalah has what is called Al Khareef season, where the land is covered in green, light fog appears with a high chance of rain. In the summertime, this would be the ultimate escape for neighboring Arab countries.
The resort consists of 136 rooms, villas and pool villas, each special in their own way. The regular rooms overlook the resort, and the private villas are surrounded by high walls for ultimate privacy. Lounging by the pool villa and reading a good book, I was transported to a place of peace and tranquility where all I could hear were the chirping of birds and my inner thoughts.
Salalah is known for being the perfume capital of Arabia. Coveted across the region, frankincense is an aromatic gum obtained from trees grown in Oman and has many health benefits. Its oil can be used for aromatherapy which is why I had to try their signature massage with frankincense fusion. The spa experience itself was magical from beginning to end. As I entered the therapy room the smell of frankincense was literally all I could smell.
It was dinner time and we walked over to Mekong, an Asian restaurant that’s rated the top Asian restaurant in Salalah and was the place to go to have authentic, quality Asian cuisine. Judging by the location and how it was beautifully situated between the beach and the lagoon, I could tell it was going to be great. The lights were dimmed and each table had its own booth that separated guests, the vibe was very chill yet fancy at the same time. We had a platter of the traditional Asian dishes but they were not traditional in taste.
Fresh from the amazing Asian food the night before, we joined a cooking class at Mekong where the chef taught us their signature dishes. The staff had all the ingredients in front of our stations, all we had to do was chop the vegetables and learn the steps. We created Tom Yum soup, green curry, and my ultimate favorite… sticky rice with mango! I couldn’t believe how simple it was to create these dishes. We had a fun time and later rewarded ourselves by indulging in our own cooked meals.
The following day we took a trip out of the resort to see the famous landscapes of Salalah. After a quick drive by our Salalah guru, we were taken to an exciting excursion where we saw the waterfalls in Wadi Ayn and hiked over the rocks to get the best view. We then passed by Wadi AlDarbat which was filled with lakes where visitors could go on a boat ride, paddle or kayak.
Al Khareef season is a beautiful time to visit the breathtaking landscapes and enjoy a picnic. The place was packed with locals and foreigners alike taking pictures and enjoying their time. Local vendors along the streets kindly greeted us with the tastiest milk and tea locally grown on their farm. The Omani spirit and hospitality is what makes Salalah beautiful and an ideal destination all year round.
Words by Noor Al-Sabah
Images by Anantara