Al Baleed Archaeological Site

Last October after visiting the Dhofar region of Oman  I got sidetracked with life in my cubicle, office duties and some unexpected events that pulled me away from this cubicle and blog. Now, things are getting back to normal and today I have some free time in my cubicle to reminisce about my trip.

After a couple of hectic day of sightseeing and visiting Marneef Cave, Mughsayl Beach and Al-Shaat Sinkhole we decided to stay in Salalah to visit the Al-Beleed area, do some shopping and enjoy a day relaxing without anything major on the agenda. We spent the morning visiting the park and frankincense museum.

The history of Al-Baleed goes back to pre-Islamic times. It was an important settlement during the late Iron Age (2000 B.C.) and it became a prosperous city during the Islamic era. Today Al-Baleed serves as a quiet and peaceful park to relax and watch birds. This is what we did for about an hour or so before heading to the shopping mall to escape the hot and humid weather.

The Al-Baleed Archaeological Site (The Land of Frankincense)  is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


Marneef Cave, Mughsayl Beach and Al-Shaat Sinkhole

Finally, some free time in my cubicle to reflect on my trip to Salalah. After the little fender bender and exhausting drive from Nizwa to Salalah on the first day I woke up much later than usual, had breakfast and got ready for a day of sightseeing in Salalah. Our first destination was Al-Marneef Cave, located about 45 kilometers away at Al-Mughsayl Beach. It took a little over an hour to get there and by noon the temperature was unbearably hot. It is supposed to be cooler in this part of Oman but the temperature approached  40°C (104°F) by noon. With the humidity it seemed even hotter.

The cave is not that interesting but the surrounding area offered some gorgeous scenes. The blowhole at Al-Mughsayl Beach is an awesome attraction for youngsters. Although it was hot I didn’t feel inclined to stand over the hole and get sprayed with smelly sea water.

The visitor’s center across the street from the cave was closed. It appeared abandoned until next Khareef (main tourist season that takes place in July and August). Then we discovered a small shop selling tea nearby and we decided to stop and have our packed lunches away from the crowds and the heat of the midday sun.

In the afternoon, we visited the sinkhole located in Al-Shaat, another 50 kilometers of winding roads though the Dhofar Mountains.

The sinkhole itself was not that exciting but the journey to it offered some spectacular views of the Arabian Sea.

I had better end this post here and get back to my job in my cubicle.

Drive from Nizwa to Salalah

The 880 kilometer drive from Nizwa to Salalah was long, flat and boring. The road and horizon appeared to form one continuous mirage that never ended. NTS4The traffic was hectic, with locals and tourists from the UAE rushing down to Salalah, during Eid al-Adha. The police were celebrating the holidays with their families, so most drivers ignored the speed limit. Cars and trucks whizzed past us at the speed of light. We seemed to be the only vehicle obeying the speed limit, determined to arrive safely and without any mishaps, in spite of the heavy traffic.

We arrived safe and sound at the first petrol station and parked the car away from the busy gas pumps. This was a slight diversion, from the chaotic pace of the highway. It was a chance to stop and stretch our legs, drink some coffee, eat some snacks, queue for the bathroom and chat with other tourists. This was supposed to be a short break to relax before continuing on to Salalah. NTS1Then, the unbelievable happened – a SUV rammed into the side of the car, smashing in the door. How could the driver not see the car? I am not exactly a great driver but I could have easily turned a tractor-trailer without hitting another vehicle here. Where did he buy his driver’s license? NTS2I wanted to scream but the man was so apologetic that I stood there stunned until Robert came back. Robert was shocked at what had happened but he remained calm and called a colleague for advice on how to deal with this unexpected event. The colleague suggested that he notify the police about the crash to complete a report for insurance purposes. They didn’t need to come to the scene because there was certainly no dispute as to who was in the wrong. Robert and the driver took care of some necessary paperwork and we waited.

Thank goodness, the car was still drivable and we were able to continue the road trip. Twelve hours later we reached Salalah, checked into a hotel and went straight to bed. I took these  photos just as we approached the city.NTS6NTS5As a sit in my cubicle and reflect on this long, time-consuming and monotonous drive across the desert I question my sanity. Several colleagues suggested that it would be better to fly to Salalah and rent a vehicle instead of driving. I was warned about crazy fast drivers, uninspiring scenery, dirty restrooms and limited food choices at petrol stations, rocks, sand and more sand but I didn’t listen.

For anyone considering driving from Nizwa to Salalah I strongly recommend that you ditch the idea. The savings and inconveniences along the way are not worth it. Fly to Salalah from Muscat, rent a car on arrival, and enjoy your vacation.