Just a taste – Salalah, Oman

When we finally got into the port of Salalah, it was already past 230pm. We didn’t get off the ship until close to 330pm and that meant we had less than two hours to explore. This is NOT sufficient time in any place much less one that you have to taxi to from the container port area. Anyway, we made the best of it. We were all just so happy to get off the ship having been stuck on it for a week already.

We had a nice group of about 15 and tried to co-ordinate into taxis after piling into the shuttle bus which drove us out to a long line of about 30 waiting identical cabs. It turned out the taxis had some kind of “system” which would charge us a ridiculous $80 as opposed to the $30 I knew it should be. I refused to participate in such highway robbery and even though it was hot, I decided to walk. I knew there had to be a better way. Lee felt the same way and six others joined us. The rest stayed behind and got dinged for their laziness and/or fear of the unknown. We didn’t have to walk out the cement wall but 2 minutes and voila, two waiting taxis with sweet reasonable drivers willing to take us for the price we asked for.

Salalah (I love saying it) is a sleepy coastal town bordering the Indian Ocean. We stopped by the Sultans Palace but he wasn’t home so we didn’t see much. The grounds were pristine and kept perfectly. One thing I am noticing about Oman is how much cleaner, wealthier and calmer it feels than nearby Egypt.

We knew we didn’t have much time, so we went to the Souk (market). There were several rows of stores selling fabrics to perfumes to curved daggers (khanjar) to traditional Omani garb. I was interested for about 20 minutes then realized that every store sold exactly the same stuff.

After smelling some burning frankincense and feeling a bunch of scarves I decided to explore some of the side streets. I discovered a bunch of little boys kicking a soccer ball around while a couple old men leaned against the cement wall watching lackadaisically.

The Omani men wear long white gowns called a dishdasha and fitted patterned caps on their head. Someetimes they wear a scarf wrapped around the cap turban style. The women are more dramatic typically covered head to toe in black. The silky flowing black “abaya” looks elegant and mysterious. Some cover up just their hair and neck while others cover their whole face leaving only slits to see. I was wearing my head covering that I had received in Jordan but I still felt underdressed compared to the norm here.

I jumped in a car and went for a ride around the town and learned there really was nothing else to see in such a short time. I ducked into a supermarket and marveled at the many different choices of rice, spice and everything nice. Its more or less the same stuff we have back in canada but with a few more ethnic varieties.

Next since there was a bit more time left before we had to go back to the ship, I found a tailor who makes abayas. I was amazed at the level of work that goes into producing one of these lovely dresses. He sews the fabric then adorns it with tiny jewels…hundreds of them. The prices ranged from $30 to $450. I almost bought one (a simple black and white one) but decided to hold off until Muscat where I wouldn’t be under time pressure.

We all piled back into the cab sped back to our waiting ship. I half listened to the others but couldn’t take my eyes off the setting sun. It was stunning with the palms silhouette and the mountains just beyond. I liked the flavor of this country so far and began to really look forward to the next stop.

Grateful for honest taxis.

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