Weekends make Salalah a definite tourist spot. If you are like us who arrived here on a Friday afternoon, you’d see perhaps one of the longest traffic experienced in Oman while entering the city proper.
There are multiple factors though that contributed to what was about half an hour standstill. Primary of these was a large number of people coming from Muscat and the nearby GCC countries hoping to experience one of the best seasons that the Middle East has to offer.
If you get lucky, however, sitting in the middle of traffic wouldn’t have been so bad if you have drizzle and the fog cooling you down.
This Friday had seen remarkable fog — one that rendered the road zero visibility and the temperature dropping to as low as 22 degrees Celsius.
All of this is, of course, happening not on Salalah but the mountains where a toll was set up. Even in the thick fog, the greenery was still identifiable and it was this welcome site that makes the long travel by road worth it.
The scenic route
There are multiple ways to go to Salalah. The easiest and the most convenient preferred by many is by flying. From Muscat, it is but about an hour’s trip. It’s a ‘hop on hop off’ kind of experience and for me, makes the trip very impersonal.
Taking the bus is the cheapest option. If you take one of the late-leaving buses, you’d be sleeping the whole trip through and find yourself in Salalah in the morning. The long road that connects Salalah to Adam is pretty empty so no worry about missing anything.
If you own or have the capacity to rent a four-wheel drive, however, that’s another story. You can take the coastal road, one that opens a door to an even greater adventure.
While taking the Nizwa to Adam route is the fastest (allowing you to only travel about 8 to 10 hours of direct driving), it’s no different than taking the bus.
But if you pass through Sur towards Ashkarah, then there is a different story.
On this longer but the picturesque trip, you’d find yourself passing the Pink Lagoon of Al Suwih or Jalaan. A few minutes later, the cliff of Al Qaba offers a stunning view of the Arabian Sea. Perched on top of this cliff, you would see the white foam of the waves transforming the beaches below into a sea of white, the kind of view that is definitely worthy of your time.
Between this place and Ashkarah, you’d see the laid-back lifestyle of the people from this part of the country. Many of the homes appear to be abandoned and perhaps rightfully so as many houses belonging to the Bedus who still spend their time moving from places to places.
Ashkarah is one of those sleepy places. But here, during this time of the year, the temperature has already dropped tremendously. During our shortstop, the temperature was a good 26 degrees and if you’re the type who has gotten accustomed to temperatures around 35 degrees, this is already challengingly cold.
Ashkarah is one of the places where you definitely can go surfing. Perhaps still to be discovered, its beaches are already seeing a few people kitesurfing as the wind is exceptionally strong thanks to the generous contribution of the Arabian Sea.
About 40 minutes from Ashkarah, still traversing along this coastal road, you’d find yourself on a place where one side of the road is a desert and the other, the ocean. It makes up for a stunning photograph and a stopover need not even be discussed. The strong wind also creates a ripple on the dry sand and watching the sand move from one side of the road to the other is perhaps something not everyone will see in their lifetime.
Farther down the road is Duqm. Seeing quite a number of investments in the last few years, its transformation is slowly making it a must visit. Home to the Rock Garden and Ras Madraka, there are several roadside diners that offer delicious food that would be a welcome delight to foodies.
Our group had taken the longest route and we found ourselves in Al Jezar – – it’s most notable point is the road formed by cutting a mountain in the middle. With but small houses and mostly labour accommodations dotting the area, it’s still worth seeing this part of Oman.
All of these places, of course, required time and patience. But as they say, it’s not just the destination that is important but the journey as well. If you have a few days to spare and have the adventurous spirit and nomadic friends to tag along with you, give the coastal road trip a try. You’d waste nothing more but time but the experience will be truly worth it.