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Trip to Salalah, Oman

This post is about our family trip to Salalah, Oman on Jul’14.

Salalah is the capital of Dhofar Governorate that lies 1000 kilometers away from Muscat. It is a hidden treasure in the entire Gulf and Middle East region.

We visited Salalah on Khareef season i.e. last week of July. This is one of the best season to explore Salalah and its natural beauty.

Khareef is an Arabic word which means ‘autumn’ or in simple ‘monsoon’ season. Khareef season extends from the end of July until the beginning of September (before booking your tickets check the fall of Khareef season).

We divided our journey into two parts; the first was a road trip from Dubai to Muscat and the second was flight to Salalah from Muscat. There are daily flights between Muscat and Salalah, as well as other Arab Gulf states (Dubai, Muscat, and Sharjah). We ruled out road trip after reading through reviews and suggestion from different forums and opted out this economic and safe travel for a family trip.

Road trip:

We started our travel around 7.30 hrs in morning from Dubai. We took Dubai-Hatta highway (E66 to E44). The total distance from Dubai to Hatta is 120-130km and it took more than 1 hour to reach ‘UAE-Oman border’. There are clear sign boards along the route.

Once you enter Hatta, there is a check point (like port-cabin) where we have slowed down the car and got the vehicle pass (yellow slip). Sometimes the guards may check the boot and inside the car. After a 5 minutes’ drive from there we reached UAE immigration office where we proceeded directly to the check post and got the exit stamps on our passports. Sometimes they may ask you to visit the office to get the exit stamp, and it depends!! (Now the system is changed all must visit to Office and no more check point system)

We reached Oman Border at 9.00AM after driving for about 10kms straight and Oman Immigration center. Since it was a weekend there was not much crowd, we filled-in visa application form and sumbitted our original passport and car insurance (covered for Oman) for visa processing. The visa fee is 5 OMR i.e. 50 AED. It took maximum 10 mins to complete the visa formalities at Oman Immigration office.

There is a coffee shop, pizza shop and restroom available in the building.  We do remember that there was a counter for car insurance from some local company.

(On our next visit to oman, it was heavily crowded at this Immigration office as we travelled on an holiday. It took 2.30 hours to obtain the visa. So if you travelling on holiday or weekend better to reach there by early morning in order to avoid such queue and save time).

After finishing the visa formalities, we entered Oman. The distance from Hatta-Oman border to Muscat Airport was 275km. It is a straight road crossing the towns like Shinas, Shohar, Shaham and Barka. There was no traffic till Muscat and I must highlight that the road was good. The speed limit till Muscat is around 100 kmph (just check the sign boards for clarity). We filled the fuel on the highway. Petrol price in Oman is cheaper than UAE and there are lot of fuel stations available on the way to Muscat. We reached Muscat airport at 11.30AM and parked our car at the airport, collected the parking card from the counter and proceeded for the check-in to Salalah by Oman Air (domestic flight).

The flight duration is 1.30 hours to Salalah.

Documents required to travel to Oman from UAE by road:

  • Passports
  • Driving license
  • Car registration card (Mulkiya) and Oman insurance
  • Pen (very important)

While returning from Muscat, we took our car from airport and paid 3-4 OMR (40 AED) towards parking charge for 4 days.

We hired a private taxi from airport to hotel. Private taxi contacts are available in the hotel reception, so transport was hassle free.

Wadi Darbat or Dirbat

This Wadi is located on the western side of Salalah, 40-50 kms away from the airport. It took one hour drive from the city centre via Mirbat road. This is one of the most popular destinations for tourists and nature lovers. We hired a private taxi for our complete trip in salalah.

The best place to feel the real beauty of khareef season in salalah. The road took us to a small beautiful river amidst of dense bushes on its either side. The road on either side was covered with wonderful green meadows; it was indeed a treat to our eyes. Dense Fog and slight drizzle made the place look fresh and heavenly. We took a boat ride for 20 mins (5 OMR) and it was really worth doing. We just walked around for an hour, clicked pictures and admired the beauty. There is public restroom and few refreshment shops available.

Video – Wadi Darbat boat ride

Wear good grip shoes as the mud near the river are very soggy and slippery at times. It is safe to use insect repellent cream before stepping down as there are some creepy insects which bothers skin.

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The best time to visit here is from end of July till Aug. It seems that there are few caves and waterfall of 100ft height but there is no good accessibility.

Ain Garziz, Dhofar:

It is a beautiful picnic spot which is about 20kms from Salalah. This park lies at the bottom of a mountain range. The thick mist and drizzle makes the place look serene. The nature shows itself at its best. We took a short road to reach little above to get complete view of the mountain. I could never imagine a better place in middle-east. The time that we spent here is all worth of our trip to Salalah. I would give super like for this place. Never miss to take this short road to see the beauty from this one level high.

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Ain Razat

It is half an hour travel from Salalah, on the way to Mirbat.

There is a small garden and water stream located here. Swimming is not allowed.

It is good place for picnic and worth to spend max of one hour. There were no shops available in this place.

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Nabi Ayoub’s Tomb:

Drive from hotel to this place is wonderful. We could see a lot of fruit/vegetable shops on the way towards this place. This place is very quiet, no much crowd around the place and there is nothing much to see.

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Ayn Athum (عين اثوم) – Waterfall:

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Earth gravitational controversial point or Zero gravity / Anti-gravity point

This lies on the way to mirbat about 10kms off the road. There is nothing to see there except experiencing the anti-gravity i.e. your car will move upwards against the earth gravity while the gear is in neutral. We tried it several times, even in reverse, with car’s engine switched off and still it was moving upward.  I did not understand how it is happening but it is still a surprise. We saw people placing the bottle on the ground, the bottle rolled uphill without any external force till certain point. We spent half an hour there.

It is one of the must see place in Salalah.

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Marneef Cave:

Marneef cave is located 50 kms away from Salalah on the eastern side and close to Mughsail beach. Road from Salalah to this cave is just parallel to the long beach which is scenic and awesome.

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It is not actually a cave, more like a passage to the small mountain near the sea-shore. There is a steep staircase leading to the cave. Mountains on the right and sea in front the place offers a beautiful view. The main highlight of this place is “blow-hole”, sea water blows through these natural holes in between the rocks with roaring sound which is so unique and great experience. Kids really enjoy watching and standing near the showers. We can’t reach the sea water due to the fencing around this place and it is not recommended to swim due to high tides and rough sea in this region.

There were a small shops, visitor centre and rest room located at the parking area.

There was no big attraction other than this blowhole. There is no admission fee in any of these places.

Stay at Salalah Beach Resort:

The hotel is located in front of the beach which is so nice to play around in the evening. We stayed there for 3 days. We took a deluxe room and it was comfortable for a family of 3 members. Both room and bathroom were neat and clean. It is just a budget hotel so we can’t expect any luxury in the room. Room was provided with basic furniture. Beach was clean. There were not much people around the beach, so we had lot of privacy.

Hotel is secured and safe. Hotel staffs were friendly. Continental breakfast was complimentary.

Few drawbacks: The hotel is located far away from the city center so accessibility is difficult if we do not have personal car. Furnitures and TV kept in the room was average.  Overall our stay was pleasant and comfortable. We spent 40 OMR for a day which is worth when compared to other hotels in Salalah. There are lot of other very good hotels available in Salalah.

Trip to Khasab-Musandam/Oman

Here comes our memory of the road trip to Musandam-Khasab, Oman.

On Jan ’2014, one pleasant morning we started our road trip to Khasab from Dubai. It was one of our best and memorable trips in UAE.

There are lot of adventures and astonishment uniqueness in Musandam peninsula. It is one the must visit places in the region. Khasab is the main city and capital of Musandam province which is part of Oman and not in UAE. It is located in the Arabian Gulf next to Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), northern part of UAE.

There are two options to reach this place from Dubai; one is the road trip and second one is by boat trip (dhow cruise) by sea. Lot of tour operators are available to arrange these trips from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.

Road trip:

We took Emirates road (Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road) and the total distance from Dubai to Khasab is >200kms. Since it was a weekend there was not much traffic on Bin Zayed road. The speed limit is 120-140kmph. We could not find any restaurants throughout this stretch except few Petrol/Gas stations.

Weather was awesome, cool and equable weather throughout the drive. The drive after crossing the Omani border was great, as the road leads to breath-taking landscapes. We happened to pass through few villages after border crossing, where farm animals just wander on the road, we saw armed security guards on the way. It is recommended to use GPS navigator if you are not familiar with the routes. We lost the road and wasted 15-20 minutes due to road diversions in RAK.

Total distance from Dubai to Khasab: >200kms

Dubai to RAK: 110-120kms (1.30 hours)

RAK to Omani border: 40 kms (30-40 mins)

Border to Khasab: 45-50kms (45mins – 1 hour)

Total travel time: 3.30 hours (including the border crossing of 30 mins & on the way sightseeing activities)

Visa regulation, entry and exit at the border:

Once we cross RAK, there is an UAE border check post (Passport section) where we got the exit stamp and vehicle pass by paying AED 35. Since there was no queue we completed this process in 5 mins and approached towards the Omani border. We handed over this pass in the next check post.

There is no prior visa required for UAE residents (UAE visa holders). Tourists with UAE single entry visa are not permitted to cross the border.

After crossing the UAE border we stopped the car near the Oman entrance and took car insurance from Al Ahlia for 80 DHS since I did not have an Oman insurance. We submitted filled-in visa application form, paid 50 AED (per person) for the entry visa and got the entry visa stamped on our passports. It is wise to carry a pen, as these places remain deserted to even ask for help. It took almost 30-40 minutes to finish the visa stamping formalities.

Once we crossed the border it took 40 mins to reach to the top. On the way we stopped near a beach and clicked some photos and reached Khasab town by noon.

We took a half day package in Dhow cruise offered by Musandam Sea Adventures/tours. We couldn’t locate the harbour, so when we called the tour operator, they came to our location for assistance within 10 minutes. Finally we reached the harbour/pick up point at 1:30pm. There were only nine people on the boat.

The boat was clean with traditional carpets and comfortable cushions to sit. The helmsman and helper were very supportive and helpful. We were offered local tea/coffee, fruits and dates as compliments. There are other adventurous activities like snorkeling, scuba diving, banana boat ride and over-night camping in Khasab.IMG_2270IMG_2366IMG_2300

We were surprised to watch a pod of dolphins gliding and diving along our dhow boat very closely. They were all racing swiftly at the same pace, few performing high dives now and then. My three years old kid got excited seeing the dolphins in their habitat for the first time.IMG_2389IMG_2404IMG_2535

It was a pleasant experience with this service company and would recommend this tour operator for their service, as they waited patiently to spot dolphins and made our trip worthy.

Check my page for more photos – https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzoWdvvQYw7CaXNXSFphRWpRVW8

Things to remember:

  1. Carry your passports
  2. Keep AED to pay at border crossing. Check the tour operator for current fee
  3. Pen to write the passport details at Oman border
  4. Oman car insurance if you are driving in a car
  5. Camera, battery, memory card, lens etc.
  6. GPS navigator or Road map till Khasab
  7. Fill fuel, however spotted few Shell petrol station/Oman oil on the way
  8. Jackets if you are traveling in Dec to Jan
  9. Be at right time so that tour operator can assist you better

 

Jan’14

Trip to Muscat, Oman – Part-7 / Sultan Qaboos Palace or Al Alam Palace

This palace is located close to the seashore within Muscat city and surrounded by forts. The travel to old Muscat along the corniche is truly amazing. The souq is located on the way to the palace. It has well-maintained lawn, pedestrian walk way and beautifully designed garden with flowers. The contemporary architectural design of the palace reminds us of Oman’s heritage and historic beauty.

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Unfortunately the palace isn’t open to the public; however there is no restriction to walk around the place. There is a huge gate in front of the palace.

There is plenty of parking space available adjacent to the palace. It seems that the palace is currently used only for official visit of the Sultan. There is a National museum located next to this palace.

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Trip to Muscat, Oman – Part-6 / Al Qurum National Park

The Qurum Natural Park is the largest park in Oman. We reached here by noon. There was no adequate car parking facility for the park; it took almost half an hour to get one lucky parking space. There was no fee for entry. The park has beautiful lawn and garden with attractive flowers.

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We noticed many family get-togethers and social gathering in the park. The park was crowded as it was public holiday. It has a separate play area for children with slides, swings, cable runways and sand play etc. However there was no proper maintenance carried out in the play area; especially few safety hazards like broken edges in the slides, missing ropes and broken steps in the climbing place etc should be renovated.

Free Wi-Fi is available.

The park has a lake for boating but not in operation. I assume this area of the park is ideal for walking and jogging. This seems to be one of the most picked day-out spots by localites.

Trip to Muscat, Oman – Part-5 / Pebble Beach

This beach is rightly another example for unbelievable beauty of Mother Nature. This beach is just few kms away from Bimmah sink hole when you drive towards Sur.

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The entire stretch of beach is filled with just beautiful light coloured pebbles in different sizes and shapes. There is no sand in most part of this beach. This is one of the must visit beaches in Muscat. We could not take pictures since it was dark when we visited. There were few families enjoying barbecue on the beach side.

Trip to Muscat, Oman – Part-4 / Bimmah Sinkhole

(Continuation)…

Our next stop was Bimmah Sinkhole or Hawiyat Najm Park. It is one of the most famous and must visit places in Muscat.

It is located on the way to Sur from Muscat. The total distance from Muscat is 125km and the journey will take close to one and half hour. From Muscat when you drive towards Sur after 120th km you can see a signboard of ‘Dibab’ on the right hand side. Since we started from the dam it took an hour to reach this place.

We reached the sinkhole at 4pm in evening. There are plenty of open parking space is available in front of the gate.

There is a small park (not exactly a park!!). Park has kids play area with swings and slides, but mostly rusted and broken condition. The lawn inside the park could have been maintained better.

After walking about 100-150 meters inside the park we found a big deep hole below the ground. We were so excited when we saw the deep blue water. Steep concrete steps are provided to reach the water. It is difficult for kids and aged people to climb the stairs. The water was very cold and tasted salty similar to sea water. There were few people snorkeling on deeper side along the edge of the sinkhole. Kids were playing in the shallow water.  Concrete wall is built around the sinkhole for safety.

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We spectated few surprising stunts of diving from 20m high by people around. Natural free fish pedicure by little fishes in the rocky shallow water which nibble our feet.

We spent only 45 mins and returned back due to the huge crowd.

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The main drawback is no proper change room available near the sinkhole; however restroom was there inside the park (not well maintained).

This is one of the finest places for swimming and snorkeling!!!

Trip to Muscat, Oman – Part-3 / Wadi Al Arbaeen

(Continuation)…

After reading lot of reviews and recommendation about Wadi Al Arbaeen we decided to visit this place.  As part our day trip, first we visited this Wadi, next Mazara dam and we ended the trip in Bimmah.

Wadi Al Arbaeen is located between Muscat to Sur highway. On the way to Sur you can see a sign board on the right hand side “Wadi Al Arbaeen”, from here it takes 17-20km to reach the Wadi. First take a right turn from the highway and go straight for 2-3 kms. Road is good and well maintained till this point. When you go further you will find two road on the opposite side (right and left). Take a left turn and continue on the road past the first right turn, then take the next right after it (after about 250m). Keep driving on this road, don’t take the right turn that comes a bit later, you will eventually see a sign that points to Wadi Al Arbaeen to the left. Take left and keep going until you reach a village.

The drive was challenging. Road was unpaved, very narrow and slippery in few areas due to the gravel. On the way you can find unique hills with varied grey and orange color rocks.

We thought of going ahead for another 4 kms but there was some water stagnant and deep pits located on the way. We traveled in Honda Accord (2WD), so we could not go further and ended our trip at this point. We had lunch near a tree shade and clicked few pics. There is no shop or restaurant located in this place, so it’s better to bring food and plenty of water. There is no restroom in the wadi.

For our surprise there was not much water in the stream found near the village. Water was very dirty and people were cleaning the cars and tires. The weather was very hot and outside temperature was close to 35 deg C. Since it was a local holiday there were lot of people and cars parked around. We could not spent our time peacefully and decided return to Mazara. It’s better to avoid visiting this place during holiday or weekends.

There is nothing so impressive till this point. It is not recommended to go without 4WD to this Wadi.

Trip to Muscat, Oman – Part-2 / Mazara Dam

Mazara dam is one of the must see places in Oman around Muscat. The dam is referred by different names as Mazara dam, Wadi Dayqah dam and Quriyat dam. This is located on Muscat to Sur highway, approx. 120km from Muscat. When you drive towards Sur, after 80-90km you will find a brown sign board “Wadi Dayqat Dam”. Take a right at this point, drive another 20km and you will find the main entrance.

The total journey took around an hour. The information and sign boards are clearly available along the road to reach the dam. The roads are good and few parking is available on the top of the dam. There is no entry fee and parking fee.

The view of the dam from the top is amazing. There is a small park and a restaurant located at the top of the dam. We bought some soft drink, ice cream and biryani rice. Price is very nominal.

Since it was a holiday in Oman we could see people everywhere around park and it was too crowded. This is one of the frequent visit place for the locals and residents. We could not explore the complete area due to the crowd.

Trip to Muscat, Oman – Part-1 / Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque

One of the must see places in Muscat. The mosque is very grand, beautiful and serene. The white color of the mosque speaks for its beauty, peace and purity. It is located within the Muscat city and easy to find the route in google map. Plenty of parking spaces available within the place.

The mosque is surrounded by garden and tress which gives freshness and eternal feel when you enter. The huge prayer hall entrance door with classic wood work adds to our amaze.IMG_7028The main prayer hall walls were decorated with art work .The main hall is lightened by Swarovski crystal chandeliers which were glittering like gold.IMG_7059 (2)IMG_7056IMG_7131The carpet in the main prayer hall is the second largest in the world. There are five minarets surrounding the mosque and the main minaret is 90 meters height.

For visitors the timing is from 8.30 am to 11 am from Saturday to Thursday and closed on Friday (Ramadan might be different).

Dress code:

Abbaya is not mandatory for female. Any dress covering full legs and hands till wrist is allowed. Head need to be covered using scarf or veil (Hijab). Jean with loose full hand shirt or long cardigan, salwar kameez with dupatta, long Skirts are allowed.

For male – full length trouser or jean with shirt or T-shirt is allowed.

There is a shop inside the mosque which sells veils for 5 OMR and rents abbayas for 2.5 Riyal. It takes minimum 1 hour to glance around the mosque. Food is not allowed inside the mosque. Weather was hot and the temperature was around 32-35 deg C.

Date: 3rd Dec ’15

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