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A journey to Salalah, between sea and dunes, on the Incense Route

Easily accessible and incredibly surprising, southern Oman is the perfect destination for those seeking authenticity, luxury and relaxation at the same time.

Clear sand, blue sea and luxuriant vegetation. This is the panorama that welcomes tourists who land in Salalah, the birthplace of Sultan Qaboos and capital of the Dhofar region. “Welcome to the GCC Switzerland”, he tells us welcoming the guide who will accompany us on the journey to discover the country. In fact, he is absolutely right: as we walk the recently paved roads that lead us to the Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, where we will reside, I notice that banana trees and palm groves of a bright green line the roadway. It is certainly not the arid landscape that I expected when I arrived in Oman.

“It’s thanks to the Khareef,” the guide anticipates, “means autumn. In practice it is nothing more than a monsoon period that runs from June to the end of August, allows us to have a bearable climate and a luxuriant vegetation, in the whole Sultanate you will find it only with us “he concludes proudly. Approaching the resort, it is immediate to understand that we are far from the glitz and excess of Dubai and Abu Dhabi: in Salalah, luxury is made of harmony with nature, absolute relaxation and respect for traditions. Oman one – rest of the world zero.

An ancient history

We are in Salalah, the capital of the ancient Dhofar region, a place that we will nickname “the queen of contrasts”: from north to south, landscapes that could belong to places at opposite poles of the world follow one another. There is the desert of the Empty Quarter, the rocky mountains of the Jabali population and the blue ocean with white beaches. The Dhofar is a very ancient region: here the archaeological finds of the most important ports of the Arabian Peninsula make us dream of the sailor Simbad and the queen of Saba. The archaeological park of Sumhuram, a Unesco heritage property overlooking a saltwater fjord, lends itself to letting the imagination travel back in time: in fact, the dhows arrived and left from here (typical wooden boats, still manufactured today only in Sur) that plied the waters of the Gulf to transport spices, incense and precious fabrics.

Not far from Sumhuram is Al Baleed, with the ruins of the ancient commercial landing of Zafar, the most important in the area, wonderful to visit at sunset while an orange light colors the site that proudly dominates the coast. In Mirbat, a port still in use, you can breathe the air of the ancient ports of call, while life flows even in 2020 with the rhythms of the sea. Here still today, in fact, as thousands of years ago, the exchange of the most precious raw material of the entire sultanate (excluding black gold) starts: it is incense, the universal symbol of Oman in the world.

The Way of Incense

Ancient route that crossed deserts and mountains to reach the sea, the Way of Incense and in particular its four cardinal components (the trees of Wadi Dawkah, the oasis of Shisr / Wubar and the two ports of Khor Rori and Al Baleed) they are today, as well as testimony of an ancient history, recognized as an important World Heritage site. The incense production process is artisanal and starts from the sacred Boswellia trees that grow on the border with Yemen. At the Frankincense Land Museum in Salalah, the manufacturing processes identical to those of the mists of time are discovered: in spring, incisions are made on the trunks of the sacred tree from which a milky sap gushes out, then scraped to become incense.

Incense in Oman has the appearance of tiny white pebbles (at Salalah’s souk I find that the lighter they are, the higher the quality) and to burn it you need special handmade artifacts, almost always decorated with bright colors, which I hardly have to pack in my suitcase before to start again. It can be purchased everywhere pure or mixed with essential oils, especially in September when the big market is held in Salalah. It is also used dissolved in water as an anti-inflammatory, in essential oil as an antiseptic, pain reliever and soothing, while chewed to relieve the stomach.

White beaches, crystal clear waters, super luxury resorts

Archaeological areas and lush wadis aside, if there is one thing in Salalah that can win the hearts of whoever goes there, that, for sure, is the ocean. Of an intense blue that contrasts perfectly the candid sand of the infinite beaches of Salalah, the sea of ​​Oman is the landscape that will be indelibly printed in your memory on this trip and the landscapes of the Al Baleed Resort by Anantara are undoubtedly its consecration . With an architecture that recalls the traditional Omani one (with canals that could very well be aflaj Unesco heritage) and a direct view on a stretch of private beach, the Al Baleed Resort by Anantara with its luxurious villas with swimming pool is the place ideal for feeling in perfect harmony with the surrounding nature. The infinity pool overlooking the sea next to which you have breakfast, dinners served directly on the shore and the incense treatments offered by the spa make your stay in Salalah wonderfully relaxing.

With tourism numbers that in Italy record + 17% for departures in 2019, Oman and Salalah are therefore the gift to be made before it is too late (Oman Air has started offering super comfort and super luxury flights from all the main Italian cities 7 days a week). If beauty has a specific address this year, this is undoubtedly Oman: now all that remains is to rush in.

by www.travelworld.it source: quotidiano.net