Salalah is the quintessential ‘pretty Arabia’, surrounded on three sides by the Dhofar mountain range, with a coastline dominated by frankincense trees. It is the perfume capital of the region and the greenest of all the cities in the Middle East.
Cruise terminal: There isn’t one, ships dock in commercial port but there are plans to redevelop it
Shore excursions: Salalah has an extensive array of shore excursions from historical sites to beach resorts and wadi safaris
Language: Arabic officially, but English widely spoken
Dress code: Shoulders and legs should be covered if visiting a mosque
Currency: The Omani rial
Salalah, Oman’s second-largest city, several hundred kilometres down a rugged and mountainous coastline from Muscat, is also the country’s second-most beautiful.
Bordered on three sides by a mountain range, the city benefits from frequent seasonal relief rainfall and is therefore very green, especially during the spring.
The spring is known as the annual Khareef (monsoon) and is the best time of year to visit.
Salalah is the quintessential ‘pretty Arabia’ with the right mix of Western development (its home to several major beach resorts) and the Middle Eastern exotic – you can buy coconut mocktails on the side of the main road.
In addition to coconut trees, Salalah is also dominated by fragrant groves of frankincense trees. It is therefore the “perfume capital of Arabia” and many of these scents can be purchased in the local spice souq.
It has leafy boulevards lined with black and gold filigree lamps and elegant traditional Islamic style buildings, with elaborate latticework balconies.
Despite being a city within a Muslim country, Salalah is also home to several notable ancient Biblical sites, such as the ruins of a palace believed to have belonged to the legendary Queen of Sheba and the tomb of the prophet Job.
The cruise terminal in Salalah
There isn’t one, cruise ships dock at a commercial quay in the container port and customs formalities are done aboard the ship.
Salalah Port itself is a dusty, unappealing harbour with containers and workboats plying to and fro.
Cruise lines provide a shuttle to the port entrance, where you can get a taxi into the much prettier downtown part of Salalah. It’s about a 15-minute drive.
Is Salalah good for shopping?
Salalah produces coconuts, palm trees, incense and bananas and these products are available in abundance at very reasonable prices, depending where you shop and how good you are at haggling.
Prices vary according to the quality of the incense, but US $6 will buy you a basic kit with burner, charcoal and a bag of incense.
Traditional Omani Khangar daggers or Saifs (long swords) are also widely sold.
If you want to try a local delicacy, keep a lookout for stalls selling the incredibly sweet milk bananas and lady finger bananas. They are about half the size of a normal banana and are grown locally.
Currency and language in Salalah
The local currency is the Omani Rial and although you won’t be able to withdraw or exchange local currency at the port, ATM’s can be found at the Hilton and Crowne Plaza Hotels (about five minutes by taxi from the dock).
The main language is Arabic, but a local variation called Shehri is widely spoken. Most of the locals will be able to speak enough English to get by.
How to behave in Salalah
Salalah is part of Oman, which leans toward the conservative. It’s a Muslim city with traditional Muslim values, but a huge degree of leniency is given to tourists, especially cruise tourists, so sleeveless tops and skirts and shorts that end above the knee won’t cause offense.
If you want to tan and swim on the beach, you should use one of the beach resorts recommended by the cruise line, as bikinis and speedos won’t be appropriate on public beaches.
Public affection between same-sex couples will be frowned upon and drinking alcohol in public (apart from in a bar or licensed restaurant), or being intoxicated in public, is not allowed.
Who cruises to Salalah?
Salalah is a popular port of call on winter cruises, often appearing on world cruise schedules and re-positioning cruises between Asia and Europe.
It is also a frequent port call for many westbound cruises departing Dubai.
Of the 105 cruise itineraries featuring Salalah as a port call in 2019, 43 of them are cruises either departing from Dubai bound for the Mediterranean, or cruises with Dubai as the final port of call on the first leg of a grand voyage between Europe and Asia.
Around 39 cruise ships will call in Salalah, from MSC Cruises, AIDA Cruises, TUI, Oceania, Costa Cruises, Marella Cruises, Silversea, Regent Seven Seas, Cunard, Princess, P&O, Fred Olsen and Cruise & Maritime Voyages.
All these cruise lines will visit Salalah on their voyages to or from the Middle East in 2019.