So, it's taken me awhile to write this entry. I wasn't sure what to write because I didn't have the greatest time in Salalah. Not that it was horrible or anything like that but we were stuck in a car for eight hours with another couple who were not very friendly nor even very pleasant. Our driver, whose English was only so-so, was nevertheless quite talkative. The tour was "Arabian Sands and the Lost City". Now you wouldn't think that you would have to drive far to find sand in Oman but you would be wrong. For three hours we drove past a landscape that was rocky and dry (one might even say "sandy") with occasional camels. And yet we drove on. And on. Eventually we arrive at a genuinely sandy area where we stop to let the air out of our tires. The road gets more narrow and harder to distinguish from the surrounding landscape. The dust rises and we are in "white out" conditions though not for the "usual" reason. Up ahead are mountains of sand becoming visible in the dusty haze. Our driver guns the engine and we head up the sand hill lurching and roaring ahead only barely in control.
Once out of the car, we explore the dune, discovering -- almost immediately -- that the sand is deep and hard to maneuver in and then later that the sand is also quite hot. We get some terrific photos (though we don't know that at the time they are taken) and we watch as another vehicle which got stuck in the sand extricates itself. And then it's over. Time to go back.
Oh but I've forgotten about the "Lost City". It's located behind a mini-mart kind of place, fenced in with chain link and razor wire. A dusty place with dirt paths and brick foundations scattered here and there. Not much to see really and the guide isn't much help either. R and I quickly decide it's time to move onto lunch which is to be underneath some trees at the bottom of the hill over there. We get there before most of the others and proudly score prime seats on a carpet with a tree trunk for a backrest. Out comes our "box lunch" and I'm feeling like this might not be so bad. But then I notice the flies. Hundreds of them. And they're persistent too. And the trash which is everywhere. And the sandwich which consists of a dry salad inserted between two slices of Wonder bread. And suddenly our picnic lunch in Arabia seems less ... well ... magical.
The ride back to the ship is broken up by a stop at a frank incense farm. The facility is surprisingly well done complete with stairs, walkways, benches and even a bathroom. Our guide explains how slowly these trees grow and about the different grades of frank incense. Back in the car, we must all shift seats because the smallest person among us (whose name I won't use but isn't, as I am sure you have guessed, either me or Russell) isn't happy with her assigned seat! I told you these people just weren't nice!
Anyhow, on the way back to the ship we see grand houses being built and lots more scrubby landscape. We are not far from Yemen here but it's hard to believe because this spot, this Salalah seems both sleepy and unchanging. Not much happening here. I check with others once back on board: "Did you go into town?" "Yes," comes the answer, "but there's not much there." It seems this isn't anyone's favorite port but I'm still glad we stopped here though I'm not quite sure why. I guess a taste of Arabia -- any taste -- is good enough for me.