Roughly midway along the Dhofar coast lies SALALAH (“The Shining One” in the local Jebali language), hemmed in between the spectacular crescent of the Dhofar Mountains on one side and the blue waters of the Arabian Sea on the other. Much of modern Salalah, Oman’s second-largest city (although barely a quarter of the size of Muscat), is not much different from anywhere else in the country. Away from the functional city centre, however, it’s still possible to sense something of the old-time Salalah’s alluringly languid, subtropical magic, with its lush banana plantations, lopsided coconut palms and superb white-sand beaches, more reminiscent of Zanzibar than Muscat – a feeling emphasized by the considerable quantities of African blood swilling around the local gene pool.
Salalah’s exotic appeal is strongest around the old parts of town: in the aromatic alleyways of Al Husn Souk and in the marvellous stretch of palm-fringed beach which spreads along the coast east from here to the remains of the ancient city of Zafar – now protected as the Al Baleed Archeological Park. Inland, the modern city is less striking, but still boasts plenty of contemporary mercantile character, particularly along bustling As Salaam Street and in the engaging New Souk. The city also makes an excellent base for explorations of the region as a whole, putting you within a day-trip of pretty much everywhere worth visiting.