The Indian managers were distraught that we didn’t stay for Breakfast. “You REALLY don’t need to leave now…stay for twenty minutes and eat with us. You can leave at 8 and be in PLENTY of time for the flight”. We weren’t so sure and it was a good thing we left at 7 as the rush hour traffic was crawling towards the airport. The “twenty minute” drive took more than twice that, but all was fine. We handed over the car keys to the AST rep, and checked in. We’d done exactly 1600 kilometers in our ten days.
Salalah is quite different from the rest of Oman in that it catches the edge of the Indian Ocean monsoons. It rained every day in June apparently and all the Omanis go to escape the heat further north. Everyone told us we were going a little too late to see Salalah at it’s lush finest, but flying in we could see green mountainsides and water glinting in broad river beds.. In the desert all around there was plenty of evidence of heavy rainfall, with dried rivers, streams and rivulets zigzagging all over the landscape.
Ours was the only plane at Salalaha’s gleaming airport. Our car was waiting for us and we headed onto the coast road. It felt much greener than northern Oman with great avenues of mature palms, and extensive fruit plantations. We stopped at one of the many fruit stalls that lined the road. They are scrappy little places, hanging with great strings of bananas, and piled with pomegranates, guavas and mangos. The seller sliced the top off three coconuts with a machete and popped in straws for us.
Parts of the waterfront are more down at heel than in the north, with once handsome buildings now sagging; shutters hanging by a crooked hinge from peaked windows. The picture-perfect palm trees on the white sand beach had stray dogs sleeping under them.
We will be covering a lot of ground over the next couple of days so this was to be an afternoon of lazing by the hotel pool and generally recharging our batteries. And also recharging the batteries in the many, many handheld electrical devices we seem to have accumulated. Annoyingly, there will have to be one more, as the promise that we would be able to play an iPod through the radio turned out to be false. We’ve been listening to Stephen Fry reading Sherlock Holmes to us and can’t possibly continue without him – especially on the endless desert roads we’ll be on this week. So, to the Salalah branch of Lulu’s tomorrow for a little plug-in speaker… But that’s for tomorrow. Pass the pineapple juice.