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SALALAH, OMAN

February 8/08 - We arrived in Salalah Harbour, cold, wet, weary and hungry. Our hair was plastered down with grit and salt, our eyes heavy with fatigue. The covering on our foresail was hanging from the roller furling in shreds (luckily we used our storm sail and could leave the foresail furled), our lee cloths were detached from the weight of the waves and hung limply, our bilge pump gave up as the load on it proved fatal, the boat - wet and salty inside and out. Clumps of salt hung from the rigging forming tiny stalactites. Lots to add to the to-do list.

The Port of Salalah is an industrial shipping harbour, well lit, with ships coming and going at all times, and our designated anchorage, a small basin off the main harbour was bounded by cement docks lined with freighters and police boats. Although there were only several other sailboats there, we had to shoehorn our way in to find a spot that didn't interfere with the shipping traffic.

The holding was poor and the other boats reported that they had all dragged the day before when the wind came up. I cannot image where14 boats coming behind us will fit in

Since Friday is the Muslim holiday, we hoped that we would not have to check in until the following day cause all we wanted to do was shower and SLEEP!!! We had managed to make some water during the last few miles of our sail into Port. I was looking so forward to a shower after 10 days without but didn't realize what a shock the cold water would be!!!! Not a problem in Thailand but it is downright cold here. Ended up with a quick sponge bath. Add fixing the water heater to the list.

But we no sooner got the anchor down when the customs and immigration officials appeared alongside, ready to board. I scurried to put on my Muslim attire (over the shoulders, over the knees). After our initial paperwork was completed we were instructed to go ashore and complete our checkin at the Customs Office. They gave us only an hour to get the sails stowed, get the dinghy off the deck, blow it up and get the motor on, go to shore and walk the mile to the offices. Much to our luck a fellow yachtie came over and offered to drive us to Customs and then give us a tour of the town.

Camels and Sand

As it turned out, our new friend was a lifesaver and a great source of information. He drove us to Salalah through the bone dry, brown, dusty desert, the landscape stark, and  harsh – rocks and sand & dust in the air  

 

– the only green where it has been planted and watered.
Everything a monochromatic beige.

 

And Camels! Along the road, in the hills –Camels roamed freely searching for fodder in the stark treeless moonscape land.
We were led to the best places to eat, buy groceries, look for boat bits, etc. Although the shops were closed on Friday the town of Salalah was very interesting, the architecture nothing like we had seen anywhere before.

Ascension Salt Mine

Back on board, we needed to deal with all the dirt, dust and salt that coated every inch of the deck, rigging and sails. Huge clumps of salt encrusted the stanchions and stays. There was enough salt (photo right) to mine the stuff! We also discovered that water had migrated in thru the anchor locker and absolutely soaked every article of Gord's clothing with salt water!! This was the worst nightmare of all as I pulled the sodden shirts, shorts, sweats, jeans and even underwear from the cupboard. I tried to wash out some of the articles but soon realized that being anchored next to a cement plant, in a shipping yard, meant that the air is chokers with dust and the clothes came off the line brown and dinghy. No choice but to take them to be laundered. Add that to the list.

Touring by Car February 9

We arranged to share the rental of a car with Stardust as the town centre was a fair distance from the harbour. We drove into the city to explore.

Oman was certainly our introduction to the strict Muslim culture. The men wear long white linen robes that looked like nightshirts, and turbans or hats, the women always in the black burkas and veils usually with just a slit for their eyes, but sometimes their faces are fully covered. You never seen women during the day, only at night when we saw a few of them carrying out their domestic chores of shopping. They do not respond to eye contact and do not like their photos taken. Women are seen only with women, men only with men, and there seems to be no communication in the streets between the sexes.

The architecture around Salalah is modern but unimaginative. Functional and clean looking, the buildings are boxy and most everything is painted white. Salalah is definitely more affluent than other Islamic countries and there isn't nearly the indication of poverty that is seen elsewhere.

Shopping

You mainly saw men during the day who wore . Men would sit and drink coffee at the local outside “cafes.”

Salalah town itself was neat and tidy, but very dusty, with a lot of construction work going on. There was one large “hypermarket” called Lulus, which was very good – otherwise lots of small shops huddled together. There was an absolute plethora of hairdressers (for men only!) and laundries – they lined each side of the street.

February 10/ 08

Even with the rental car we found it difficult to obtain the materials required to rebed our hatches and fix all the leaks, get our sail repaired and parts sourced. After driving around Salalah all day with the dead motor that is supposed to drive our bilge pump, we were stymied, although we had visited at least 20 electrical, automotive, mechanical, etc. shops. The mention of "DC" produced a look of complete puzzlement. And no one has ever heard of SIKAFLEX which we desperately need to seal all the leaks.

We were not the only ones with these issues as there were now about 15 boats jammed into the little crowded anchorage, all in need of repairs after our gruelling passage. One trimaran was dismasted, with no alternative other than to try and ship the boat home.

We have sampled Lebanese, Indian and Arabian, all reasonably prices.

Shormas

We also came to enjoy Omani Shormas, a meat/veggie mix rolled in Arab bread, costing about 75 cents each. They made a good meal accompanied by a banana milkshake. No alcohol anywhere except at the pricey X-Pat Oasis. The Harbour Master will not allow us to congregate for a potluck on shore. The supermarkets were well stocked with everything that you could want and the fresh dates are to die for! Internet was expensive.


Feb 12
In the harbour were reported sightings of dolphins, a huge turtle, and manta rays. I am not sure how they could survive under the constant oil slick and garbage floating in the bay. The Pilot boats seemed to come and go at all hours, and along with the incredible surge, the anchorage was quite rolly at times.

Most of the boats have arrived now, about 25 in a very tiny anchorage, all licking their wounds from the passage. One trimaran lost his rig and many are repairing sails! We are all anchored only meters apart, the harbour master constantly requesting that we get even closer together to allow for incoming ships. Slack tide is quite distressing as we play bumper boats!


February 14
Now that we have been anchored in Salalah for a week the memory of our worst passage ever has faded. It's wonderful how you can forget so fast! We have managed to accomplish most repairs, albeit temporary. An automotive cushion maker managed to sew up the sail, although he doesn't have zigzag and was unable to use proper sail thread so we shall see. We never did get marine sealant so we used whatever we could find on the boat to rebed the hatch and fix the leaks.

Driving Tour

We took a drive up into the hills behind Salalah , through the stark lunarscape of nothingness. Camels everywhere! Can't imagine what they are finding to eat as there is not so much a a blade of grass visible amongst the dusty rocky land.

We headed for the hills and stopped to visit Job's Tomb Mausoleum of An Nabi.

Inside the well preserved mausoleum was the guarded tomb, with burning frankincense and a monk chanting over the gravesite.

Onward through the  Dhofar mountains, which I imagined might be greener in monsoon season.

We found a Frankincense Forest, fenced off and tended by a caretaker. The area is a World Heritage site as there are not many of these once thriving trees left.

Land of Frankincense


We stopped at The Land of Frankincense Museum where there were excellent displays of ancient archaeological findings and it was interesting to learn more about the history of Oman. For sale were some handicrafts as well as Frankincense, a resin burnt as incense for medicinal and religious purposes. Since it is believed to eliminate evil spirits, we decided we needed to purchase some for the boat!

There was also a Maritime Museum displaying models of the old ships that traded throughout the Middle East as well as displays of the various kinds of fishing boats.

Archaeological Sightings

Adjacent to the Museum was an archaeological site Al Baleed, quite impressive in size. Throughout the area were numerous ruins of mosques, walls surrounding everything. The historical site is one of many being preserved by Unesco.

 

Remains of Al Baleed Citadel-Home of Sultan


 


 

 

Remains of Al Baleed Grand Mosque 10th century AD


 

 

Remains of Main Prayer Hall with 144 columns

Our drive continued and the landscape returned to barren desert and lots of wandering camels, many with a herder. We passed some small Bedouin Camps, where nomads still live in tents, despite the governments attempts to build them permanent houses

Khor Rori

A rocky road led us to another World Heritage site, the old port where ships brought their bounty to trade for Frankincense. The aromatic gum was one of the ancient world's most sought-after substances and it kept southern Arabia wealthy for quite some time at the end of the 4th century BC.

Great quantities of copper, iron and bronze objects from the 1st
century BC were found around the settlement.

The site was crawling with workers delicately restoring the surrounding walls and buildings that overlooked the sea.

We had lunch at a little restaurant, then continued on to Mirbat, a small oceanside town with a lot of character. Plain, barren and colourless, decaying buildings perched amidst the dust.

Later, we found a wonderful Spring and oasis in the hills, a major source of water and a nice respite from the dust and dirt!

Feb 16
Departure postponed for another day. While waiting for Billabong and Djarrka to get ready, we took a drive with Stardust along the coast of the Arabian Sea east of Oman. The landscape was considerably greener with much of the area irrigated to grow corn, mangos, coconuts and other crops.

Blow Hole

We visited the Blow Hole, where the ragged overhanging cliffs seemed to be a favourite hangout place for the locals to relax with their Hubba Bubble (water pipes). There were actually two active blow holes and the spray consistently spewed high into the air. The boardwalk surrounding the area afforded great coastal views.

The beaches were very nice and all the shelters were occupied by local families out for the day. The children were enjoying a swim in the ocean but the women wore their full long attire in the water!

At a bathroom break we witnessed an interesting lavatory where there were marble stools to sit and wash your feet. The toilets, of course, were the squat type, no toilet paper.

Feb 17

Well, all our repairs are done, our group has gathered together and now we are waiting for wind. Just like the farmers...not enough rain, too much rain! Anyway, none of us have enough fuel to motor 700 miles so we wait!
 Seems ironic that we had to beat here in 35 knots and now there is nothing.


Oman has been an interesting country but we are very ready to move on as we have a long way to go to reach the Med in a very short period of time!
From Oman, and certainly Aden onwards, a wide group of about 30 will be sharing the challenges of cruising 2000nm up some of the remotest waters, with a reputation for piracy, hostile winds, hassling bureaucracies, ongoing conflicts and sand storms.
 

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