Length of route – 100kms round trip, quite a short drive by Bruce standards but lots to see and do (particulary for those interested in history, natural world and photography)Time – you could do a whistlestop tour of this route in 2 or 3 hours, but to do it justice pack a picnic and make a day of it. You can visit Baleed, Sumharam and of course the gun souq etc using a sedan car, but you are best to have a 4×4 to go along the track past the cliffs and up to the beach.Highlights – Gun Souq, Plantations, Taqah views and cliffs, Khor Ruori, Frankincense trail
4×4 recommended unless you stick to the tourist sites only– very bumpy offroad tracks to get to the cliffs and beach north of Taqah. Take care near the high cliffs.
This route starts from a waypoint given in Paolo Rosetti’s site www.weekenduae.com – the Gun Souq (GUN SOUQ – N17 00.180, E54 06.110). Having spent too long preparing and eating a cooked breakfast, we arrived quite late in the morning and there were only three weapon sellers perched on the kerb, each with an assortment of knives, daggers and guns on display. Neil thinks he saw someone wandering around with an old British Army Rifle (a Lee Enfield 303). All the sellers were calling out the greeting “A’salam’alaykum” (peace be with you).
From there we headed along the coast, and soon came across the Frankincense Land Exhibition which is part of Al Baleed archaeological park (ARCH PARK – N17 00.577 E54 08.135). Great place to spend two or three hours, cost is 1 OMR per person – tickets from a small window at the gate. This is one of the highlights of the Unesco Frankincense trail. Opening hours (check if visiting in Ramadan) are 8.30am to 2pm.
We then drove along the main road marvelling not only at the plantations, but also at the huge number of stalls selling fruit – just how big is the market is there for fresh fruit here? You could buy coconuts, sugar cane and of course, bananas.
Once clear of the city, we looked for another of Paulo’s highlights, the fort in Taqah, however we missed a turn, didn’t see it but decided instead to go exploring and hit it on the way back. Heading north out of Taqah, we turned right along a track and found ourselves at a great photo spot (VIEW BAY – N17 01.835 E54 25.851). Watching the heavy monsoon waves crash on the shores of the village, with palm trees swaying in the breeze was such a welcome sight to desert dwellers such as ourselves – the photos we took cannot convey the rugged beauty.
I wonder how loud the crashing sound was when that bit of rock fell away from the cliff?
We meandered further up the headland, stopping at a couple of places to take more photos.
It is possible to drive down to a small natural harbour on the right just before you reach a beautiful beach (KHOR RUORI – N17 01.876 E54 26.105).
We loved this area so much we returned with our friend later in the week and saw a stork and some beautiful flamingos. By the way, we suggest you resist the temptation to drive across the spit of sand to the other side of the Khor, it’s unbelievably soft and some waves spill over even when the tide is well on it’s way out.
Looking across the creek you will see some ruins on the other side, high up on the cliff, these are none other than Sumhurum, another jewel in the Frankincense trail, said to be the Queen of Sheba’s palace. Take the track back to the main road, turn right, and in a few kms you will see Sumhurum signposted, it’s well worth a look and has a visitor centre as well as the ruins which you can walk round unhindered. (SUMHURUM – N17 02.396 E54 26.043)
It’s even got a frankincense tree to pose beside.
We then returned to Salalah via the dual carriageway which runs from Taqah to the city, missing Paolo’s fort out completely – so we have a reason to return to this wonderful area next Kareef season (Late June-Sep)!
Download the .gdb file of the route here – it will open with Garmin Mapsource.