Springtime in Salalah means perfect weather spent lazing on a beautiful beach, trekking through breathtaking mountain landscapes or stargazing in the desert. Spring also marks the official kick-off to frankincense season in this beautiful and historic coastal town in southern Oman.
Known as the perfume capital of Arabia, Salalah is renowned for its production of frankincense, a resin extracted from the Boswellia sacra tree. Much like diamonds, frankincense has varying grades. Quality is based on purity, aroma, age, shape and colour. The silvery clear colour native to Salalah is recognised as the best. It was worth more than gold in ancient times.
Frankincense, known locally as luban, has a meaningful historical significance to this area of Oman. It was even considered as one of the most important exports from Salalah centuries ago. Ruins of ancient trading ports – designated as UNESCO World Heritage Sites – along with the remains of the various trails leading through the rugged terrain and unforgiving desert vividly tell the story of frankincense in Salalah. One can envision the caravans of camels and traders peddling this precious commodity en route to neighbouring Middle Eastern countries for distribution.
“Frankincense is really what we’re known for here,” said Hussain Balhalf, Salalah Guru at Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara and lifelong native. “As the Salalah Guru, I provide bespoke excursions for our guests and on almost every tour they request to see and buy frankincense, and learn about its history and unique uses.”
One of the most significant frankincense sites is Wadi Dawkah, where thousands of frankincense trees make it the largest concentration of Boswellia sacra in the southern Dhofar province. However, the trees thrive in areas all around Salalah and blend perfectly with the spectacular scenery.
According to Balhalf, the most popular time to harvest frankincense starts in April through July when the monsoon season begins. Using a special cutting tool, the outer layer of tree bark is delicately slashed allowing the sap-like resin to ooze out. In a few weeks, the sap hardens and is ready to be collected in the form of small stones. The stones are washed and then used for burning or to produce various products with interesting and surprising health and beauty benefits.
The unmistakable sweet and woody aroma of burning frankincense brings about an immediate calming effect. At Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, frankincense is burned in the lobby to welcome weary guests after a long journey and in the spa during various treatments to help relax and clear the mind.
Many people associate burning frankincense with religious ceremonies as the practice is an ancient tradition meant to symbolise prayer and purification. In Oman, locals burn frankincense to refresh their homes and ward off mosquitos.
Frankincense is believed to be a powerful healer and is used in a myriad of health and beauty products, such as oils, soaps, balms, lotions and creams. The spa at Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara offers the Frankincense Ritual massage in which frankincense oil is used to nourish the skin and relieve anxiety while reducing pain and inflammation. With natural antibacterial properties, frankincense products are also used to treat various skin conditions and speed up the healing of cuts, acne, burns, rashes and sores.
In addition, this natural wonder is used in some of the finest Omani perfumes as well as in skin creams to fight the appearance of stretch marks, scars, age spots and wrinkles. It’s even used in shampoos to strengthen roots and aid in hair growth. Aromatherapy with frankincense oil can also be beneficial for respiratory problems and help with bronchitis, asthma, sinusitis, frequent colds and allergies.
As a natural antiseptic, frankincense has long been used in oral health. Since ancient times, locals have chewed the resin to improve the health of teeth and gums and prevent infections. Nowadays you can buy frankincense gum, toothpaste and mouthwash. Also, certain types of frankincense are edible and good for digestion and regulating gastrointestinal functions.
After a day out stocking up on products from local vendors and discovering the history of the “diamonds” of Oman, guests can retreat to Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara where the frankincense experience continues with the resort’s signature Frankincense Ritual. This pampering 90-minute treatment features two specialists performing four-hand synchronised massage techniques while harnessing the natural healing benefits of frankincense, both aromatically and topically.
As the first and only resort in the area with private pool villas, guests can relax in luxury with the utmost privacy. Inspired by the traditional villages of Dhofar, the resort reflects traditional Omani design whilst incorporating modern and contemporary elements to deliver a stunning retreat by the Arabian Sea. Time can be passed strolling along empty white-sand beaches, indulging in culinary delights at a choice of three restaurants, or taking part in one of the many activities and watersports on offer.
Flights to Salalah flydubai operates three times a week. FZ093 departs Dubai Terminal 2 on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 1620hrs, landing in Salalah Airport at 1820hrs local time. The return flight, FZ040, departs at 1920hrs, arriving in Dubai at 2130hrs local time. Round trip fares from Dubai to Salalah start at AED 1000 and fares from Salalah to Dubai start at OMR 105.
flydubai fares include one piece of hand luggage weighing up to 7kg and one small laptop bag or hand bag. Checked baggage starts at AED 50 ($14) for 20kgs. A seat with extra legroom costs AED100 ($28) extra. Flights between Dubai and Salalah can be purchased from flydubai’s website, its call centre (+971 4231 1000) or its local call centre (+968 2329 2183), and through travel partners.