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Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara in Salalah, Oman

by Abbie Kozolchyk

Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara



The Land of Frankincense is sheer beauty—a blend of vast sea- and mountain-scapes accented by centuries-old ruins, thatch-roofed fruit stands and the occasional camel convoy.

Though the name would suggest a theme park for fans of ancient remedies and rituals, The Land of Frankincense is an actual geographic region—with World Heritage status, for good measure. Per UNESCO’s experts, this 2,100-acre swath of Oman constitutes “outstanding testimony to the civilizations in south Arabia” and illustrates “the production and distribution of one of the most important luxury items of trade in the Old World in Antiquity.” 

Drop-dead gorgeousness doesn’t hurt either.

Indeed, the region’s capital was the rare city to make The New York Times 52 Places to Go in 2023 list on the basis of sheer beauty—a blend of vast sea- and mountain-scapes accented by centuries-old ruins, thatch-roofed fruit stands and the occasional camel convoy. Even the name is seductively lyrical: Salalah.

One particularly privileged local vantage point—tucked between the Arabian Sea and a lagoon—is Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara, where a welcome drink of frankincense water proves the perfect chaser post-touchdown. (The local airport deploys frankincense-laced misters to set the stage for your time here.)

So perhaps unsurprisingly—but truly delightfully—the Signature Experiences menu at the Anantara Spa leads with a Frankincense Ritual: a 90-minute, four-handed frankincense oil massage paired with local dates and tea.

Other locally inspired signature treatments worth considering: the Coconut Indulgence, a 120-minute scrub, wrap and rubdown that sources its banana leaves and coconuts from Salalah’s prolific plantations; and the 120-minute Revitalising Pomegranate Journey, with an application of pom-spiked Rhassoul between an exfoliation and massage.

For a wellness experience that incorporates a history lesson or two, wander over to the neighboring Al-Baleed Archaeological Park and walk in the footsteps of Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta and other legendary explorers through the remnants of this ancient trade hub. Highlights include the Grand Mosque, the fort and the onsite Museum of the Frankincense Land.

While you could visit the entire complex on your own, your experience will be infinitely richer if you enlist the guidance of Anantara’s Salalah Guru, Hussain Balhaf, who grew up in one of the region’s mountain villages. A born raconteur with impeccable comedic timing, he’ll regale you with stories of allergy-suffering camels, laundry-nibbling cows and natural remedies for every conceivable ailment (plus a few you couldn’t ever conceive of unless you’ve raised livestock around here). 

He’s also the man you’ll want by your side if you can get to Salalah to experience Khareef—the monsoon season that lasts through most of September (the 21st being the official end date). He’ll take you to all the best vantage points, though there’s little guarantee you’ll believe what you’re seeing.

As befits an area known for a mystical aromatic, Salalah has a seemingly supernatural power—specifically, the ability to morph once a year from stark brown desert to emerald-green fantasia, where all manner of waterfall spills into turquoise pools, and every kind of pleasure craft (paddleboats, aqua bikes, even water-walking balls) fills the famed Wadi Darbat. The lushness of the landscapes can’t be overstated, with layer upon layer of flora crowding each frame you try to capture, from the opaque ground cover to the vine-wrapped tree trunks to the jungle-dense branches. 

If you can’t get here for Khareef—or would simply rather experience the place when the sun is out and the sea is swimmable—consider visiting at the same time as an international wellness luminary. The holistic Thai practitioner Khun Sky will be in residence October 1, 2023-January 10, 2024, followed by pain and injury specialist Khun Dome February 1-August 31, 2024. 

You may also want to time a visit to the 2023 Al Baleed Culinary Festival—November 27-December 1—when Michelin-starred chefs from around the world will serve up dinners, demos and workshops. But whenever you get here, don’t miss the Omani specialties (for starters, the house karak tea) nor the staples at Mekong—a nod to Anantara’s Thai heritage. The Miang Kham platter is a super-standout: a DIY wrap assembly line that comes with betel leaves, peanuts, bird’s eye chili, ginger, onions, lime, optional dried shrimp and a sauce of palm sugar and coconut.

Whatever joys the day has brought you, winding down can be just as transcendent. Order up the house blend of peppermint tea, pomegranate, strawberry, citrus and rosemary, sit out by the water, and take in the same Arabian Sea sounds—perhaps with an oud accompanist—that have lulled explorers to sleep here since frankincense was king. anantara.com

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