Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dining in Dhofar

Published November 17, 2009 - Muscat Daily

'Where can we find elegant restaurants in this town?' asked the young American couple that had just moved to Salalah. 'The Hilton? Crowne Plaza?' I answered sheepishly, while racking my brain for more ideas. They looked at one another, disappointed. 'Muscat is only an hour and a half away by plane!' I added cheerfully.
Truth be told, we only have a handful of half-decent sit-down restaurants in Salalah where you can take your family for dinner. And by a handful, I basically mean two Chinese restaurants where they never get your order right, a couple of Lebanese/Turkish restaurants, and the one and only Pizza Hut! Anyone reading this in Muscat should count their lucky stars for places like Biella, Mumtaz Mahal, and Chili's to name a few.
I'm not saying we lack food. We most certainly do not. Salalah is studded with hundreds and hundreds of tiny window coffee shop/juicers that serve hamburgers and shawarmas with too much hot sauce and fresh juices (but no coffee). The type of place where you drive up, honk your horn, and wait like a king (or queen) until a waiter comes up to your window to take your order. You then drive away with a plastic bag filled with junk food packed in neat little styrofoam boxes that will take 500 years to disintegrate, causing even more damage to the environment (I'm serious about the styrofoam. Look it up on Google).
Visitors must wonder why Oman's most popular tourist destination has no decent restaurants. With hundreds of thousands of tourists every year, you would figure we'd have more restaurants than Muscat! It's a mystery; even to those of us living here.
The café situation is even worse. We have one decent café with a lovely family section that serves many kinds of instant coffee with fancy names disguised as real coffee. It's the only place in town where you can have a cup of coffee with a friend. Need I remind you that Salalah is the second largest city in Oman? Perhaps we deserve a little more than one café?
Without even having to study the market, there's obviously a need in Salalah for decent franchise restaurants and cafes. Hanging out in cafes is a trend in Dhofar, as many of you know. Anyone would make a fortune by opening up a Costa or Second Cup in Salalah. A fortune! Why not an Italian restaurant on the beach or Darcy's Kitchen in a coconut grove with a cute family section? A little creativity could go a long way. All we want, really, are nice venues with decent food, good service, and a family section. In a conservative society like Salalah where women aren't generally keen on eating in front of strange men, catering to the locals isn't as difficult as it seems. Smart restaurant owners should provide private family areas where women can remove their face veils and enjoy a relaxing dinner with their friends and families. Locals and tourists from the GCC are definitely willing to pay. Wake up businessmen of Oman! You're missing out on huge opportunities here!
On a more positive note, our new commercial tourist complex 'Salalah World' will be opening up in the near future. Rumor has it that in addition to the cinema and bowling alley, there will be a franchise café that serves real coffee. Keep your fingers crossed, everyone!


  1. صباح الخير أخت سوسن
    أرجو المعذرة سأكتب العربية

    نحن منتظرون المجمع الجديد وربما نجد ضالتنا فيه من ناحية المطاعم والسنيما والماركات العالمية
    بالفعل هناك مشكلة في عدم وجود مطاعم راقية في صلالة
    نتمنى أن نرى مستثمر جريئ يقوم بعمل محترم في حذا الجانب.. المواطنون والزوار بشكل عام تواقون لمطاعم ومقاهي ذات سمعة عالمية وصلالة تستحق الاستثمار في هذا الجانب لأن الشعب صرّيف .. تحياتي لك ولا تنسي تزوري مدونتي المسكينة وتعلقي إذا عندك وقت

  2. مممممممم

    أتفق معك في بعض النواحي
    ولكن مسقط نفسها ينقصها الكثير الكثير

    ولا سيما وجود أماكن شعبية /صحية / نظيفة
    بأسعارٍ معقولة

    الأسعار شابة نار وكما يبدو فإن معظم الاستثمارات المطعمية
    أصبحت إما مطاعم فاخرة أو مقاه سريعة

  3. English please guyz!!!!!

  4. Sohar is actually the 2nd largest city in Oman. That is why they have decent malls, cinema theatres and more.

    However, I do believe that people should look into investing in Salalah as it has so much potential as there is a massive market gap, a gap that needs to be filled immediately to satisfy the Dhofari population. Unfortunately, people do argue that the potential only exsists during Monsoon season and business would be drastically slow during the year. I think not, in Salalah women (and men for that matter) will spend on anything that is supposedly "hip and trendy" eventhough the idea is absolutely ridiculous. With good marketing skills, ideally mouth to mouth advertising(as it works best in Salalah) companies will flourish.

  5. *The Dhofari population which includes foreigners and tourists.

    **Even though the idea could be absolutely ridiculous.

  6. I was born in Salalah and lived there for 17 years before moving to Muscat for further studies. May I ask where this one and only decent cafe is?? I don't recall any cafes in Salalah at all!! However, I do second Susan - Salalah is a popular tourist destination. It would be a good investment if a few more cafes and better restaurants opened up there.

  7. galateria an Italian when do you? is's In Dhofar food habits of dugusté ice cream? you like it?