19 Feb 2018
Discover Oman with the help of the Anantara Salalah Guru
The Dhofar region in Southern Oman is truly an undiscovered gem of the Middle East. Along with unspoiled nature, stunning landscapes and fascinating historic sites, it is a land where the native culture is still alive. As the newest and most luxurious resort in the area, Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara has introduced its guests to all the region has to offer through its talented Salalah Guru, Hussain Balhaf.
Having grown up in the area, Hussain has unsurpassed knowledge of Salalah, giving guests a true taste of local life. From discovering the native wildlife including abundant species of birds and marine life to exploring the country’s best beaches and desert dunes, Hussain is a master of the land and able to build any itinerary, varying on individual guest interests. He knows the best local eateries, the best places to stock up on authentic souvenirs and he’s an encyclopedia of history as he guides you through the various heritage sites. However, it’s the sites off the beaten path that thrill guests the most.
“I am so proud to represent my country in this way,” said Hussain, who credits his natural hospitality to the Arabian culture. “I really like to connect our guests with the people of this wonderful place.”
As a guest on a private excursion with Hussain, there are all sorts of locals to meet. In Taqah, fishermen demonstrate how they dry sardines and cook them right on the street for a delectable taste of fish directly from the ocean. Near the old souq, there is a separate secret ultra-local souq where people from the mountain come down each day to sell and trade goods. There are farmers growing the area’s beloved banana and coconuts, as well as frankincense harvesters to show how the resin is extracted from the trees. Every day Hussain’s guests return from their tour with exciting tales of their adventures in Salalah.
In addition, Hussain keeps guests entertained with his personal stories about his own life in Oman. Born in Deem, a small village where the mountains meet the sea outside of Dhalkut near the border of Yemen, Hussain has spent his entire life here. He’ll often talk about his childhood and how his family moved between three different houses depending on the season so that they could be close to fresh water for the many cows they owned. He may recall going to grade school in the neighboring village. Back then, there were no school buses so he and his chums would have to hop a lift on the various trucks hauling supplies up and down the mountain.
“It’s always my goal to have guests leave as friends,” said Hussain, who’s frequently noted for his charm and good sense of humour.
This often ends up being the case, especially for those lucky enough to see Hussain’s history up-close as he has been known to take tour guests back to his family home for a meal and lively conversation.
While the Salalah Guru role is a perfect fit for Hussain, he started out studying IT for five years in India after high school. He also studied English, adding to the four languages he already speaks including Arabic, the mountain dialect of Jebali and two other indigenous languages spoken in small tribes in Oman and Yemen.
Upon returning to Oman, Hussain put down roots in Salalah, where he earned his tourist license and later joined Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara as the Salalah Guru. He married and is now expecting his first child.
“I’m excited to continue exploring Oman with my new family as there is so much beauty in the mountains, on the beach and in the desert,” said Hussain.
Certainly, as Hussain’s children grow older, they too, will have stories passed on to them about this special place they live. Perhaps, they will even follow in their father’s footsteps and continue to share the country’s rich treasures with visitors for generations to come.