“Operation Oman” shows the best kept secrets of the city of Salalah

Filmmakers’ interest in Oman and its interesting locations is growing year by year, especially in documentaries, as is the case with “Operation Oman” (2015), a British production directed by Tristan Ofield. While the documentary was not filmed entirely in Oman, it has several scenes shot in the city of Salalah and has helped to increase Oman’s exposure for lovers of the seventh art.

The documentary is scripted by Nick Ofield and produced by Sophia Ramcharan, known for “Night Owls”, “Her Name Was Clementine” and “Amelia’s Letter”. “Operation Oman” reveals the untold story of the most successful counterinsurgency operation in history: the secret war in Oman between 1969 and 1976 that involved three British soldiers. Narrated by the actor Al Gregg, this film follows Major Nicholas Ofield on his return to Oman, who tells his first-person story of the battle and the fear of death. Another part of the interview with the director was filmed at the Broadway Cinema in Nottingham, England.

The film is supported with rare archive footage and production photos showing content from the Oman conflict. It also features interviews with Colonel Mike Ball and Major Mike Austin, who also fought in the conflict. This documentary was acclaimed for its inspiring way of telling the story behind this “secret war”, in which historical facts coexist with the emotions of its protagonists, as a kind of “letter to Oman”. Unlike other history documentaries, “Operation Oman” gives voice to the soldiers who survived to put into words what they lived through. The emotional part is key in this film, in addition to giving visibility to a campaign of which little is known but which has been very important for the sultanate’s forces.

As mentioned, the documentary is focused on the British soldiers. However, in Ofield’s return to Oman, we see some scenes that capture the magic of Salalah, Oman’s second city and the capital of Dhofar Governorate. It is located in the southernmost region of the country, situated between Yemen, the Rub’ al Khali, and the Arabian Sea. It is the most remote province of Oman, which is why most travelers tend to overlook one of the most attractive cities.

Vertiginous cliffs, turquoise blue waters, curving coconut trees, and deserted white sandy beaches are the main attractions of Salalah. In contrast to the story in “Operation Oman”, Salalah’s beaches stand out for the peace they convey. The vast white beaches are natural and their blue waters are relatively untouched, still glistening without the effects of pollution. It is not uncommon to see a group of camels walking peacefully on the sand. Salalah’s beaches are the perfect place to observe wildlife.

Of the best beaches in Salalah, Al-Mughsail Beach is probably the most popular for its extensive white sand and rocky coastline. Haffa Beach is also popular, with its rows of palm trees sloping down to the ocean. The scenery along the coast is some of the most impressive in the Middle East. This is a completely different world from the dry lands of the north and the rest of the Gulf Monarchies.

This growing coastal city is also known for its microclimate. Salalah has a totally incredible coastline and a unique tropical climate. Perhaps the most unique event here is the Khareef season when tropical rains from June through August cover the landscapes with mist and fanciful meadows. A damp mist hangs over the region, particularly when ascending the mountains outside the city, and people travel from all over the world to explore the beautiful lakes, wadis (deserts), and waterfalls. Unlike other seasons of heavy monsoons and heavy rains, for example as in Southeast Asia, during Khareef it rains very gently, so camping in nature is common.

In Salalah, there are also some important archaeological sites, as this part of Oman used to be a major trading center of the ancient world, home to a large major port from where tons of olibanum were shipped all over the world. Salalah is also believed to have been the favorite city of His Majesty the late Sultan Qaboos Al Said, who was born there and raised by his Dhofari mother. When Sultan Qaboos became ruler of Oman, it is said that he spent as much time as he could in Salalah, feeling more at home there than in the capital, Muscat.

As mentioned, Salalah is much more than what we will see in “Operation Oman”. An important thing to know when traveling to this city is that, in addition to its beautiful scenery, it is culturally unique. Located 1,000 km from the capital of Oman, Salalah, and the wider Dhofar Governorate have remained somewhat separate and culturally distinct from the rest of Oman. Salalah has managed to retain an authenticity and cultural uniqueness that makes it different from other Omani cities. Dhofar is home to the Jabali (hill) tribes, who speak their own language rather than Arabic and have maintained their unique tribal identity and customs to a greater degree than other Omani tribes.

There are also many Yemenis and Yemeni-Omanis living in Salalah due to its proximity to the Yemeni border, and historically there have been many crossovers, physically and culturally, between Dhofar governorate and the eastern province of Al-Mahra in Yemen. On the other hand, there are a number of cultural sites and museums to visit in Salalah, most notably the Al Baleed Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Finally, perhaps the most beautiful thing about Salalah is the hospitality of its inhabitants with which they welcome all new passengers. Salalah may have been a place of war as portrayed in “Operation Oman” but today it is one of the most impressive and friendly places in the Middle East.

More details about “Operation Oman” on IMDb.

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