Yes, it’s that time of the year again when the coastal fringe of Dhofar and Salalah is touched by the Kharif winds of the southwest monsoon between June and September. For locals and tourists, this means cool weather in which to enjoy a fun tourism festival, but first a little geography lesson.
Salalah is by a half-circle of mountains and behind that by the notorious sands of the Empty Quarter which has acted as a natural fortress. Even the Queen of Sheba fell under the spell of the area’s treasure far greater than gold and sent gifts of frankincense to impress King Solomon. These days, gorgeous beaches, a rich cultural legacy and natural beauty still attracts visitors from all over the world, throughout the year.From July onwards, surface winds encourage an upwelling of colder waters in the Indian Ocean which cool the moist air. These cool, moist winds, known as the Kharif, move from the sub-continent towards the southernmost point of Oman, bringing with them not just a welcome respite from the heat, but also millions of regional and international tourists. This monsoon season is unique to the area, bringing lush greenery, bright flowers and gushing waterfalls.
Salalah, the second largest town of the Sultanate of Oman, and 1000km from Muscat, faces the expanse of the Indian Ocean. The mountains of Jibal Dhofar, which rise to 1000m, encircle the Salalah plain and stretch westwards into Yemen. Sailors have made landfall on this coast for thousands of years en route from Africa, the Red Sea, India and beyond.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors are gearing up to make the trip to Salalah to enjoy the cultural heritage of the region. The Salalah Tourism Festival also hosts children’s contests, seminars and awareness campaigns and encourages visitors to take part in sports which are popular in Oman. This year, the event takes place from July 01 until the end of July at the Lake Amphitheatre in Salalah. In return for their interest and, of course, their money, the area invites tourists to enjoy performances of folk music, traditional games and art shows, as well as poetry readings.
Tourism and government officials are keen to point out, however, that the Tourism Festival is just one of the possible activities during the whole Kharif Season, which starts from the 28th June and continues until the end of September.Salalah is the perfume capital of the Arab world. It is easy to see why if you visit Wadi Dawkah and Shisr, where frankincense trees grow in profusion. The area was declared a World Heritage Site in 2002 because of this living legacy. The trade in frankincense has been booming for centuries and Salalah was one of the most important perfume trading centres of the world.
Also known as-Nabi Ayyub, this is an education and fun spot. Major hotels and the Salalah tourism office will recommend guide/drivers for any of these worthwhile attractions.
Frankincense Land Archaeological Park
Also known as Al Balid, this venue on the Salalah waterfront is an impressive early-Islamic excavation site where the government has built a world-class museum for local artefacts, a gift shop, restaurant and snack bar, and a botanical garden of indigenous plants. Explore the fortified ruins of Samahram dating back thousands of years. Its exports of frankincense reached Egypt, Greece and Rome from ancient harbours below Samahram that are today vivid blue estuaries and rivers [khor] attracting dozens of bird species.
Located 35km from Salalah, this fort is an absolute must-see.
Located close to Taqa, this beautiful green wadi is watered by a river which flows even in the summer months. A nearby picnic spot is a lovely place to relax with friends and family.
Located 70km from Salalah, this is the spot to visit if you want a day on the beach. Beautiful white sands, warm water and friendly locals make this a definite port of call.
This is an inlet where fresh water and sea water come together. It is a protected area and a great place to visit if you want to do a bit of bird-watching, as plenty of migratory species pass through here.
The Road to Dalkut
This road near the Yemeni border leads past Mughsayl and up in to the Dhofar mountains. It is essential to carry your passport along with you, since there is an army checkpoint after about 30 minutes of driving. Mountains and compete to make a visual treat. Look out for the wreck of a helicopter half buried in the beach sand.
This travel article is courtesy of Oman Air. Oman Air flies seven times a week between Muscat and Kuala Lumpur. For more information, visit www.omanair.com.