All fall under the spell of Salalah when nature here is in its full bloom during the Khareef and leaves the visitors catching their breath.
Salalah is the coastal plain of Dhofar, which lies in the south of Oman 1,000 km from Muscat, facing the expanse of the Indian Ocean. It is dominated by Jebel Dhofar, a range of mountains along the coastline.
The lush greenery spreads over the mountain slopes and valleys. The greenery is a spread of beautiful, undulating carpet of green coconut groves and banana plantains which lace the coast line, where the clouds and mist shroud the mountains, burbling waterfalls, springs and wells gush forth and many migratory birds home here temporarily. Trees blossom here beautifully when monsoon showers lash this region and turn it into a tropical paradise. One may see plenty of birds around ponds, cows and camels wandering through the fields, and the weather seems just perfect to have a leisurely stroll along the beach. Green Turtles, Olvie Ridley turtles, loggerhead turtles, and Hwawsbill turtles are found on the beaches along the mainland coast.
Salalah’s hospitality is completely heartfelt. Visitors to Salalah stop by the plantations to drink the refreshing coconut milk which is so evocative of the tropical atmosphere of this city of gardens. The fruit and vegetable stalls that line up the road add a touch of rustic ness to the atmosphere.
The houses which stand proud in the plantations are designed according to the traditional Arab architecture. One feels more relaxed while staying on its superb beach either at Hilton Hotel Salalah, which is built to ensure that their guests enjoy Salalah›s magic completely.
It overlooks the Arabian Sea, and is just about 20 minutes from the airport or stay at another five star hotel is Crowne Plaza, which is also a beach property and is 15 minutes from the Airport. The guests and beach visitors take back memories of the incredible soft white sandy beaches of Salalah, lapped by the heavenly Arabian Sea.
The best time to see this green paradise is during the Khareef festival, a musical, cultural and shopping extravaganza lasting three months from June to September when the drizzling monsoon rains give its atmosphere a fresh magical feel. Concerts are organised and singers from Gulf and other Arabic countries also participate. Salalah is a photographer›s paradise during these months.
To enjoy Salalah, thousands arrive here locally, regionally and internationally every year. The Municipality›s recreation center placed in Atin hosts Khareef›s events and is equipped with open theaters, traditional village, exhibitions, amusements and child›s village, which offers all amusement activities.
Salalah town spreads along the coast with a long cornice popular for evening walks, where one can enjoy the cool sea breeze at a relatively slow and perfect for a languid, relaxed holiday interspersed with some interesting places to see and adventurous mountain trekking. Ain Arzat is the source of several natural springs and a popular spot for picnics.
Irresistible is the fabulous incense souk where women dressed in multicolored costumes and veils with a ring or gold flower in their nose come to sell their incense. They sit on the ground with their weighing scales and heaps of crystallized gums and the prices are decided by bargaining! The white blue frankincense (Hujari) is the purest and most expensive. The red frankincense is much cheaper but of lesser quality.
Salalah has conserved its heritage and history. Its rich cultural center is like a museum of centuries old artifacts. On display are very artful archaeological objects (some engraved with Yemenite writings) from Sumharam, arms, silver jewelry, ancient pottery, craftwork from Dhofar like wickerwork, pottery), costumes, different types of Omani homes with embroidered cushions and blankets.
One may find the most beautiful homes in the oldest districts of Salalah. An old wali›s house has been restored to show off the very typical Dhofar windows divided into four carved wooden shutters (mashribiya) surrounded or topped by a sculpted plaster panel. The carved doors, often brightly painted look attractive with their large wooden locks.
African influences are evident in the two or three storey houses made of dried mud bricks, covered in stucco and decorated with simple grey or blue horizontal bands. Many houses in Haafat Al Maraheen district which are still occupied have lost their original color -faded with time and the carved panels have been lost from the window which had been their most identifying features.
The wilayat of Mirbat is on the central strip of the Dhofari coast and is famed for breeding Arabian horses which were exported, along with frankincense, to India and East Africa. It has a spectacular landscape, from its coastline to the impressive peaks of Jebel Samhan, the highest of which stands at 4754ft. The Citadel of Mirbat was built in the traditional Omani style. Marbat is rich in natural springs, caves and grottos.
One may do some bird watching at the eastern Khawr where the seabirds and waders are delightful.
A must visit spot which features on every tourists itinerary is the Biblical ‹Nabi Ayob› Prophet Job’s Tomb, placed high up in the ‹jebel› mountains overlooking Salalah. Passing by, one reaches the beautiful lagoon Ayun, where frankincense grows along the road. From here one may continue to the oasis of Hanoon, where the frankincense was stored in ancient days before carrying by caravans to Ubar and Cana.
The drive to Khor Taqah and touring of the mangroves and reed beds never stops to surprise the visitors, for they might see an Isabelline Shrike or Gull-billed Tern, with other waders and flamingos.
From here one may visit Mirbat which is an ancient port which always intrigues visitors and today is deserted. From here one may also go back to Khor Rauri where one may see the Ferruginous ducks, many Heron, and swifts and is truly wondrous spot. The tourists can and find their way to the other end of the Khor which is the point where it nearly meets the sea.
Also worth visiting is the archaeological site Samurhan over 2000 years old lie on a promontory between two khawrs, or sea creeks, some 30 km east of Salalah.
Salalah, set in legends, and it is said that the Queen of Sheba had a palace here, and biblical figures like Job and the father of Mary (mother of Jesus Christ) are supposed to have been buried here.
One may also drive up the mountains to Tawi Atayr, the site of a sink-hole. The wildlife here is amazing and the site is totally unspoiled.
On the way back down the mountain one may turn off to Wadi Darbat. This is at the top of a steep precipice, a bit like hidden valley in the Musandam. The area is flat and lush with some cultivation of bananas and papaya. The road crosses a river and the track is extremely bumpy but built of rock hard mud and here one can see many birds , including an Eagle, a Grey-Headed Kingfisher and a Black-Crowned Tchangra. The people here are Jebali, and live gypsy-like in tents and shacks.
Another must-visit spot is the Mughsail Beach where ‹Blow-holes› (perforations in the limestone rock) through which sea water gushes during high tide. Here landscape takes on a new grandeur. At the end of the beach begins a road which is indeed the most incredible engineering achievement of Oman as it cuts into the mountains and has 14 hairpin bends and takes the visitor to an elevation of 1100m at the top of the cliffs. The road follows along then crests of the mountain range running parallel to the coast. The most breathtaking view is seen during winter.
One may stop here at the highest point the watch the beauty and the dragon blood trees. One may see the beautiful frankincense trees over looking, fantastic mountains ranges. In these parts there are many shady picnic spots under the many trees. The way leads to the Khors which is just up the road. One may very often while driving onto the main-road see a Lanner Falcon on the electric wires.
To the east lie enormous beaches where during the fishing season, sardines are dried (Taqa beach) before they are fed by Jabalis to their live stock. From Taqa a road goes inland towards the mountains and the Wadi Darbat waterfall which forms a lake in the monsoon season.
Sumharam, the frankincense port is called the city of charms by Ptolemy due to the adjacent fortified precipice and a temple which is dedicated to the goddess of moon, and over looks the very beautiful Khawr Al Ruri where large numbers of flamingoes nest. The name of the founder, Elaus, is engraved on one city doors. This city was built during the 1st century BC and saw the very prosperous days in 1st century AD.
The coast road ends in Mirbat where one get the impression of having reached the end of the world. A white mosque with a pair of onion shaped domes pressed against the black mountain among tombstones in an old cemetery adds a dramatic touch to the landscape. Time stands still in Salalah as one rejuvenates by absorbing in the peace and tranquility and the feel ligers for long even after leaving the serenity of Salalah.