KHAREEF DISBELIEF

Oman 2018 | REAL ESTATE & TOURISM | PHOTO ESSAY: SALALAH

No trip to Oman is complete without a visit to Salalah and the province of Dhofar, which boasts spectacular vistas and a unique culture.

Salalah is Oman's second-largest city and the capital of the Dhofar province, home to some of the most spectacular scenery in the country.

Salalah has a unique history, and reached the summit of its prosperity in the 13th century on the back of the incense trade. It served as the capital of the country until Sultan Qaboos took the decision to move the capital to Muscat.

Salalah and its surrounding area are best explored off road, but your experience may vary depending on the season. For several months a year, the southern, coastal fringe of Dhofar province is blanketed in lush greenery as a result of unique climatic conditions. If one were to wake up along the coast of Dhofar province between June and September, you would be forgiven for thinking you were far from the shores of the Arabian Peninsula. Yet, you would be wrong, for every summer the arid, desert landscape is replaced by sweeping green vistas thanks to the dependably drenching monsoon, colloquially known as the Khareef season (the irony being that khareef means “autumm" in Arabic).

The city even hosts a festival to mark Khareef from July 15th to August 31st, when not just nature but heritage, cuisine, music, and more are celebrated. And outside the city itself, visitors are treated to more than just flora. The mountainous region is home to dozens of varieties of mammals, including the Arabian leopard, hyena, gazelle, and more. In fact, the mountains of Dhofar are home to no fewer than 56 species of native mammals. And for those with a penchant for all things aviary, birds including flamingos, storks, stilts, sandpipers, herons, egrets, sunbirds, green pigeons, eagles, and kites all fill the skies above Dhofar. Guests can also pay a visit to the Al Balid archaeological park and the Frankincense Museum, on the location of the ancient city of Al Balid, which used to be a thriving frankincense trading hub and was once visited by Marco Polo. Towns of the region, including Salalah, depend on the annual Khareef for their water supply.
Despite being little known in the West, Salalah roundly represents Oman's niche tourism strategy going forward. In many ways, the region of Dhofar is a metaphor for much of what Oman holds dear. It is devoted to conservation and a prime example of a clean and thriving environment. It is a happy blend of cultures and peoples. And it is blessed with spectacular natural beauty—which is only enhanced by the Khareef itself. A sheer wonder for any who make the trip during Khareef season, Salalah and its beautiful mountain range are not to be missed.