Salalah in southern Oman is the capital of the Dhofar province. The city is an ideal base for exploring this relatively unknown part of the country. Dhofar is also called “frankincense country“. Frankincense has been produced here since ancient times and you can smell it everywhere – streets, shops, hotels, even inside the airport. The culture of the Dhofar province is closely linked to the Hadramaut region in nearby Yemen and therefore different from the north of the country
Dhofar is also known for a climate phenomenon called khareef. It is just touched by monsoon winds which develop their full force several latitudes to the south. The period between June and September is called Khareef season, the temperatures drop to a “cool“ 20-25 degrees Celsius and it is raining often.Locals spend their summer holidays here and the Khareef festival attracts visitors from neighboring countries (especially Saudi Arabia) looking to escape the scorchingly hot temperatures at home. The landscape changes dramatically from yellow and grey desert to lush green valleys and meadows. However, this only happens in a strip of land measuring about 100 km around Salalah. This is what makes it so special. Even in the dry season there is a lot more vegetation here compared to the rock and sand deserts of the rest of the country.The city of Salalah Oman has a population of about 120 000 and has seem rapid development in recent years, the industrial port is gaining importance and the government is trying to build up local industry. However, the bazaar area, Al Husn Souq, still has a lively oriental vibe, there are back streets waiting to be explored and long, narrow lanes with shops selling spices, incense and traditional garments. Haggling is expected here!
The Ibn Afif Mosque is also worth a short stop. If you are interested in history, I recommend a visit to the Museum of the Frankincense Land. You can learn a lot about the history of the region and the whole country and many of the displays are interactive.
From here you can go on day trips to explore the rest of the province. One morning I visited a place called Job’s Tomb. It is said that this is the place where Saint Job of the Old Testament is buried. Although no scientific proof has been found, the place is worth a stop for the views alone. It is situated on top of a plateau in the mountains near Salalah, about half an hour’s drive from the city.East of Salalah, another half day roundtrip takes you to some really interesting places: Taqah Castle where you can see the typical architecture of this region, and Sumhuram/Khor Rori archeological site (50 km from Salalah). In Sumhuram, a team of archeologists from Italy is leading excavations of an ancient city. Very little is known about the settlement, but they already found a citadel, temples and the remnants of a port.It was founded by the kings of Hadramaut during the 4th century B.C. Some believe this to have been the mythical capital of the kingdom of Saba. Because there are hardly any visitors you can even ask if you are allowed to help digging for a bit and talk to the archaeologists. This was the most interesting part for me because altough the landscape is beautiful, the ruins themselves were not all that spectacular, to be honest. However, I have heard that they have made great progress and there is now a lot more to see. The entrance fee was 0,5 Rial at the time I visited (about 1,15 Euros). Other places to see are the town of Mirbat with its beautiful harbour area where they also have a big fish auction in the mornings and the fantastic beaches of Mughsayl (about 40 km from Salalah). In Mughsayl there is a beautiful lagoon with thousands of birds and even flamingoes but most people come for the beaches and the blowholes.Around Salalah there are many beautiful and clean beaches and the weather is warm and sunny year-round except for khareef season.I highly recommend hiring a English speaking guide with a car because that way you get a lot of information.