If you think summer in the Gulf means only scorching temperatures and sweltering humidity, then read on because Salalah has a big surprise in store.
This small city in the south of Oman is part of the Dhofar region, which is lucky enough to catch the tail-end of the Indian monsoon. All of which means that from late-July to early-September, Salalah enjoys temperatures of around 25°C, misty days and light rain.
Known locally as the khareef, this is a spectacular time of year to visit. The rain turns the hills green, while water flows through the wadis and over falls in the mountains. There’s no better time to discover what this scenic corner of Arabia has to offer.
It doesn’t take long to discover the natural beauty of Salalah. Whichever direction you drive out of the city, you’re sure to be left stunned by the increasingly breath-taking sights.
During the khareef, one of the best places to see the transformation brought by the rain is Wadi Darbat. This dramatic valley is covered in a blanket of deep green foliage during the summer, as 30m-high waterfalls cascade over the steep rock walls.
Heading in the other direction out of Salalah takes you to Maghsayl. This area is famous for it’s rugged coastline that during the khareef is shrouded in mist. Keep an eye out for the spectacular blow-holes at the foot of the cliffs, which will give you a soaking if caught unaware.
On the frankincense trail
Salalah is one of the most historic cities in the region due to the role it played in the frankincense trade. Evidence of this can still be found today at many of the region’s fascinating archeological sites.
Samharam was a city and port that acted as one the Dhofar region’s links to the world. Today only the ruins of the 5,000-year-old city remain, but you can still get a sense of its former importance. Built on a hill, it looks out onto an unspoilt stretch of beach and the ocean.
On the outskirts of Salalah is Al Balid City, which was an important port during the same time as Samharam. It’s a sprawling site that was only rediscovered in 1930, with pathways winding through the clearly defined foundations of ancient buildings.
But frankincense isn’t just a product of the past. Boswellia trees, from which the aromatic resin is extracted, can still be found in Dhofar. Head to Al Husn Souk in one of Salalah’s historical neighbourhoods to buy some frankincense to take home.
Where to stay
Juweira Boutique Hotel
Part of the Souly Bay development that sits along a picturesque stretch of beach, this hotel is perfect for those looking to get away from it all. It’s about 30 minutes from Salalah city, but has all the amenities to ensure a comfortable stay. And the beach is incredible.
Hilton Salalah Resort
If you’d rather stay in the city but still want access to the beach, this hotel is a good choice. It’s right on the sand, but located just on the outskirts of Salalah, and has a collection of bars and restaurants.
Flydubai and Oman Air run a direct service from Dubai to Salalah with a flight time of just under two hours. If flying from Abu Dhabi, there are no direct flights, so you’ll need to travel with Oman Air and change in Muscat. From Doha, Qatar Airways flies direct in a little over two hours.
If you plan to explore the sights of Salalah, you’ll need access to a car. Renting a 4x4 is the best bet if possible, as this will give you the freedom to get off the beaten track. Tours can be arranged by hotels if you don’t fancy doing the driving yourself. Airport transfers are usually offered by the hotels, too.
Salalah is at its busiest during the khareef season, so make sure you book your hotel as far in advance as possible. If driving around the region during the monsoon, be prepared for the rapid onset of thick fog.
Get into the spirit of the season during the Salalah Khareef Festival. Residents celebrate the monsoon with parades, traditional performances and cultural events.