Khareef turns Salalah into green oasis

Salalah: The fog-drenched mountains around Salalah give a majestic look during the three months of the monsoon season, which is popularly known as Khareef. The three-month season starts in the last week of June. It draws tourists mainly from the neighbouring GCC countries because this is the only place in the entire Gulf Co-operation Council where it rains and temperatures come down to 20 degrees Celsius when other countries, including most cities in Oman, are very hot.

Salalah during Khareef becomes an oasis for all those who want to get a break from air-conditioners, closed doors and artificial greenery. It gives them freedom to breathe free air, keep their doors open and watch vast greenery.

Every household in Salalah has some story or the other associated with Khareef. For them, it is a festival of nature.

Dhofaris look for an opportunity to celebrate during the festive season. They have celebrations while bringing their camels from mountains to plains as the weather there is not conducive for camels. Similarly, there is a bigger celebration when the camels go back to the mountains after the season is over.

There are folklores dedicated to both the situations. Senior Dhofaris tell about the songs and dances that used to take place when camels went home after spending three months of city life. “Village, after all, is their home. So we have a celebration when our camels come home.”

Salalah is a great host during the season. With upgraded facilities and more hotels and furnished apartments, and a new airport, there has been a surge in tourist arrivals in Salalah.

So far this year, the number of tourists to Salalah is 156,438 (June 21 to July 17). As per the National Centre for Statistics and Information (NCSI) stall put up at the Salalah Tourism Festival (STF), visitors from United Arab Emirates (UAE) stood second at 15,040 after Omani visitors (107,851) up to July 17. Saudis stood at 11,506; Qataris 1,914; Bahrainis 1,296; Kuwaitis 1,117; other Arabs 6,688; Europeans 945; Asians 9, 541 and others 464.

One does not need to look for a tourist spot as the whole of Salalah and areas spread over a 60-80km radius turn into tourist spots. Still, there are places that need to be explored.

The best way to visit Salalah is to divide the sight-seeing locations into East and West. The road that goes to Taqah and Mirbat and slightly further to Shuamiya from Salalah has many places of tourist attraction in between. The journey covers places like Ain Razat, Wadi Darbat, the famous Taqah castle, Samharam, Mirbat village, Hasik and Zeik.

In western Salalah are Itin mountain, Nabi Ayoub’s tomb, Mughsail Bay, Ain Garjij and a vast expanse of greenery.

Salalah city has many places to see. It has Museum of the Land of Frankincense, Al Baleed Arcaeological Park, Tomb of Nabi Umran, Burj A’Nahdah Roundabout, Al-Husn Souk or Hafa Souk and adjacent to it is the Sultan’s Palace.

The best part of Salalah is its weather. The fog here is an attraction rather than a hindrance. Thousands of people visit the green mountains and it is very relaxing to grab some local fruits and drink coconut water after long hours of sight-seeing.