Monday, May 20, 2024 | Dhu al-Qaadah 11, 1445 H
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EDITOR IN CHIEF- ABDULLAH BIN SALIM AL SHUEILI

Give summer a slip visit Salalah to beat the heat

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If you are seeking respite from the scorching summer temperatures that plague the Gulf Arab countries, there is no need to embark on a long journey. Just 1,000 kilometers south of Muscat lies Salalah, a unique gem on the Arabian Peninsula. From July to September, Salalah offers a cool climate and lush green landscapes, attracting a diverse crowd of Gulf nationals and international visitors alike.


While the rest of the Gulf region swelters in temperatures soaring between 40 to 50 degrees Celsius, Salalah, in the Dhofar governorate, enjoys a gentle misty embrace with temperatures rarely exceeding the 20s. This atmospheric transformation is courtesy of the monsoon known as ‘khareef’.


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"The mist that blankets the entire region revitalises the arid wadis (valleys), transforming them into vibrant, green havens during khareef, with temperatures remaining remarkably pleasant. This magnetic allure beckons our Gulf brethren," explained Ali Ghawas, a Salalah native.


Traditionally, Salalah's residents would descend to coastal areas and low plains during khareef, abandoning their mountainous city due to the thick fog that engulfs the region. Ghawas added, "During this season, it becomes perilous to release our animals to graze in the wadis due to the slippery terrain and limited visibility, often reduced to mere meters."


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Over the past decade, Salalah has evolved from a tranquil, small port renowned for exporting the region's famous frankincense to a thriving destination for Gulf nationals and expatriates alike. Apart from its moderate climate, Salalah boasts expansive sandy beaches, archaeological treasures, and the historic Souk al Haffa market. Here, visitors can explore traditional Omani wares, including clothing, gold and silver handicrafts, and an array of fragrant frankincense. During the Salalah Tourism Festival held in July and August, visitors can immerse themselves in the vibrant world of traditional Dhofari dancing.


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Salalah's coastal allure is further enhanced by the Indian Ocean's majestic waves, which surge during khareef. These waters entice surfers and sea enthusiasts who can bask on unspoiled sandy beaches. Just a few kilometers east of the city, Taqah beach, a beloved spot for Italian surfer Alessandro Guidoni, offers pristine sandy shores and exhilarating waves. Guidoni shared, "I found it superb with its sandy beach and great waves. One day, I was so lucky the waves were perfect, and I was practically surfing with schools of dolphins, some 50 meters from the shoreline."


Salalah's historical significance as "The Land of Frankincense" is evident from its past role as a crucial trading hub for this aromatic gum. Frankincense was once shipped from Khor Rori, a natural harbour situated approximately 40 kilometers east of Salalah. Among Salalah's most visited archaeological sites is the ruins of the fortified ancient port city of Sumhuram, built in the Khor Rori area between the fifth and third centuries BC.


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With its new international airport, designed to accommodate 1 million passengers in the initial phase and a staggering 6 million upon completion, Salalah is positioned to become a premier tourist destination in the Gulf region. Additionally, the construction of high-end resorts further elevates its appeal.


While khareef welcomes visitors with its mild climate and verdant landscapes, the rest of the year sees Salalah emerging as a haven for speleologists (cavers) from Oman and around the world. Numerous expeditions have been undertaken to explore the breathtaking cave systems within the region, including Tayi Aatayr, Teyq, and Shaat sinkhole. It's worth noting that during the khareef period, access to these caves becomes restricted due to the elevated water levels inside them.


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