Salalah is one of the most unique places I’ve visited. It is the capital of Dhofar, the largest province in the Sultanate of Oman. Historically, the region was the chief source of frankincense in the world. The mountainous area borders Yemen and is home to a rather unique climate and landscape.
During the “Khareef” – from mid June to mid August – a foggy mist overtakes the otherwise arid region. The temperature always stays below 27 degrees and a constant drizzle keeps the air cool. The Salalah Tourism Festival takes place every year from July 15 to August 31. When I arrived in Salalah in early August, I couldn’t believe I was still in the Gulf.
As a Canadian, I was able to get my visa on arrival at the border crossing. The cost is five Omani Riyals or 50 Emirati Dirhams. You can apply for a 15-day visa or a 30-day one.
I wanted to drive because I wanted to explore the scenery, but to be honest, there wasn’t much to see on the way until we actually reached Salalah. So next time, I’ll definitely fly.
We stayed at Al Fanar Hotel & Residences . The stunning property was in a nice location. The staff were lovely. I know most expats worry about travelling with a significant other without being married. Here the hotel did not give my partner and I a hard time about not being married. The staff went above and beyond and sent a cake to our room when they knew it was my boyfriend’s birthday.
Other resorts in the vicinity include: Rotana, the Hilton, Marriott and the Ritz-Carleton
For food, you’ll find many roadside huts selling barbecued meat and chicken. The food is delicious and the price tag is miniscule. Otherwise there are restaurants when you drive into the city. Note that the actual city of Salalah is about a 20 minute drive from all of the scenic nature sites.
My favourite place to eat is the Fish Market. You pick the fish you like and they barbecue it for you and serve the food for takeaway with salads and rice. Shrimp, squid and a wide variety is available. Note that the fish is caught daily by local fishermen so the selection varies from day to day. Price wise, it’s very affordable. A similar meal in Dubai would have cost easily 1,000 AED but in Salalah we only paid 120 AED. We took our fresh fish and drove up a misty mountain and had a picnic, it was surreal.
To do in Salalah:
Drive to Sha’at (شعت)
The next day we headed to an area called Sha’at (شعت) close to the border of Yemen. I’m not sure of the elevation but when we finally stopped driving up the mountain, this was the view:
This village is fairly secluded. We saw some local women herding their goats, and they were stunned when they saw me. I asked my boyfriend why, he explained that it was probably the first time they’ve ever seen a woman with her hair uncovered. The locals are kind and generous people.
2. See the waterfalls
There are many waterfalls in Salalah only during the Khareef season. The strength of the waterfall depends on how much rain the area has had.
The most popular waterfalls include: Ayn Khor (عينكور), Ayn Hamran (عينحمران), Ayn Tubrook (عين طبرك), Ayn Athoom عين اثوم), Wadi Darbat (وادي دربات) and Wadi Ayn (وادى عين)
3. Go canoeing at Wadi Darbat (وادى دربات)
At this location, you can rent a paddle boat, a canoe or hire a motorized boat to take you down the river for a scenic tour.
4. See the Al Mughsayl Blowholes
Explore Marneef Cave and enjoy the sight of the wild sea. Normally the ocean is very calm in this part of Salalah, but during the Khareef, the waves crash against the shores causing the water to shoot up the blowholes. Some love to picnic at Mughsayl Beach, but at this particular place there is a lone cafe that serves light foods, drinks and of course, sheesha! The irreplaceable view is one I recommend taking a time-out for! Again, prices are very affordable (a sheesha costs 15 AED versus an average of 80 AED at any downtown cafe in Dubai!).
Salalah reminds me of a mirage in the desert. It is truly one of the most unique and surreal places I have ever visited. Considering the minimal cost to travel/eat/explore in the Sultanate of Oman and its proximity to Dubai, it is definitely and adventure worth having! Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Comment below about your experience in Oman or contact me with any questions you might have, I’d love to hear from you!