Here’s How To Make The Most Of The ‘Khareef’ Season In Salalah – News

If you are one of the long term residents who claims to have visited Salalah before and would like to write it off as ‘been there and done that’ then you will have to reconsider



Published: Thu 11 Aug 2022, 18:10

When the mercury reaches over 40 degrees in the summer, most residents of the UAE and the wider region are often looking for a way out to beat the heat. While the search for a cooler retreat in a European or North American destination is often at the top of the agenda, it also leads to inflated airfare prices. Never mind the struggle to make an appointment to apply for a visa.

For those who have not been able to book this, how about catching a glimpse of the European landscape in our own neighborhood in the form of Salalah.

A visit to Salalah, Oman’s third largest city, is almost a rite of passage to earn the title of ‘Golfinhabitant’, due to its proximity and popularity as a summer retreat, thanks to its tropical climate. If you are one of the long term residents who claims to have visited Salalah before and would like to write it off as ‘been there and done that’ then you will have to reconsider. Thanks to the emergence of new luxury resorts, Salalah should further be seen as a regional retreat.

While much of the Arabian Gulf witnesses the scorching heat, Oman’s Dhofar Governorate, where Salalah is located, enjoys the pleasant ‘Khareef Season’. It is the most popular time to visit the region. Khareef literally translates as autumn in Arabic, although it is technically the monsoon season that turns the rocky desert plains into lush green valleys between June and September.

Most Gulf people consider Oman’s Khareef an ideal time to escape the heat of their own backyard and soak up the pleasant atmosphere for weeks. It is an annual phenomenon when the low-pressure systems from India cross the ocean, bringing a fair part of the monsoon to Dhofar. One can expect fog, cloudy skies and temperatures hovering around 20 degrees Celsius. It heralds the much-cherished opportunity for the locals who flock to the beautiful valleys for an alfresco picnic.

This article hopes to paint a picture of the pristine environment and justify why one should consider Salalah the preferred summer vacation destination along with the best places to explore. Let’s take care of the logistics first.

Where is Salalah?

Oman has 11 governorates of which Dhofar is the southernmost and the largest in the country. Salalah, Omani’s third largest city, serves as its capital. It is the birthplace of the former Sultan of Oman, the late Qaboos bin Said Al Said. Historically, this region has also been an exporter of frankincense and is still used in some of Dhofar’s local delicacies.

How to reach Salalah?

As for driving, Salalah is over 1200km away and has been a popular destination for a fairly long road trip, about 13 hours if border control were the only pit stop. Thanks to the convenient flight connections and given current fuel prices, it’s best to take a direct flight that will get you there in just under 2 hours.

Wizz Air offers good fares from Abu Dhabi, FlyDubai offers very convenient timing for a daily connection from Terminal 2 of Dubai International Airport. right after work on the plane.

Immigration

Oman offers an online visa system for those in possession of a GCC residency visa that fulfills one of the roles found in the “Approved List of Occupations” which entitles them to apply under the “29A” category “. Their escorts or those under their sponsorship can apply using the “29B” category once the main applicant has received the visa. It is best to apply for the online visa at least a week before the travel date, although it is often processed within a day.

Where to stay

There are a number of popular hotels in Salalah town that could suit your budget, although the town does get very busy during the ‘Khareef’ season, so it’s best to explore other parts if you’re looking for a quieter refuge.

About a 40 minute drive from the city of Salalah is the coastal town of Mirbat, home to the Alila Hinu Bay resort which was perfect for my quest for tranquility in Salalah. It meets the criteria of a romantic weekend break or even a quick family break, thanks to its somewhat remote glamping experience.

The Wilayat of Mirbat is located on the east side of Salalah and is known for its beautiful beaches. My local guide Adnan told me that the town gets its name from the Arabic word for ‘saddle’, as it was once a breeding ground for Arabian horses. The port played a greater role as a hub for the export of the valuable raw material frankincense.

Mirbat offers a convenient location to access popular spots such as Jabal Samhan and the Wadi Darbat. Second, it was away from the effects of the Khareef season which meant that one can really make the most of the resort’s facilities and not worry too much about the occasional downpour.

The luxury resort first opened its doors during the pandemic in July 2021, and thanks to the relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, international travelers can find an ideal Salalah shrine here. Aside from the serenity on offer, the hotel also offers an ongoing pocket-friendly offer of one free night for every night booked. It also has a soothing spa experience with frankincense infused oils to add to the wellness element of the resort.

The beachfront resort also feels like the region’s best kept secret with its modern, spacious and luxurious rooms, far enough from the busy streets of Salalah but close enough to the natural wonders of Salalah.

There are 112 rooms in the hotel, including 16 villas with swimming pool. I stayed in one of the ‘Deluxe Pool Villas’ which was the highlight of the trip and felt transported to an exotic destination, especially with the majlis outside and an open air bath.

From a commercial perspective, the presence of resorts such as the Alila Hinu Bay opens up the region’s perspective to cater to the luxury travel sector and at the consumer level, it aims to offer something unique to those who have been to Salalah before.

Building on the resort’s first year of operation, the resort’s general manager, Juan Paolo Alfonso, says Salalah is well on its way to becoming an all-season destination. Besides the Khareef season, it is a perfect place to go on sea excursions such as dolphin and whale watching in the winter months, thanks to its tropical climate.

what to eat

Staying in Alila Hinu Bay should make the most of the culinary journey of the Frankincense Route offered at their eatery The Orchard. You may have to rely on a Google search to understand some of the dishes on the list prepared with his precious commodity. Although the team can provide a detailed explanation to help you browse the menu and choose the dishes prepared with local ingredients. They also have a seafood restaurant called Sea salt with Pan Asian favorites.

What to see

The Salalah region has a long list of hidden gems that could pique an adventurer’s interest. Although here are some of the must-see attractions that are freely accessible. These excursions can be organized by the local operators or even by the resort itself.

Wadi Darbat:

Often referred to as a ‘mini Switzerland’ Wadi Darbat is Salalah’s most scenic spot and a magnet for local tourists and campers during the ‘Khareef’. It has two waterfalls and expansive green spaces for a picnic or a quick bite at one of the street food stalls. There are two waterfalls in the valley; The Cascade Waterfalls’ and the second called ‘The Travertin Curtain’. The crystal clear turquoise water surrounded by the lush green hills is a visual marvel. Swimming is not allowed here, but the river can be explored by renting one of the boats. It is best to reach the smaller falls earlier, as it is often very crowded. The much larger waterfall is the travertine curtain, which is accessed from another exit close to the main road and requires a small walk along the riverbed after parking in the large parking lot.

Tawi Atair Sinkhole

Literally translated as “fowl of birds”, it is one of the deepest natural sinkholes in the world with a depth of 210 meters. There is water on the bottom and during the Khareef season it is an ideal place for the migratory birds. There is a special viewing platform for visitors, but trekkers can also venture onto the trails with the help of a professional guide.

Jebel Samhan

Close to Marbat and overlooking the Arabian Sea is Mount Samhan, one of the main seasonal attractions of the Dhofar region. This is a perfect place to capture the scenic views from above the clouds, with a highest peak of 2,100 meters. It also has a wildlife sanctuary covering an area of ​​over 4,500 square kilometers and is also a sanctuary for the endangered Arabian leopard.

Museum of the Land of Frankincense

Part of the Al Bareed Archaeological Park in Salalah, this UNESCO Heritage Site provides an educational journey on the economic significance of frankincense for the Dhofar region. It costs 2 Omani Riyal to enter and it is recommended for history buffs. It is believed that in ancient Egypt it was customary to use the frankincense to fight demons. Thanks to its antimicrobial properties, it was often used to heal wounds and even in the mummification process.

verdict

Overall, Salalah should be seen more than just an ideal road trip getaway and more of a luxury travel destination. Staying in the new luxury resorts can provide a pleasant change of scenery and a sense of home for GCC based holidaymakers. Although Khareef season is the best time to visit Salalah, the presence of these shelters makes it a perfect place to switch off and not be too far from home.

Leave a Comment

%d bloggers like this: