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Khareef in Salalah

Aug 30, 2013 by     44 Comments    Posted under: Beach, Dhofar, Fort, Mosque, Mountain, Museum, Outdoors, Ruins, Travel Info

After a long (and early) summer hibernation period where we hardly went on any trips, we ended up deciding to take advantage of the generous Eid Al Fitr holidays and head up to Salalah to experience Khareef Salalah “خريف صلالة” and check out some of the many attractions in THE tourist hotspot of Oman (at this time of the year anyway!).

Salalah-0064 Sha't002Salalah-0093

Salalah (صـلالـة) is the capital city of the governorate of Dhofar in the South of Oman, and the second largest city in the country. Salalah is one of probably only two places in the Arabic peninsula (besides Yemen) that experiences a monsoon season, which is called Khareef and lasts from July to September. Khareef means “autumn” in Arabic but it refers to monsoon when describing Salalah, and by the way the word monsoon in English is derived from the Arabic word maowsim “موسم” which means season. During this time, the brown landscape of Salalah and its surroundings is completely transformed to a beautiful and lush green, and locals and tourists alike flock to Salalah.

Not surprisingly, the city and surrounding areas get really busy at this time of the year, especially considering that the Salalah Tourism Festival starts at the same time; visitors may find it difficult or extremely expensive to get a room or even hire a car unless they booked well in advance, and our top tip is to always book in advance and ensure you get your booking confirmed prior to your departure to avoid any nasty surprises!

Khareef is not the only thing Salalah is known for, Salalah is even more famous for its ancient frankincense trade, with the UNESCO including several ancient settlements (Al Balid, Sumharam, Shisr and Wadi Dawkah) in Dhofar in its World Heritage List, appropriately naming it the “Land of Frankincense”. Thousands of years later, Salalah is still well known for the quality and quantity of frankincense it produces!

Salalah Frankincense

Things to Do / Places to Visit:

We spent two nights in Salalah, and managed to visit the following places:

Souq Al Haffa سـوق الـحافـة

This is the main market in Salalah and the place for buying traditional Omani items from clothing to gold and silver handicrafts, and of course a wide variety of frankincense! If you are here during the Salalah Tourism Festival you may also see a traditional Dhofari dancing performance.

Salalah-A02

Al Balid Archaeological Park / Frankincense Museum مـديـنـة الـبـلـيـد الأثـريـة مـتـحـف الـلـبـان

This is the location of the ruins of Al Balid, an ancient city known as a frankincense trading hub and visited by both Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta. The area has been developed with footpaths to the ruins and information throughout, making it a very pleasant and educational trip for all family members. A khor (“خور” a ravine in Arabic) also passes through the area adding to the charm. Entrance fee is 2 R.O per passenger car, this also includes the entrance fee to the Frankincense Museum which is located on the park complex. The museum displays various artifacts discovered in Al Balid and Sumharam ruins, as well as a whole section covering Omani maritime history including beautiful models of Omani ships past and present. We found the displays and presentation at the museum to be one of the best we have seen in Oman so far, and we highly recommend it for anyone visiting Salalah!

Al Balid 001 Al Balid 002

Sultan Qaboos Mosque Salalah جـامـع الـسـلـطـان قـابوس

A splendid mosque right in the heart of the city, and the largest in Salalah. It is has a single dome structure flanked by two minarets, with beautiful Arabic calligraphy inscriptions inside. The architecture of the mosque is very similar to Sultan Taimur Bin Faisal Mosque in Muscat. The mosque can be visited weekdays between 8 to 11 am.

Salalah-C01

Aqeel Mosque مـسـجـد عـقـيـل

Originally built in 1779, making it one of the oldest mosques in Salalah still in use today. The mosque has a very unique design inspired from Andalusian architecture, and is the only one of its kind in Oman.

Al Aqeel Mosque

Ittin Plain سـهـل إتـيـن

A flat area close to the the city center, with lots of food “stalls” selling Dhofari food delicacies (yay for Camel mushkak!) and popular with people wanting to camp and enjoy some fresh air. We did not get to explore the area further, but apparently there are beautiful viewpoints if you drive up the hills beyond the plain.

Al Mughsail Beach شـاطـيء مـغـسـيـل

About 40 kms from the city and one of the top attractions in Salalah. The beaches in Salalah and surrounding coastline are very rough and Mughsail is no exception, where it is unique is that the waves crash through naturally formed blowholes in the limestone formations and spurt up water plumes with a thundering noise up to several meters in the air! If you are brave enough you should take a picture right next to the water jet spurting through the blowholes (but you will most likely get completely wet :)). There is also a coffee shop in Mughsail beach along with viewing platforms with spectacular views of the beautiful and rugged coastline. Make sure you get here early before the crowds especially if you want to have good photo opportunities, we got there around 7 am and it was perfect!

Al Mughsail BeachAl Mughsail Beach00

Al Fazayeh Beach شـاطـيء الـفـزايـح

An isolated beach about 30km west of Mughsail, with an absolutely amazing coastline. If you liked Mughsail but did not like how crowded it got, head out here for a more natural and (as of yet) non-exploited beach, the crystal clear water is amazing but be careful if you want to swim here as the current is very strong and the coast is rocky.

The drive to get here is quite spectacular by itself during khareef as it goes through the green mountains, but it is single lane and quite windy so be extra careful. If you continue further west towards the Yemeni border, you will be going through more beautiful scenery.

Al Fazayeh002 Al Fazayeh001Al Fazayeh003

Sha’t شعت

This is one of the small areas you can stop by as you drive further West from Al Fazayeh beach. Unfortunately I forgot to locate it on the map during the visit, but allow about two hour drive from Al Mughsail to the the junction taking you to Sha’t. Exploring it further by taking the dirt road is highly recommended as you will be driving through spectacular views of the green hills (in Khareef only :)) and the Indian ocean! You can go further from here towards Dhalkoot which is meant to be just as amazing but we didn’t quite get a chance to go there.

Keep in mind that due to proximity to the Yemeni border, there might be military check points asking to check ID, so just have those handy.

Sha't003 Sha't001 Salalah-0160

Sumharam Archaeological Site / Khour Rori مـديـنـة سـمـهـرم الأثـريـة خـور روري

An impressive ruins of the ancient port city of Sumhuram which has been dated back to the 1st century AD. The city was an important frankincense trading hub in ancient times due to its strategic location. The site is a couple of kilometres from Taqah, which itself is about 40 kms from Salalah. A visitor fee of RO 2 per passenger car gets you access to the ruins of the fortified city, entrance to the museum and a chance to go close to Khour Rori where sea water mixes with sweet water from Wadi Dirbat at high tide.

Salalah-G02

Taqah Castle حـصـن طـاقـة

One of the few forts/castles in Dhofar, the castle was built in the 19th century as a residence for a local tribal leader. There is lots of information about the various rooms and exhibits in castle, and we quite enjoyed our visit here especially with a very informative castle officer who gave us a personal tour. A watch tower located on a hill behind the castle is part of the complex but was built at a much later date, and is not open for visitors. Taqah Castle is in Taqah and the entrance fee is RO 0.5 per person.

Salalah-H04

Wadi Dirbat وادي دربـات

A beautiful natural park which is completely covered with lush green vegetation during khareef season. With  a beautiful lake, occasional waterfalls and mountains obscured with fog, Wadi Dirbat offers a wonderful and enchanting experience that makes you wonder if you really are in Oman! There are lots of stalls in the wadi selling fresh fruits and mosquito repellent (which is a must!), and you can also get a boat to paddle in the lake! The turn to Wadi Dirbat is a couple of kilometers from Taqah, and a winding road takes you to the park.

Dirbat002 Dirbat001

The following map shows the approximate locations of the places we mentioned:

View Salalah – OmanTripper in a larger map

Places To Stay in Salalah:

There are many accommodation options in Salalah ranging from 5 star hotels to furnished flats and apartments, but  not many low budget accommodation options. You can find and book most of these hotels online, and Oman Tourism website has information on many of these hotels. However, it is hard to find information online for available apartments so if that is where you want to stay you can either get an Arabic speaking friend to find the information through discussion forums, or try to get the Oman Tourism booklet which has a list of apartment complexes and their phone numbers. It is important to book accommodation in advance if you are coming to visit Salalah during the khareef seasons as Salalah becomes extremely packed with tourists.

As for camping, we did not really explore many options but the beaches further west from Mughsail is probably your best option, we would not even consider camping on the mountains due to the mosquitoes! Be warned that there are lots of stray camels in Salalah, and hyenas may occasionally be spotted!

Going to Salalah:

You can either fly or drive to Salalah. Oman Air operates several flights a day during khareef season. Unless you are going in a large car convoy or love driving 1,000+ km across the desert, flying is probably your best option!

There are many more places to visit in and around Salalah, which we could in no way cover over a 2 day trip, including almost half a dozen natural springs and other attractions. If you have a free time during the khareef season, you will surely not regret making a trip to Salalah…as long as you have mosquito repellent 🙂

44 Comments + Add Comment

  • nice one! really informative indeed 🙂

    • not nice….y suks 🙂

    • Thanks Moign 🙂

  • I visited Oman the first time in July 2013 – during Ramadan. Stayed in Barka, at Al Nahda Resort & Spa. HIred a car (with chauffeur) for my 5 day stay to take me to Muscat, Nizwa, Sur, etc, but being Ramadan, there was virtually nothing open: no museums, no forts, not even many restaurants. So, I decided to stop over on my way back to Australia – late September ’13. I stayed at Al Nahda for 4 nights and again hired a car (4WD this time) and we drove into the mountains and stayed there overnight, as well as one night in Nizwa, then in a desert camp and later near the sea, just south of Sur to see the sea turtles. We also swam in wadis and trekked a lot.
    I virtually fell in love with Oman…. This year I’m going to Europe early June and again planning to stop in Oman, probably for 2 weeks. This time I’m going to fly to Salalah and stay there for a week, then fly back to Muscat and stay there for an other week.
    Thank you for above information! It helped me a lot with my plans.
    Anybody has any other suggestions to see and do, please share – I’d be grateful.
    Thank you.
    Judith
    Port Douglas (Australia)

    • Hi Judith,

      I am very happy that you enjoyed your trip in Oman, and I hope you enjoy the upcoming trip even more and get to explore more places. Glad to hear our site is helpful in getting places to do. Stay tuned, as we are hoping to update with new some new posts coming up, and feel free to follow us on facebook/twitter/Instagram since we post pics of other places as we visit them 🙂

      If you have any specific questions feel free to ask.

      Cheers,
      Ali

  • Hi!

    I’m thinking about going to Salalah this weekend for a bit of a getaway. I’m travelling solo and wanted to know the best way to see all the sights you just mentioned. Is there a tour guide you would recommend? Also, what is it like during Ramadhan?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Sarah,

      I do not have contacts for tour guides in Salalah but being such a hot spot I am sure you can find something once you get there; however, it is pretty easy to see all these places we mentioned if you could just hire a car and drive around with a map 🙂

      I would guess that Souq Al Hafa opening times will be different due to Ramadhan timing and likely to be closed until after Iftar time. You should also check about the two archaeological sites but I wouldn’t see how they won’t be open during the day.

      I hope you have a wonderful weekend there (hopefully it won’t be too crowded on the roads!). Safe travels 🙂

  • Hi there

    We recently went to Salalah during Eid holidays and it was a fantastic experience. It looks like a different world altogether with all the greenery & constant drizzling..You can just head towards any direction and you will find some beautiful place to see & enjoy..Though quite expensive but a must visit place during Khareef season..As a first timer I could not cover all the places as I had to depend on a local guide..I am told that Ministry of Tourism publish some Brochures detailing the places to visit along with the directions, but I couldn’t find it anywhere in Salalah during my stay there..If anyone of you can share an e-copy of that Salalah brochure it would be very helpful to all of us…Thanks and regards

    • Good to hear you enjoyed your time there, it is definitely an amazing place to visit and a welcome change for anyone visiting from Muscat 🙂 I have seen such brochures in Salalah Garden Mall during my visit, but I do not have an e-copy of them unfortunately. There is a lot of work to be done by Ministry of Tourism there, and hopefully it will be easier to find information over the coming years. I hope to write more articles on more places of Salalah but first I need to have another visit 🙂

  • Hi,
    Went salalah two weeks back.. Visited many places listed above.. We drove from dubai to salalah.. Straight 16 hours drive.. But what an awesome place it was.. Hard to believe its OMAN.. The sad part are the mosquitoes over there.. Since we came back, I’ve got allergy.. I get some itchy red welts every night on my arms and face.. And I so hate these… Going to take some steroids now.. Anti allergies not working.. So, PLEASE BE SURE TO TAKE HIGH QUALITY MOSQUITO REPELLANT with you over there..
    Thanks

    • thanks for your advise

  • Hi There how are you its nice to hear from you guys that got good time in salalah. Salalah is not khareef only so many activities can be done over here.

  • Can we still see the greeneries if we visit Salalah by second week of June? Thanks

    • Hi Jane,

      That I am not sure of as I have never visited at that time. I understand that it changes every year and some years the season can get there quite late, so to avoid disappointment it is probably best to go a bit later in the season or check (somehow?) before going. I was told by some local friends that some areas remain green even until late September so that’s also another option (plus you get to avoid the huge crowds as the school season would have started by then).

      Hope that helps, sorry if I couldn’t quite answer your question.

      Ali

  • hi all
    thanks a lot to the admin of omantripper,I’ve plan to visit Oman on 18 july this year exactly after complete Ramadan.
    currently I’m a UAE resident so I plan my start journey from ruwais and straight a way to jabal shams resort,and early morning after I will leaving to ubar and continue to salalah for 5 days,any one who knows from nizwa to salalah if there is good tourist attractions location. currently I used you website as reference and I have “Oman off road” book and map by “explorer” as reference too.

    • Hi there,

      That sounds like a great trip to have, and I am sure you will have a great time. To be honest I haven’t done the drive to Salalah personally myself, so I can’t tell of first hand experiences there. But it is a good idea to try and explore the area near Bidiyah, Wahiba sands and Wadi Bani Khalid. It might be a bit out of your way as well but you can also want to check out Mahout on the coast and even take a visit to Masirah island. From there onwards I can’t think of many places until you get to Salalah except perhaps Al Shuwaymiyah village 9http://wikimapia.org/17863682/Al-Shuwaymiyah).

      Hope that helps 🙂
      Ali

  • I am planning to salalah with family this eid 17th July 2015 any body going please notify

  • It is tomuch excellent and classical activities.people see and enjoy to visit these places.fare is a best enjoyment for kids and show dhofari classical dancing show.

  • Hi, thanks for the information. I am a UAE student and planning to go to Salalah with my friends via Bus. Could you let me know if I could hire a car on my UAE Drivers License or if not , then will we get a car for hire with a driver who could take us around the site seeing spots, and how much does it cost for a day?

    Thanks

    • Hi Hamza,

      I haven’t tried but I am sure you won’t have a problem hiring a car on a UAE driving license. You just need to make sure you have your ID card, license etc.. You can probably hire a driver with a car to show you around, but it will undoubtadly cost you more. When I was there last time, there was a bunch of guys in the airport who offered such services to tourists, but they weren’t real businesses so I can’t tell how the experience will be. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t know how much would that cost either!
      Hope that helps!
      Ali

  • Plan to go During Sept eid break, I have a Saloon Car, all the places you have mentioned in this page is it possible to visit by a saloon car?

    • Dear Valerian,

      If am not mistaken almost all the places are accessible with a saloon car. Only part you may struggle a bit is the drive to Al Fazay’ beach from the road as it’s graded road but I did that in a small SUV once and it was fine.

      Hope you have a great trip and a safe journry 🙂

      Ali

  • Hi,

    Can we experience the greeneries in dec 1st week ?

  • Hi Alimsk,

    We planned to go during the end of this year in Salalah, staying in a Hotel and renting a car to see all around. I have to inform myself a bit more about around but if i can already have some nice info from you would be really nice. I am really thinking to dont go in any “organise tour” and visit by myself it is possible ?

    Do you know if it possible to do all this nice places you mention with a normal car and not a 4×4 ? or you would really recommend a 4×4 ? because there is a huge difference of the price.
    I guess that around this period is not as green but i am sure it is still worth it anyway 🙂
    Do you know if there is at least one nice place to drink something the night and enjoy their nighlife there ? as local bar or others ?
    Have you been to the desert ? do you have any recommendations ?

    Some much questions i could ask but if you could give the most useful informations that’s really kind.

    Thank you very much and thanks for this nice blog 🙂

  • I am from Salalah, you may contact me via email salim.hardan@yahoo.com for tour guide.

    my name is Salim,

    regards,

  • Hi there!!! Does anybody have any direct contacts to wholesale sellers for frankincense? Thanks a lot 🙂

    • I may have a contact that can do that, get in touch with me on my email ali@omantripper.com 🙂

  • Some of our friends have told us that there is an annual festival even held in the city of Salalah during

    Holy Ramadan in the month of June/July, 2016 which runs for the entire period of Ramadan until Eid Ul Fitra.
    I tried to search for details of this festival with an intention to participate from India but could not find any relevent

    information. May be, i did not understand the correct name of the festival.

    I therefore request you to get detailed information about this event.

    The details of the organizers if Government or private.

    • Hi Birbal,

      The annual festival is Salalah Khareef festival. I can’t find any information online either, besides the Arabic version of the festival website here: http://salalahfestival.gov.om/
      Maybe you can get some information by using google translate.

      I am not sure whom you have to contact with regarding to your participation in this event, probably start with the Ministry of Tourism to get an idea.

      Hope this helps.

      Best,
      Ali

  • Hi

    I want to visit Salalah this year just before the beginning of Ramadaan. I wanted to stay in the mountains or somewhere green. No beachside resorts. Can you suggest something along these lines? Thanks.

    • Hi Alocin,
      Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Salalah often enough to know of any place besides beach side resorts. I haven’t heard of any hotels in the mountains though, sorry can’t be much of help.
      Best,
      Ali

  • Hi I will be visiting Salalah in July 2016 first week by road. Anybody wants t join.

  • My designation in the visa is “Systems Analyst” (an indian national currently working in UAE). Will i get visa on arrival at Salalah Airport?

  • Hi All,

    Going to Salalah for the first time in a couple of days (6 July) During EID by flight.

    I am planning on renting a car to discover nearby sites, waterfalls, etc..

    Does anyone have updated saved points on google map or exact locations of interesting places? (It would be of real help)

    Also, what are the top 3 places that are “MUST VISIT” spots in Salalah ?

    Thank you all in advance for your help and suggestions

    Cheers

    AJ

  • Hello,

    Im going to Salalah in August, is it nice, can I swim, how is the weather?

    Thanks
    Laila

    • Hi Laila,

      Yes, August will be a fantastic time to visit Salalah. This will be during the monsoon (khareef) season, so temperature will be quite cool with rainy clouds drifting and occasional rain, best time to visit Salalah 🙂 Swimming on the beaches is theoretically possible but be extra careful as the tide is really strong along the coast, so it can be quite dangerous especially with the many sharp rocks in the beach. I would avoid swimming in any wadis/lakes you see, as there are lots of mosquitoes/mosquito eggs.

      Enjoy your trip to Salalah
      Ali

  • Hi Ali ,
    You have a very informative blog thanks. Am planning a road trip to Salalah mid September 2016 to get away from the Dubai heat . Will it be green at that time? Also let me know if camping in tents is possible and is this allowed by the authorities. If anyone wants to drive as a group from Dubai to Salalah please get in touch.

    I have been resident of Dubai for 23 years and work as a free lance tour guide , anyone reading this blog and intending to visit UAE could make use of my tailor made services by writing at dubaiguidedtours@gmail.com .
    Sorry Ali to use your blog to advertise my services

  • Hi
    We would like to have your advice to visit salalah in September
    Please reply urgently
    Thanks

    • Hi Ahmad,

      What advice do you need? It is best to contact me by email: ali@omantripper.com

      Best,
      Ali

  • Asalamu alaykum my name is Hussein mohamed I am from U.S.A who is interested visiting Salalah Oman eventually insha Allah to learn the history of Oman thanks Hussein.

    • Hi Hussein,

      Thanks for your comment, if you would like any help planning your trip feel free to drop me an email 🙂

      Best,
      Ali

  • maybe one more question.,,,,is it possible to rent/buy some camping gear in Muscat?

    • Hi Rayk,

      There aren’t many places renting camping gear but I’m sure you’ll find some if you look. However, I think it will be much easier and probably not much more expensive to just buy gear from some of the hypermarkets/supermarkets in Oman. Sultan Center in Qurum has a big selection so I suggest you try there, Lulue and Carrefour will them too.

      Best,
      Ali

  • […] promised land (Canaan) at Joshua’s time is located at Salalah – Oman whereas the true river jordan is known as wadi dhahawn located in Yemen – […]

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