Salalah, the capital of the Dhofar region, is a colourful, subtropical city that owes much of its character to Oman’s former territories in East Africa. Indeed, flying into Salalah from Muscat, especially during the khareef (rainy season), it's hard to imagine that Oman’s first and second cities share the same continent.
From mid-June to mid-August, monsoon clouds from India engulf Salalah in fine drizzle. As a result, the stubble of the encircling plain and the desert escarpment beyond (referred to locally as the jebel) is transformed into a verdant oasis where huge herds of camels graze alongside cattle and goats in the engulfing mists. Gulf visitors flock to Salalah at this time to enjoy the long-running tourism festival and to picnic under the rain clouds. All year round, however, Salalah’s coconut-fringed beaches, banana plantations and sociable Dhofari culture, offer an attractive flavour of Zanzibar in the heart of the Arabian desert.
Most visitors come to Salalah during July and August to enjoy the annual khareef, when the nearby wadis are full of water. Occasionally streets flood, and ocean currents are too strong for swimming or diving. The crowds leave in September along with the rains, but the vegetation is still green, and hotel prices have started to come down.
Diving is only possible during the dry season, from October to the end of May, and this is also the optimal time for bird watching. May and especially June are the hottest months of the year, with humidity steadily increasing until the rains bring relief again in late June or early July.
It is possible to explore parts of Salalah on foot, as most places of interest are close to each other. During warmer times of year, though, walking may not be the best idea.
The usual unmetered Omani taxis operate here, with the average taxi fare for travel within the city 500 baiza.
If you hire a car, 2WD cars are adequate for most sights within Salalah itself. Outside of Salalah, however, many places of tourist interest lie off road, and SUVs are recommended particularly during the khareef season because of slippery terrain. Book your car well in advance if you plan to visit during this peak period, as rental agencies often run out of vehicles.
The old city is confined to the area called Al Haffa (Hafah), on the seafront.
Al Baleed Archeological Park, As Sultan Qaboos St, ☎ +968 23 303577, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sa-W 9AM-2PM, 4PM-8PM; Th-F 4PM-8PM. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, these extensive ruins were once the 12th-century trading port of Zafar, visited by Marco Polo in 1285. RO 2 (includes admission to the Frankincense Museum).