Salalah: True Oasis

Temperatures in the hot dry lands of the Middle East soar to over 45 degrees Celsius in July and August. Everyone wants to escape the heat that makes you feel like a melting candle. Europe is a good idea, if you have the time and money for it. If you stay in the Middle East, have a long weekend to spare and are on a tight budget, soak yourself in the rains at Salalah in Oman!

Oman: Salalah – watch the desert turn green during the Kharif season

Perfect time to go…

Yes, it rains in Salalah for around three months – July, August and September. No – I am not joking! The average rainfall during these months is between 25 – 30mm. Well, if you are comparing it to the 3,000 mm that Cherapunji receives in these months, it ain’t much… But come on! Have a heart – 30 mm in a parched desert is enough to lay down a green carpet that welcomes you!

Oman: Green carpet in Salalah

Here is what the annual weather is like in Salalah:

Warm Summer Months: April, May and June – Warm, dry weather with temperatures as high as 30-32 degree Celsius – Still much cooler than the smouldering temperatures in the surrounding areas!

Blissful Kharif/Rainy Months: July, August and early September – Cool, wet months with maximum temperatures below 25 degrees Celsius – Be here in these months and ‘walk in the clouds’!

Oman: Salalah – A walk in the clouds

Cool Winter Months: October, November, December and March – Cool winter months, with maximum temperatures of 22 degree Celsius and minimum temperatures – Perfect to enjoy a cup of coffee as you bask in the mid morning Sun!

We were here in the Kharif season. I am sure the winters would be lovely as well, with the landscape still being green. However, I would not want to be here in summers – my experience of the summer heat throughout the Middle East has not been enjoyable – the seaside is hot and humid, even in the evenings.

Getting here…

Getting here is as simple as hopping on a flight. Muscat, the capital of Oman is well connected by several airlines including Oman Air. Oman Air has a direct flight from Muscat to Salalah.

Oman: Salalah – one of the many roundabouts

If you are on a shoe string budget – there are buses that run from Muscat to Salalah twice a day. The journey takes approximately 12 hours. Any bus journey beyond 5 hours seems like a Herculean task to me and hence, we opted for the flights.

The visa process is easy. Why would a country, promoting tourism, make the visa process painful? I had a work visa from UAE then, and hence received the Oman visa on arrival. If you are from a nation that needs prior visa processing, worry not – its typically a 3 day, fairly easy process.

Click here for the official tourism website of Oman detailing the entry process.

Staying by the sea

Back in 2009, Salalah had only two five star rated hotels – one being the Hilton and the other being Crowne Plaza. However, now, there are newer properties – the Rotana and the Marriott that are in the five star range. Considering that we were here in the peak rainy season, and that accommodation was dear, we decided to save some money for a trip to Egypt the next month and stay in the best rated B&B.Not many guide books covered the location and information on Lonely Planet was fairly limited – nothing to direct us to an assured place. A few clicks on TripAdvisor was our limited source of knowledge and the spirit of adventure was our drive to plonk ourselves at the Arabian Sea Villas. We called them and booked our rooms. An average property, but great value for money! I would give this place a thumbs up for location – bang on the beach.

Happy Vegetarians!

There was plenty of vegetarian food for us to enjoy – the entire spread of Arabic mezzes, salads, and deserts. My favourite was foul medames – beans in a tomato gravy with a really really big flat bread, one bread which was enough for 4 people!

Oman: Salalah – Eating to our heart’s content

Also, we were truly impressed by Omani hospitality – if your host knows that you are a vegetarian, he or she will out of the way to ensure that you have a hearty meal as per your dietary requirements.

Must do, when in Salalah…

Visit the Mughsayl blowholes: I had never seen a blow hole ever in my life…and haven’t seen any since I saw them in Mughsayl. The drive to the Mughsayl beach is beautiful, especially when it is raining and the rocks have a green cover. The limestone beach is perforated, allowing plumes of water to rise as high as 20 meters. If photography is your sport, it is worth carrying your tripod. There are a few smaller openings – ‘holes’ that have a mesh and are easily accessible – you can stand on these and feel like Marilyn Monroe as your skirt flies and does a dance!

Oman: Salalah – Blowholes at athe Mughsayl beach

It’s party time folks…The Kharif Festival: The Kharif Festival is a riot of colours, music and food. Salalah is flocked by tourist from the entire region to enjoy this event. It’s like a fair, with joy rides, food stalls where you can watch the local woman make mouth watering delicacies for you, taste the tamarind water which a uniquely dressed seller will offer with a smile and Arabic hospitality, listen to some local music and oh….do yourself a favour – buy some baklava for the road – delicious sweets loaded with honey!

Defy Gravity: At the anti gravity spot, you can leave your car in neutral and it seems to go uphill! Here is a video on you tube that I found, which will surely add this point on your itinerary. Sadly, we could not go here because of paucity of time…but going to an anti-gravity spot surely is on my list!

Oman: Salalah – Make way please!

Two cents from my end… some tips…

Rent a car – easy to rent and the only way that will let you explore the interior which will make the trip worthwhile

Let there be light – Spend a while admiring the Omani lamps, including the street lights!

Try to find the flying carpet – Omani carpets are very durable and beautiful – as good as their Turkish cousins. Strike a good bargain and carry one home.

Dress modestly – Omanis are welcoming and friendly people. Dress modestly, with legs and shoulders covered. Let’s try and experience a culture by being part of it!

As always… Send me an e-mail if you need any further details. Glad to help!

Let the travellers’ tribe grow!

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Monday Musings: Oasis in Oman

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