Although Dhofar lies over 1,000 kilometres from the capital city of Muscat, planning a trip is easy with daily flights between Muscat and Salalah and direct connections from other Arab Gulf states. Those with some spare time may also opt to drive the coastal road to Salalah, traversing through Al Wusta and seeing some of Oman’s most remote yet breath-taking beaches.
Oman’s southernmost region is host to many unique attractions including Prophet Ayoub’s Grave nestled deep in the mountains, the blowholes of Mughsayl and the Land of Frankincense – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Deep sea diving and snorkelling off the coast of the Hallaniyat Islands are just some of the more adventurous activities available through local tour operators.
In the summer months, when most of the Arabian Peninsula experiences soaring temperatures, Dhofar ushers in the monsoon season, bringing with it lush greenery, cooling rains and pleasant temperatures. Locally known as Khareef, this special season starts from late June to early September and coincides with the Salalah Tourism Festival, which is held every year.
PLACES TO SEE
Al Baleed Archaeological Park – Salalah
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is part of the Land of Frankincense. Al Baleed Archaeological Park in Salalah is a large area with remains of what was once a very important trading port from the 8th to 16th century, enabling the widespread distribution of Frankincense grown further inland.
Museum of Frankincense Land – Salalah
The Museum of Frankincense Land in Salalah borders the ruins of Al Baleed Archaeological Park and is dedicated to the trading history of this ancient port. Visitors can discover how trade with Frankincense and maritime strength ensured the region flourished in the 12th century.
Samharam – Khawr Ruri
Set in Dhofar’s largest nature reserve, the ruins of Samharam are part of the Land of Frankincense UNESCO World Heritage Site. The port played an important part in trade over 2000 years ago. Overlooking Khawr Ruri, the history of the settlement and port is showcased at the on-site museum. The Queen of Sheba is said to have once had a palace at Samharam.
Camping – Jebel Samhan
Dhofar’s highest mountain is also home to Oman’s Leopard Sanctuary, for which special permission to visit is required. However, visitors can explore a host of attractions ranging from the Tawi Ateer Sinkhole to the round houses of the indigenous Jebbali tribe, before setting up camp on the peak’s plateau – just before the sanctuary’s entrance.
Khawr Ruri Dhofar’s largest nature reserve - is home to a huge varietyfish, birds and plants. This nature reserve contains UNESCO World Heritage site - Samharam port. For bird watching enthusiasts, there is the opportunity to see a large number of migratory and local birds, including Pink Flamingos.
Teeq Cave & Tawi Ateer Sinkhole
En route to the top of Jebel Samhan, Tawi Ateer is one of the world’s largest sinkholes. It is filled with shrubs and plants, turning it into a haven for birds which earned it the nickname “Bird Well”. From the entrance of the nearby Teeq Cave visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the sinkhole and its waterfalls from the cave’s entrance.
Jebel Samhan Nature Reserve
A special permission is required to visit the Jebel Samham Nature Reserve, which is home to some of the last wild Arabian Leopards and other rare species such as the Arabian Wolf and Striped Hyena. The road leading to the reserve, however, is rewarding on its own right, passing large baobab trees and traditional Jeballi settlements to Jebel Samham’s breath-taking escarpment.
Ubar (Lost City)
This fabled lost city, also known as the Atlantis of the Sands, is tucked away in the Rub Al Khali (Empty Quarter) and rumoured to have been found near the oasis of Shisr. Ubar once played a vital role as frankincense trade hub and was mentioned in “A Thousand and One Nights” -a collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories and folk tales.
Wadi Dawkah Reserve
Wadi Dawkah is the natural habitat for the Boswellia sacra - or Frankincense tree - which can be seen populating an area of some five square kilometres. As part of the Land of Frankincense UNESCO World Heritage Site, there are specially designated viewing areas for visitors.