Is Salalah worth it? Five days during the Khareef 2021

Coming from the north corner of Oman, not far from the start of the empty quarter, I spent the whole time I was in Salalah wondering if I could move there and if so, would it be possible to grow raspberries? I was pleasantly surprised by the overall friendliness of the people in Salalah as a solo female traveler with two dogs. Here is everything I observed. You can find out more about the cost of my eight day trip along the coast here.

The khareef in Salalah is definitely a weather event, much like snowstorm or a typhoon. There’s a foggy mist that covers the city and when you climb into the Dhofar mountains, there’s often a light drizzle and a fog so thick that visibility is so reduced you almost crawl through the scenery. Even Arab drivers go pretty slow in the Dofar mountains. Visiting in September, the weather was cool enough that the humidity was almost pleasant compared to Muscat, Sur or Nizwa. My five days in Salalah was the most pleasant and refreshing I have felt, weather-wise, since coming to Oman.

There’s not that much to do in Salalah other than drive around, enjoy the scenery and picnic, and that’s sort of the point. There’s numerous view points, wadis, sinkholes, and cliffs but there’s also the fog obscuring these views. Giving yourself a good few days to wait for the fog to clear is prudent for a visit to Salalah.

One common activity that you will see all over the Dhofar region is hatchback picnics happening in green fields, even in the most drizzly wet weather. I would often drive on the highway past acres of green land flanking the mountains with 15-20 cars and suvs of all different makes and models, families spilled out and sitting on blankets and mats and in little camping chairs with a spread set before them, admiring the greenery and the cool air. In the areas near on and off-ramps to the highway, makeshift tents and food trucks are set up with gas-fed pebble barbecues where men grill whole chickens and camel meat for motorists to collect before driving off into field somewhere. When you come to Dhofar, come hungry.

Guidebooks always give travelers to Oman a sort of FOMO by stating that the best time to visit Salalah is during the khareef. I both agree and disagree with this sentiment, there are plenty of tourists who visit the region in the winter as evidenced by this article in the Muscat Daily. I think the khareef season in Salalah is best enjoyed by folks who live in the desert full time. If you’re visiting from Germany or the Pacific Northwest, the sight of an expansive green pasture with families picnicking under constant precipitation might seem strange. But for desert dwellers, this is special. In fact, people come from the UAE, Dubai, and all over the Middle East to admire the greenery and experience cooler temperatures during the khareef. Housing prices in Dhofar and rental practices reflect this.

Personally, I loved visiting Salalah during the khareef with my two rescue dogs. I stayed so long my herbs died in my kitchen, which was not part of the plan. I know a few expats who have lived in Oman for over five years and have never been to Salalah and I sincerely think they’re missing out.

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