Famed for the riches of its frankincense groves, coconut-fringed beaches and spectacular ancient landscapes, Salalah, on the southern coast of Dhofar offers the perfect summer escape for those looking to retreat from the heat of the UAE. Thanks to their celebrated Khareef season, a colloquial Arabic term used to describe a unique weather pattern in Oman, that occurs every year between June and September, the coastal fringe of Dhofar experiences a run-in with the Indian Ocean monsoon season, causing rain to blanket the region, transforming the coastal plains and mountains into an emerald green, tropical paradise.
Lush greenery and cooler climes await
Throughout these months, the clouds disperse and turn the mountains of Salalah into something reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands. The region comes alive with wildlife, including gazelle, hyena, flamingo and the unique and scarce Arabian leopard. Salalah is also 15 degrees cooler than the UAE at any given time, making it the ideal spot to beat the heat and the scorching sunlight - combined with the close proximity to the rest of the GCC, Salalah is an ideal summer escape.
A quick hop, skip and a jump from Salalah’s brand new airport is the Rotana Salalah, a huge resort covering roughly 100 acres of beach and all the necessary know-how when it comes to Khareef. Arriving late from Dubai, we didn’t get the full effect of the resort until we woke the following morning. An elaborate network of manmade Venetian waterways that connect the property to the Indian Ocean are combined with souk-style low-rise blocks that house the 400 rooms and suites. The heart of the hotel features high ceilings and a central, internally-lit handmade red clay dome, complementing the wooden finishing and decorative Mashrabiya latticework windows, whilst in-room furnishings have been carved from desert rock complimented by Arabesque geometric designs and stone archways, constructed using traditional techniques. The rooms are spacious and all come with private terraces, en-suite bathrooms and generous living areas.
A classic room at the Rotana Salalah
With four restaurants on offer - Saffron, The Beach Restaurant, Silk Road and the Arabesque Lounge, the resort offers the perfect mélange of dining options from casual beachside cuisine and all-day-dining to fine dining. Silk Road offers a heady combination of Mediterranean, Japanese, Asian, and Indian crafted to capture the essence of Eastern Cooking meeting Western Cuisine. The Black Cod and Peking Duck dishes were memorable standouts.
Those looking to keep well on holiday can do so at the Bodylines Fitness & Wellness Club, take a dip in the swimming pool or relax and rejuvenate at Zen the spa at Rotana. The spa, a home-grown spa concept derived from ancient holistic Asian philosophies, features eight treatment rooms that blend natural Omani elements with rituals including full body massages, facials and soothing wraps. The massage, complete with soothing Frankincense oils, was wonderfully relaxing, and the ginger honey tea that follows is a must.
For those wanting to take in more of the beautiful surroundings in Salalah, a visit to Wadi Darbat is a must. In this enchanting area you can either picnic beside or kayak across a beautiful lake surrounded by waterfalls and mountains with exceptionally beautiful greenery. Alternatively, you can follow the winding roads to Taqah, a striking coastal town with historic forts situated next to a natural park that is completely covered with lush green vegetation. Taqah Castle, the areas most famous landmark, is full of history, whilst the nearby beaches are perfect for watching the huge waves roll in.
Golden sunsets in Salalah
Culture vultures can marvel at the nature and history of the Botanical Garden and Museum of Frankincense, as well as visit Al Baleed Archaeological Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, whilst those looking for a bit more excited can visit Muguael. Home to Salalah’s famous blowholes, it’s the perfect spot to watch the stormy waves underneath the mountains.
Savour your memories and one last snack by picking up a Fateera, a pancake filled with cream cheese and honey, or Salalah’s signature Spiced Mango, the perfect treat for the ride home.
Prices during Khareef season start from Dhs700, www.rotana.com/salalahrotanaresort
To arrange a tour, visit www.firsttours.net or visit their office at Salalah Rotana to find out more. Prices start from Dhs450.