The incense-scented Salalah, the second largest city in Oman, is located in the very south of the country and attracts visitors with its tranquil atmosphere, fantastic diving grounds and dreamlike beaches. Once a year, the monsoon transforms its surroundings into a blooming paradise.
Salalah, the capital of the southernmost district of Dhofar, is located in the very south on the coast of Oman at the foot of the Dhofar Mountains and is the ideal city to relax with all modern amenities. Salalah is the ideal base from which to explore southern Oman. After Muscat, Salalah is the second largest city in Oman and the birthplace of Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
Salalah, which became rich in the 13th century through the frankincense trade, has always been the capital of the Dhofar Sultanate and from 1932 to 1970 even the capital of Oman. Only the new Sultan Qaboos moved the capital to Muscat and now only visits Salalah every few years.
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Journey to Salalah
Getting to Salalah can be done by boat, car, bus or plane (for example from Muscat or the United Arab Emirates).
The fastest (approx. 1 hour flight time) and most comfortable journey is by plane from Muscat. By bus, it is recommended to travel to Salalah at night. Due to the sweltering heat, the 12-hour journey from Muscat to Salalah can be quite exhausting. Besides, the view of the illuminated Salalah at night is absolutely unforgettable!
If you are driving yourself, it is better to do the route during the day, as driving at night is not entirely safe due to road works and the odd camel on the road.
Salalah and the Khareef
From July to September, an offshoot of the monsoon, the so-called "Khareef", descends on Salalah. When it is usually over 40°C on the entire Arabian Peninsula, it is foggy and humid on a strip about 50km wide in the very south of Oman. In August to the end of September, the surroundings of Salalah are transformed into a Garden of Eden interspersed with blossoms.
Every year from mid-July to the end of August, the popular Khareef Festival (also known as the Salalah Tourism Festival ) is held in Salalah. Especially on weekends, it's a hive of activity and hotels have to be booked well in advance.
Beach holidaymakers, diving enthusiasts and culture lovers are equally welcome in tranquil Salalah. Coconut palms, banana trees and the sheer endless sandy beach of Salalah convey a paradisiacal holiday flair. This has earned Salalah beach a place on our list of 10 most beautiful beaches in Oman.
Off the coast, spectacular coral reefs and fascinating shipwrecks await divers. There is also a relatively high chance that Salalah beach will be haunted by dolphins. Tropical fruits such as bananas, mangoes and papayas are sold straight from the tree and taste incomparably fresh and juicy.
Khor al-Baleed Archaeological Site
At the ancient port in the Khor al-Baleed to the east of Salalah, mainly frankincense was handled for many centuries. Due to exports from Asia, however, the frankincense trade is of little importance today. The remains of a medieval settlement can still be found on the headland of al-Baleed. The associated archaeological park was created from the excavations commissioned by UNESCO in 1995.
In the neighbouring Incense Museum, not only the history of the precious incense is presented, but also the religious and historical-political past of Oman. Another ancient incense port is Sumhuram in Khor Rori, but it lies about 40km outside the city to the east.
The al-Haffah district is located west of Khor al-Baleed. Here, some traditional limestone houses are still preserved, as they were built hundreds of years ago. The modernised souq, which smells of incense on every corner, is also an inviting place to stroll.
Incense burners demonstrate their art of making this fragrant treasure on site and conjure up the best traditional incense blends. The so-called "bokhur" are often sold in inconspicuous old jars or cosmetic tins.
Al-Hisn Sultan's Palace
Behind the souq are the Sultan's Palace and the royal administration buildings. The Al-Hisn Sultan's Palace serves as the summer residence of the reigning Sultan Qaboos. Unfortunately, the spectacular seat of power is not accessible to tourists. Only when the Sultan is present, the gates of the high palace walls may be open and allow a glimpse into the estate.
Behind the Sultan's Palace, Al-Nahdah Street leads north to a roundabout. To the right is the Ministry of National Heritage and Culture, which also houses the Salalah Museum. Here, the explorations of the British explorer Wilfred Thesiger, who travelled among other places in the Rub al-Khali, are presented.
You can also admire exhibits of Dhofar culture here. Among them are historical writings, ancient coins, silver jewellery, incense burners, wickerwork and some stone tablets with ancient South Arabian characters that were found in the ancient city of Sumhuram.
To the west of Salalah after the Sultan's Palace is the Khor Salalah lagoon, which has been declared a bird sanctuary. The estuary is shielded from the population by a wire mesh fence and provides a safe habitat for herons, seagulls, ducks, cormorants and some pelicans.
Port of Salalah
The modern container port of Mina Raysut in the west of Salalah is also worth seeing. It has developed into the centre of Omani industry and is one of the largest employers in the entire province of Dhofar. The port of Salalah is an important hub for trade between Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The deep-water port, which has existed since 1998, is also visited by container ships and cruise liners.
Sultan Qaboos Mosque
The Sultan Qaboos Mosque was inaugurated in 2009. It towers prominently over the city centre of Salalah. Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not allowed to enter, but its magnificent façade alone is worth seeing!
Tomb of the Prophet Nabi Amran
The 30-metre-long Prophet's Tomb of Nabi Amran, on the other hand, is also accessible to non-Muslims. However, as in a mosque, shoes must be removed and women must cover their heads.
Excursions from Salalah
About 20 kilometres west of the city along As-Sultan-Qaboos-Street No.47 is the paradisiacal sandy beach of Mughsayl, which is also one of our 10 most beautiful beaches in Oman. The kilometre-long coastline invites you to picnic and there is also a restaurant.
From the car park of the restaurant, a staircase leads up to a rock in which the surf has created so-called blow-holes over the millennia. The sea water shoots up to several metres through these holes in the rock, especially during strong surf during the summer kharif.
Mausoleum of Nabi Ayup (Job)
The mausoleum of Nabi Ayup, who is also known as Job, is located just under 20 kilometres north of Salalah. The way to the mausoleum leads through a fascinating landscape. Job is mentioned in both the Bible and the Koran. His final resting place may be entered by all visitors, regardless of denomination.
Whether the legendary saint is actually buried here, however, is anyone's guess. If there were solid evidence, the wonderful plateau with its fabulous view would certainly have become an important pilgrimage site by now.