Situated at the extreme south of the country is Dhofar, a region dramatically different from the rest of Oman, or for that matter anywhere in the Gulf, mainly because it benefits from the annual Indian Ocean monsoon, locally known as Khareef. With the abundance of water, the landscape features lush greenery, cascades, streams and an ethereal misty ambience. The coast blends with the mountains and the desert in wonderful harmony so that the mountains look like a fertile crescent, rising to a height of 1500 meters and then descending into a flat plain that embraces sandy beaches stretching for hundreds of kilometers. Dhofar covers a third of the country and has a varied terrain. The high dunes of Al Rub Al Khali (The Empty Quarter) desert are found here as well as unexplored caves and numerous sinkholes in the steep mountain vales.
Dhofar's capital, the beautiful city of Salalah, is Oman's second largest city and its busiest cruise port. Facing south over the Arabian Sea, it boasts pristine white beaches to accompany its enviable climate. Its vibrant culture reflects its historical association with Zanzibar, a one-time colony of Oman. The frankincense produced here is regarded as the finest in the World. Salalah was historically the center of the frankincense trade and its souq is packed with merchants selling incense, perfumes and traditional artifacts. The Land of Frankincense Museum in Salalah is the best place to trace Oman's prosperous path through history. This fascinating space hosts a range of interactive exhibits which take visitors on a journey through more than 10,000 years of human history. Beautiful hotels, colorful souqs, a must-see museum for any visitor, and stunning natural backdrop make Salalah one of the country's favorite cities for travelers.
Another UNESCO World Heritage site is at Shisr - The Lost City of Ubar. This remarkable relic was discovered in 1992 with the aid of a NASA satellite, having been buried under shifting sands for 1000 years. It is thought to be the famed 'Atlantis of the Sands', a trading hub on the caravan routes of antiquity, and a place of unparalleled opulence that thrived as a center for trading local fragrances with exotic goods from the East. Its ruin came suddenly when the limestone over which it was built collapsed, the desert sands quickly covering it. It quite literally disappeared off the map.
Nearby Mirbat is a picturesque seaside town, complete with its own majestic castle, a captivating souq, and the ruins of an old town dating back many hundreds of years. Visitors will also enjoy the opportunity to see local fishermen bringing in the day's catch down by the water's edge, and are then able to purchase the freshly caught seafood at the souq shortly afterwards. An absolute delight.
Taqah is another Dhofari town with a rich history, having been a major shipping port for both frankincense and myrrh. Both of these fragrances are harvested from locally grown species of trees and at one point were worth more than their weight in gold. This led to a prosperous local economy, with the town's impressive Taqah Castle museum revealing tales of its glorious past in a collection of fascinating exhibits. Taqah is a favorite destination for Omanis as it represents the birthplace of their beloved Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.
East of Taqah, visitors will discover the remains of the ancient port of Sumhuram. Located at Khor Rawri, Sumhuram is one of four sites on the UNECSO "Land of the Frankincense Trade" World Heritage List. Here, an impressive collection of ruins, reputed to be that of the palace of the Queen of Sheba, is still the focus for archaeological teams who seek to unearth more about this once thriving ancient city. Sumhuram has commanding views over the waters of Khor Rawri and across to the ocean, a key consideration in the town's planning which allowed for the monitoring of shipping and also ensured its safety from marauders.
Another UNESCO listed site is Al Balid Archaeological Park, with ruins dating back well into pre-Islamic times. Like Sumhuram, it was also a trading port for frankincense. However, it was also a major port for the shipping of Arabian horses. References to Al Balid and its splendor date back millennia, including notable mentions by Marco Polo around 2000 years ago.
Al Mughsayl is located about an hour by road west of Salalah. On a strikingly beautiful section of the Omani coast, the sea crashes against the cliff faces and rushes up through a small opening to create an impressive blowhole. Al Mughsayl enjoys a breathtaking vista west towards Ras Sajir, where the beautiful charcoal mountains terminate in precipitous white faces which plunge into the turquoise sea. A visit to Dhofar will provide many of the highlights of an Oman holiday with its offer of stunning scenery, incredible history, and various unique elements of Omani culture.
Prophet Job Tomb
The tomb known within the region as that of Prophet Job, Nabi Ayoub (pbuh), has a magnificent location set high in the mountains overlooking the sea and coastal plain around Salalah. The drive from Salalah is full of interest as it passes close to Ain Jarziz, the water spring, and then rises steeply upwards with valleys appearing to the right and left. Picnic places allow families to enjoy the atmosphere and enjoy the views around.
Prophet Imran Tomb
Just south of Salalah Airport is the extremely long tomb believed to be that of Prophet Imran (pbuh), set within a small garden with ornamental plants. Close to this location is the site of Prophet Saleh's (pbuh) camel's footprint and beyond that is a charming drive through coconut plantations.
Wadi Dawkah - another UNESCO World Heritage site - is a protected stretch of over 1000 frankincense trees situated about 40 km north of Salalah. The precious sap from these trees brought the country great wealth through the ages, and forged connections with other nations as the fragrance was traded as far away as Europe and China.