With the peaks of mountains obscured by a light fog, lush green vegetation as far as the eye can see and a mild temperature in the mid-20s, you could easily forget that you were in Oman.
Yet this is the scene currently playing out 1,040km south of Muscat in the capital of Dhofar. For three months every year, Salalah turns into a verdant oasis thanks to the meteorological phenomenon known as Khareef.
Rain-bearing fogs set in between the months of June and September, replenishing the area’s water supplies and transforming the surrounding landscape in the process. The seas are also whipped up into a stormy frenzy, with white surf crashing along the rocky coastline, making for a dramatic scene.
During Khareef, temperatures rarely rise above 27 degrees Celsius, providing a much-needed respite to the 40-degree-plus heat experienced in many places around Oman and the GCC as a whole.
The rains were slow to come this year, with the first drizzle arriving 15 days into the official season, which runs from June 21 to September 21, but now that they have arrived, footfall in the region is rising. According to the National Centre for Statistics and Information, 29,025 people visited Salalah between June 21 and July 13 this year, compared to 27,586 visitors in the same period last year, representing 5.2 per cent growth. The majority of visitors are from Oman, but Khareef is also a big attraction for tourists from around the GCC and even internationally.
The Salalah Tourism Festival also kicked off last week, with programmes to highlight traditional handicrafts, meals and costumes, as well as exhibitions in cultural arts. It’s considered to be one of the major festivals in the region, set to coincide with Khareef, and will run until the end of August.
Thanks to Y readers Jerrin, Kumar, Tehmina Salman and Ufuk Guneysu for sending in their images. Credit for the main photo: Ministry of Tourism Oman