The lush landscape around Salalah is the intriguing result of a quirk of nature. Since it is uniquely situated in the path of the Khareef, or South Western Monsoon, this stretch of the Dhofar Coast is covered in fine mist and frequent rain from mid-June through mid-September. By the time the monsoons cease, the entire coastline is a verdant stretch. Waterfalls, rolling grasslands, and thickly wooded wadis (riverbeds) thrive alongside rapid mountain streams. Unique in this desert region, Salalah attracts many visitors from the surrounding Arabian Gulf countries who are anxious to experience a rare lushness in a region where rain and greenery are in short supply.
Once a stop on the ancient trading routes that connected the Levant to India and China, Salalah has a rich history that goes back centuries. Traders from Mesopotamia, the Persian Empire, and beyond passed through Salalah in their search for frankincense, making it a major center for trade in the coveted exotic ingredient. Pre-Islamic tombs and grave sites, some believed to be up to 2,000 years old, are scattered all over the nearby mountainsides and the present-day city, which has an estimated 195,000 inhabitants.
This is the summer capital of the Sultan of Oman. Much effort has gone into developing the city and modernizing it to make it attractive and comfortable for tourists. However, Salalah still retains much of its quaint small-town feel. At times, however, the laid-back attitude can prove tedious for those not forewarned, and the easygoing nature of the people leads to rather casual service. The Port of Salalah is approximately 15 km (9 miles) southwest of the city. In ancient times and even today, the strategic location of this port made it a major hub for travelers to India, the Middle East, and East Africa. You can take a metered taxi from the cruise port into town in less than a half-hour; your return trip can be booked over the phone. Taxis are available on the street and can also be called or picked up at major hotels. If you are planning to explore the countryside, you can rent a car. Car rental agencies are at hotels and at the airport, but all have offices in town, and cars can be reserved by phone.