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Looking for breath-taking views? Visit Oman.

By Dr. Hussein Shehadeh The Dhofar province located in the south of Oman thrives on its fishing industries, agricultural activities, traditional crafts and tourist initiatives. The region is subdivided into nine wilayats, provinces, with the wilayat of Salalah being the administrative capital.

Every year, the summer monsoon sweeps west across the Indian Ocean from the subcontinent of India. As the heavy Monsoon thunderstorms race across thousands of kilometres between the Dhofari and Malabar coasts, they diffuse into a misty, wet breeze. This transforms the coastline into a refreshing landscape of growing life. This season has aptly been called the 'khareef', meaning 'winds of plenty'. The Khareef season is the trigger for tourists and others from different regions to flock to Salalah. During this time flights are booked to capacity, tour agencies thrive, hotels are overflowing and some people even choose to drive down, while others prefer pitching their tents at the foothills of the Jebels, at the Atteen plains.

Salalah and its surrounding areas are dotted with a perfusion of historical and natural places of interest. Ayn Homran is one of the finest tourist attractions here. To enjoy its lush of beauty, drive west towards Taqah. The drive itself is invigorating, filled with delightful views of fruit orchards and farms. AynHomran's mountain springs and wood parks are definitely worth a visit. You can camp by the stream and spread out a picnic! Near Ayn Homran is Ayn Razat in the Jebel Qara Mountains. Its beautiful springs are home to scores of lotuses. Its springs nourish Salalah's farms and fruit orchards. Towering over this paradise location is a limestone hillock. Here there is a large cave-like formation called Khader Mifrar.

Taqah was once a bustling, wealthy port. Samhuran is a legendary trading centre of the ancient times, and has remains dating back to 3000 BC. You can still see inscriptions in the walls and columns of the citadel. The main export was frankincense. In fact, a drawing of a Pharaoh ship, docked at Samhuran is still on display in a temple at Luxor, in the Valley of the Kings. The Queen of Sheba also sent a boat laden with frankincense from Samhuran to King Salomon.

Once you have had your fill of the past, you can enjoy the pristine white beaches, the springs sprouting fresh water and the caves of modern day Taqah.

Job's Tomb. Drive up a steep mountain covered with mist. When you reach one of the summits of the Jebel Atteen range, you will find this shrine. Known to Muslims as 'NabiAyoub', this is a revered place, open to all. The view, the valley below and the splash of colours from the flowers carpeting surrounding hills, all of this makes it a memorable journey.

WadiDarbat. As a visitor to Salalah, you cannot miss out on its Eastern Coast. Take the coastal road with its stunning sea view, as you journey into WadiDarbat. Waterfalls, cascades, lush landscapes, they are all here. The famous KhawrRori is now a natural reserve, the refreshment point for a huge spectrum of migratory birds. TawiAttir, the world's largest sink-hole is also a tourist must-see.

The Wilayat of Mirbat is a town, which has the dual attraction of nature and history. Mirbat Fort was built in the 19th century in traditional Omani defensive style of architecture. The ancient tombs of Imams can also be found here. The seafront with its bluish-green waters, the caves and springs are other attractions here.

WilayatRakhyut lies about 150 km from Salalah, in the South-East corner of Dhofar. It was an ancient seaport on the sea routes to East Africa and India. Pearl diving is still carried out here.

The Wilayat of Thumrayt is conveniently located at a juncture where all the main roads link Dhofar to the rest of Oman. Shisr in Thumrayt is supposed to have housed the lost city of Ubar, mentioned in the Arabian Nights.

Mughsayl is situated 45 km from Salalah and is famous for its blowholes. These are caused by a natural phenomenon ' the constant hitting of angry waves against the limestone coast. KhawrMughsyl, a nature reserve located near the blowholes also draws tourists.

A fruitful visit indeed Papayas, bananas, guavas, oranges, custard apples, avocados and coconuts; Salalah abounds with a choice selection of fruits and vegetables. Most of the fruit farms are located at Al Dahariz.

During the Khareef festival tourists are welcomed to specially created stalls. With their thatched roofs and coconut palm decorations, these present an enchanting sight. For locals, this is a flourishing industry, with their produce covering the country and beyond. For the tourists, here is an opportunity for them to relish their favourite fruits, at refreshing process, as the rates fall drastically during this season of plenty.

On the Frankincense trail Take some rich mountain soil, add to it some cold breeze and throw in some sunlight. And what you have is the perfect environment for the BosweliaSacre to thrive in. Come summer and the sap of this gnarled tree is harvested. The export of this gum enriched and brought fame to the Dhofar region, creating trade routes that circled half the globe.

Historically, frankincense was a highly valued trade commodity. The Pharaohs of Egypt, Emperor Nero, the palaces of Babylon and Lebanon, these were amongst the many admirers of its heady aroma. Salalah, Dhofar's major frankincense market has retained its reputation for the best frankincense for centuries, and today tourists still flock there, like the traders of old. In Oman, the use of frankincense is widespread. Not only is it used for its fragrant qualities, but also for its therapeutic properties. It has a calming effect on the nervous system, while the resin itself has a number of medicinal uses, like curing indigestion and toothaches.

Burning for fragrance One of the most popular crafts in Dhofar is the making of the majmars, the incense burners of Oman. These are a pretty sight, decorated in hues of yellow, green and blue, in interesting designs. The ideal way to release the fragrance of frankincense is to place a globule of resin on a piece of glowing charcoal in the burner. These burners are a recognisable symbol of Oman, and have been used artistically as figures in traffic roundabouts.

In the summer of 2007 a magnificent pillar was erected in the fortress of Oman's cultural and historical heritage in Dhofar. Salalah enjoyed the opening of the 'Museum of the Frankincense Land'. This cultural establishment is supervised and cared for with meticulous and tireless attention by Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed Al Rowas ' advisor to The Sultan for Cultural Affairs.

Al-Rowas believes that: The Museum of Frankincense Land offers panoramic access to the history of Oman and its different regions over the ages. Based on international standards and criteria, the Land of Frankincense Sites in the Governorat of Dhofar was inscribed by UNESCO on the World Heritage List as the homeland of the frankincense tree and the origin of its export. Thus it became an added value to Oman's archaeological treasures: - Bhala Fort in the interior region was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1987.

- The Archaeological Sites of Bat, Al Khatum and Al Ayn in the A'Dhahira were inscribed in 1988.

- The Land of Frankincense Sites I Dhofar: Al Baleed, KhorRori/Sumhuram, Sishr/Wubar and WadiDawkah (where the Frankincense trees grow). They were inscribed in 20000 under the name of 'The Frankincense Trail', and were re- inscribed in 2005 under the name of 'The Land of Frankincense'.

Five Omani aflajs were inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2006: -Falaj Al Jeela in Suur.

-FalajDaris in Nizwa.

-Falaj Al Muyassar in Al Rustaq.

-FalajKhatmeen in Nizwa.

-Falaj Al malaki in Izki.

The Sultan's advisor adds: 'The Museum of the Frankincense Land presents a brief history of Oman in two sections: The first exhibits history and archaeological findings throughout ages. The second contains models of Omani boats and shows the association of the Omani people to the sea'. And he proudly concludes: 'The museum provides visitors and scholars alike with an outline of Oman's long history. This was not scientifically possible before the accession of Qaboos bin Said to the throne in 1970 and the inauguration of Oman's modern Renaissance through consistent and comprehensive development in all fields'. Oman has adopted the cultural approach of tolerance, peace, peaceful coexistence between countries and exchange of interests among nations'.

Salalah's distinctive charm lies not only in its invigourating monsoon ambiance, but also in the diversity of its historical, cultural, geographic and tourist attractions.

A visit to this unique sub-tropical getaway affords the opportunity of a holiday that combines discovery, adventure, entertainment and relaxation of the entire family.

Nature has decorated Dhofar with lush greenery, tumbling waterfalls, misty mountains and swaying coconut palms. Imagine a land in the Arabian Peninsula in the peak of summer where clouds float from one green peak to another in midst of fog and rain.

-Alarabonline- .

IA

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Publication:Al-Arab (London, United Kingdom)
Geographic Code:7OMAN
Date:Jun 13, 2013
Words:1502
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