Khareef Festival: a birdís-eye view
Dubbed as the family meeting place, the festival offers cultural, art, sport, heritage, contest and shopping activities.
Salalah, about 1,040 kms from Muscat, is well connected to the rest of the country by good tarmac road. The Oman National Transport Company operates two daily coach services between Muscat and Salalah.
The return ticket is priced at RO 13. The drive can be covered in 10-12 hours with several guesthouses at Nizwa, Haima, Al Ghabah, Al Ghaftain and Qatbit.
(note from ed: this information was current in 2001, but not necessarily now)
Spread along the coast the Salalah mountain plantations produce a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Salalah is a major tourist spot for people from the GCC countries.
Besides the enchanting scenic beauty, the festival offers modern entertainment facilities for families and people of all age groups. Baladiya Entertainment Centre in Eteen plain is the main area for most festival activities. Equipped with modern facilities, the centre has a modern theatre, heritage village, Child Village and spacious grounds for exhibitions.
That explains why the number of visitors to the festival has been increasing every year.
About one million visits were recorded to the Baladiya Entertainment Centre during the Salalah Khareef Festival-2000.
The souqs of Salalah offer an experience to cherish.
On sale are fresh fruits and vegetables along with frankincense and incense burners, gold and silverware, and traditional Dhofari dress of velvet with glittering beads and sequins.
Salalah has three main souqs, namely the Al Haffa Souq, the Gold Souq, and the New Souq. The Al Haffa Souq in the main corniche area sells fruits, vegetables, incense burners and frankincense.
The small shops of gold and silver souq are near the Nahda-Salam roundabout in the city centre, on small side road. The New Souq is known for fresh seasonal seafood, such as lobsters, abalone and prawns, which is best bought early in the morning. The Hamdan Complex in Al Wadi district offers modern shopping experience in Salalah.
Since the Dhofar region has potential for year round tourism attraction, the National Priority Action Plan for Tourism Development in Oman has suggested the establishment of a consolidated tourist facility area along the beachfront to the east of Salalah.
This star resort facility of about 300 rooms can be very fruitful if it is integrated with the Al Baleed archaeological site where a museum, culture auditorium and traditional village shopping will be provided, says the PAP. Around 137,234 people enjoyed the festival last year against 113,920, showing an increase of 23,314 tourists.
The Khareef Festival is becoming increasingly popular among Gulf nationals, expatriates and foreign tourists. Over the years, it has grown into an international festival, thanks to the long-standing efforts of the authorities to expand the existing tourism infrastructure in Salalah.
Offering an ideal place for families to enjoy their summer holidays, the Salalah Khareef Festival (15 July-31 August) is expected to attract a record number of visitors this year.
The increasing popularity of the Salalah Khareef Festival can be traced to the region's richness in natural assets and cultural heritage.
Indeed, Salalah provides an attractive and safe destination for tourists. Authorities here are committed to the well-planned development of tourism.
Within the GCC region, Salalah is emerging as a distinct, highly attractive quality tourist destination that showcases Dhofar's natural assets, culture and heritage and offers a highly competitive tourism experience.
There is much to see in Salalah because it has an array of historical and archaeological sites, protected areas, coastal scenery, scenic lagoons and a wealth of wild life, including the red fox, flamingo, ibis, coots, herons, egrets and valuable marine creatures such as lobster, sardine and abalone. Agriculture thrives here with bananas, papaya and sugar cane.
The mystique of caves of Dhofar is slowly but surely giving rise to cave tourism. To sum it up, Salalah has something to offer to people of all tastes, age groups and walks of life.
Oman Observer 17th July 2001