When I say southern Oman, I’m referring to the governorate of Dhofar which borders on the Arabian Sea, Yemen and Saudi Arabia to the east, south and west respectively. This region includes the country’s second largest city, Salalah, which has a more tropical climate than the north, complete with coconut palms and a summer monsoon season known as the ‘Khareef’.
Salalah draws thousands of summer visitors from other Gulf countries who enjoy picnics surrounded by lush green (shades of which I’ve never seen before!) mountain landscapes and waterfalls, along with cool temperatures and misty, overcast skies. I lived and worked in Salalah for two years and must admit this region’s weather, white-sand beaches and unique variety of plants and animals, more akin to East Africa than the north of the country, made it my favorite.
This southern region is separated from northern Oman by 500 kilometers of barren, mostly flat and featureless sand desert. Making the torturous 10-hour drive across this moonscape between Salalah and Muscat multiple times alone (which surely places me high on the list of potential candidates for a mission to Mars!), gave me plenty of time to ponder both the geographical and cultural differences that spring from such isolation.
Teaching in Salalah presented a different set of challenges from the north since I had almost equal numbers of students from northern Oman, the city of Salalah and the mountainous areas just outside the city where a unique group of people known as the Jabali live. This latter group has their own unique culture and spoken language but no written form.
Both inside and outside the classroom, these three groups remained mostly in their own little cliques which made interaction within the classroom difficult. In addition, most of my classes in the north had consisted of a larger percentage of females, while in the south I had predominantly male classes since it wasn’t deemed proper for girls from the north to study so far away from their northern families.
Khareef arrives in Dhofar
A vast expanse of nothingness
Jinn and other local folklore
The Great Outdoors, Dhofari Style
Al Mughsayl Beach
One last photo of this area’s amazing natural phenomena