It’s Khareef in Salalah, the best time of the year to experience the majesty of nature, and if you happen to love driving, you are in for a treat with idyllic routes along which you can take in all the sights from sea to mountaintop. Driving through the rainy, windy, foggy Khareef weather makes it an exciting adventure, which should be approached with as much caution as enthusiasm
1. Sadah-Hasik Coastal Road
Drive 130km north of Salalah on the coastal via Mirbat and you will reach the scenic harbour village of Sadah. Beyond Sadah, the coastal landscape is unique, as the town is hemmed in by mountains made of black rock and by a small harbour. Drive towards Hasik on the winding coastal road to experience some of the best mountain curves in Oman, known to driving enthusiasts as the cousin of the famed Australian coastal routes. The strong Khareef wind, haze, and drizzle enhances the stunning ambiance. There are viewpoints with large parking bays where you can stop for photos and for the chance to spot humpback whales breaching in the rough Arabian Sea. Watch for weathered rock formations along the way. If you drive the faster Wusta-way down to Salalah, you can opt to return via this ‘road-less-taken’ at a cost of only three or four additional hours.
Sadah: 17°03’05.1”N 55°04’17.7”E
Hasik: 17°26’52.2”N 55°14’55.2”E
2. Ayn Razat-Wadi Sahalnoot
Climb the winding road beyond Ayn Razat to explore green, wet hills where herds of cows, sheep, and camels graze. Do a round trip drive through Wadi Sahalnoot, passing through Ashinhaib. It’s a scenic drive all the way as the road is covered with trees on both sides and the lush green views are fabulous. The roads are good, but narrow with sharp curves. If you have four-wheel drive vehicle, try going off-road into the woods, where at times it will feel like you are driving through a tropical forest road.
Sahalnoot: 17°08’53.6”N 54°10’41.9”E
Ayn Razat: 17°07’46.9”N 54°14’11.4”E
3. Ittin Hills
One of the most famous and most oft-driven mountain roads in Salalah runs through the Ittin Hills. It will take only ten minutes from the heart of Salalah to reach the luscious green hills filled with mist and drizzle, but the drive itself is an experience. You will see vehicles parked on either sides of the road and families enjoying picnics in the foggy woods. During the evenings, smoke from barbecues blend with the mist. Hidden atop of one of the picturesque hills is Nabi Ayub’s (RA) tomb. Drive beyond the tomb and explore the nature and you can make it a round trip coming back to the roundabout near Raysut Cement Factory after passing many hairpins through some heavy fog on the newly-constructed road. The visibility on this winding road can be below 10% as the area is covered in thick haze and fog, and the going is slow as herds of cows often block the road. For a different sort of experience with better views, try to make this short journey during a clear morning or afternoon.
Nabi Ayub’s (RA) tomb: 17°06’42.8”N, 53°59’37.8”E
Though it is only 160km to Sarfait from Salalah, it will take a full day for a round journey to the border village. Drive west on the Sultan Qaboos Street, have a coffee break in Mughsail, and continue until you reach Sarfait, the last Omani village on the Yemeni border. This road is a real engineering marvel, as it was carved into the cliff face of dramatic mountains and zig-zags up and down 400m within 5km, with many of the hairpins at gradients of 10-12 per cent. There are two military checkpoints on the lonely byway where you will have to show your passport. A detour left from the road will take you to Shaat where the most amazing cliffs in Oman can be found. The sheer drop is about 1km to the sea. During Khareef thick clouds and mist will cover this area, but, if you are lucky, you will still catch a glimpse of the sea through the clouds below. Another 80km drive down the road and you will arrive in the sleepy village of Sarfait. Have lunch and enjoy the raw nature and the amazingly built road on your drive back. Be sure to stop in the beautiful Dalkut harbour village on your return journey.
Sarfait: 16°40’25.1”N 53°06’15.5”E