A Frankenstein-esque transformation takes place right in the heart of the arid desert landscape of Oman every year. Every year, for three months, a very special weather phenomenon transforms the barren landform into a spectacular rainforest which leaves onlookers puzzled and perplexed. Barren slopes are turned into emerald green hills, temperature drops to a cool 20 degrees Celsius and lakes and waterfalls burst out in a place where water is a scarce resource.
“Salalah Khareef” or “Salalah Monsoon” is the time of the year when monsoon blankets Salalah in cloud, mist and rain. The phenomenon transforms the land overnight into a picturesque emerald green sanctuary from the end of July to the beginning of September, and sees average temperatures drop from a scorching 50 degrees to a cool 20 degrees.
About 155 miles of Omani desert land is affected by this unique phenomenon while the surrounding areas remain untouched. At its deepest, the oasis extends to about 18 miles from the shore. On the grassy hills of Salalah, live the Jibbali people – who have resided there for hundreds of years.
‘The forested slopes of the escarpment are a true global wonder — for nine months of the year, they are mostly barren and leafless, but during the monsoon, they turn into a rich, green, sub-tropical forest, dense with vegetation and dripping with moisture,” said Andrew Anderson, a landscape architect at the Oman Botanic Garden.
‘This is scientifically a cloud forest – but it is the only area in the world where this rich, wet cloud forest transforms to and from a dry, arid environment. “Perhaps most famously, this is also home of one of the world’s most significant plants – the revered Frankincense tree,” he added.
Oman does not have any permanent lakes or running rivers, but during the monsoon season, waterfalls can be found flowing over the cliffs. To the east of Salalah, at Wadi Darbat, a series of large lakes occur, fed by the rain and moisture.
After three months, the land warms up again and turns back into its parched state again. Oman has one of the hottest climates in the world, and hence the transformation of the landscape during the monsoon season is truly a natural wonder.