• THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO SALALAH & DHOFAR

    A camels head against a blue sky background in Salalah, Oman
  • THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO SALALAH & DHOFAR

    A camels head against a blue sky background in Salalah, Oman

THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO SALALAH & DHOFAR

The classic landscape associated with Oman, Arabia or the Middle East in general, is that of dry, dusty lands and deserts. But Dhofar, and the area surrounding Salalah in particular, paints an entirely different picture. Thanks to an annual monsoon known as the khareef, the region has developed a unique ecosystem unlike anywhere else on the Arabian Peninsula. From June to September, winds, rain and fog turn the land green and the air cool. Tourists flock to Salalah from all over Oman and its neighbouring countries, keen to escape the sweltering summer heat and witness this remarkable phenomenon for themselves. But it’s not just a destination to visit during the khareef. It’s a special spot year-round, with many of the best places to visit in Salalah more accessible outside of monsoon season. 

Whenever you plan to visit read on to discover the best of Salalah and Dhofar. This guide has everything you need to know about getting there, getting around and where to stay, including spectacular camping spots and accommodation options for every budget.

Read through the guide or jump to a particular section by clicking the links below

Check out the map below for all the places mentioned in this guide to Salalah and Dhofar. You can switch between satelline and terrain view too.

WHAT TO SEE & DO IN SALALAH AND DHOFAR

First things first, a trip to Salalah rarely means visiting just Salalah itself. Almost everywhere you’ll want to visit is outside of the city. From pristine beaches to dramatic inland waterfalls, there’s an amazing variety of things to see and do.

IN SALALAH

Salalah City Beach

As far as city beaches go, this is a pretty impressive example. Pure white sand that stretches along the coast for miles. Towering palm trees giving off a distinctive air of the exotic. Dishevelled shacks and low-rise buildings keeping the vibe laidback and genuine. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were in Zanzibar. It’s a great spot for a day-time picnic, or an evening stroll when the beach comes alive with locals fishing, exercising or just watching the sun go down.

Tall green palm trees on the white sand of Salalah City beach with a blue sky background

A long stretch of white sand bordered by impressively tall palm trees gives Salalah City Beach an exotic feel


A bicycle and fisherman on Salalah Beach at sunrise

This fisherman and his friend were fishing all night; they pedalled off with their catch an hour after sunrise


Tall green palm trees on the white sand of Salalah City beach with a blue sky background

A stretch of white sand bordered by impressively
tall palm trees gives the beach an exotic feel


A bicycle and fisherman on Salalah Beach at sunrise

This fisherman and his friend were
fishing all night
; they pedalled off
with their catch an hour after sunrise


WEST OF SALALAH

Fazayah Beaches

Around 70km west of Salalah lie the stunning string of beaches at Fazayah. Tucked in under a towering hillside, the beaches only come into view as you descend the winding road to the coast. Take your pick between wide sweeping stretches of white sand, or intimate coves exposed at low tide. And don’t be surprised if you end up with a few camels for company, they roam this coast freely throughout the day.

Golden sand and turquoise water at Fazayah Beaches in Oman, a distinctive low sea stack poking from the water

One of the most picturesque beaches at Fazayah, complete with a dramatic rock formation and backed by spectacular cliffs


Golden sand and turquoise water at Fazayah Beaches in Oman, a distinctive low sea stack poking from the water

One of the most picturesque beaches at Fazayah


Al Mughsayl Beach & Blowholes

Closer to Salalah, and much more popular, is Al Mughsayl beach. It’s an attractive enough spot, with picnic gazebos lining the beach, but it’s not a patch on Fazayah!  At the western end of the beach you can walk around the flat rocky area known as Marneef Cave. It isn’t actually a cave, rather a large overhanging rock. Here you’ll find three grated blowholes that are at their most impressive during the khareef. They are known to spurt water up to 30 metres in the air, accompanied by a hauntingly eerie soundtrack that will have you wondering if there’s a dragon lurking below. Outside of the monsoon, the calm conditions make the blowholes far less impressive.

  • Hazy sunshine on Mugsayl Beach near Salalah with mountains in the background
  • Hazy sunshine on Mugsayl Beach near Salalah with mountains in the background

A bright and hazy day on Al Mughsayl Beach

Mountain Roads & Coastal Villages

It’s possible to continue past Fazayah all the way to the small town of Dalkut, around 130 km from Salalah and near the border with Yemen. On the way you can explore coastal villages like Rakhyut, test your driving skills on steep switchback roads, and check out the hidden beach near Sha’at. Just be sure to have your passport and insurance details with you as there’s an army checkpoint on the road.

A winding road cut into the dusty mountainside west of Salalah

The winding mountain roads to the west of Salalah


A winding road cut into the dusty mountainside west of Salalah

The winding roads to the west of Salalah,
cut into the steep mountainside


Ayn Khor Falls

If you’re visiting Salalah during the khareef, or soon after, the Ayn Khor falls should be flowing. There’s an attractive turquoise pool at the bottom, and lush greenery tumbling down the rock face either side of the falls.

CHECK OUT SALALAH & DHOFAR IN OUR ROAD TRIP VIDEO

NORTH OF SALALAH

Wadi Uyun

This picturesque wadi, around 60km north of Salalah, is a great place to hike, swim or camp. The cliffs here are impressive, rising high above the wadi floor, but an easy 15 minute hike will get you to the bottom. To the right (north) of the car park, head over the small ravine then follow the path along the cliffs and down to the pools. Some are lined with grasses and sedges, others clearer and better for swimming in. It’s a picturesque spot, and one you’re likely to have all to yourself.
Note – not to be confused with Wadi Ayun or similar (check our map for the location)

An emerald green pool below dry orange cliffs at Wadi Uyun north of Salalah

Looking down on the sparkling pools of Wadi Uyun from the cliffs above


An emerald green pool below dry orange cliffs at Wadi Uyun north of Salalah

Looking down on the sparkling pools
of Wadi Uyun from the cliffs above


Wadi Dawkah Frankincense Tree Park

Dhofar has long been praised for producing the finest frankincense in the world. The unique climate and semi-dry land creates the perfect environment for Boswellia trees, the prized resin producers, to grow. Frankincense plays such an important role in Dhofar’s history that The Land of Frankincense is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the four parts of the site is Wadi Dawkah, around 50km north of Salalah. You can visit part of the huge Boswellia Tree forest, getting up close to inspect the bark and maybe even spot some frankincense resin.

A frankincense tree at a plantation north of Salalah

Frankincense trees north of Salalah


A frankincense tree at a plantation north of Salalah

Frankincense trees north of Salalah


EAST OF SALALAH

Wadi Darbat & The Travertine Curtain

Wadi Darbat is a highlight of any trip to Salalah, remaining green throughout the year. At the upper reaches of the wadi you’ll find a river, the banks of which are lined with trees and, more often than not, grazing camels. There’s even a huge 1000 year old tree, towering above all the others.

The impressive thousand year old tree


A huge 1000 year with early morning sunlight streaming through the leaves at Wadi Darbat near Salalah

The impressive thousand year old tree

Further downriver there are a number of small waterfalls and pools, a beautiful spot to relax with a picnic or go for a wander. If the conditions are right, these small falls lead to one big waterfall, rushing over the edge of the travertine curtain. What’s that when it’s at home?! Well, it’s a 150 metre high wall of limestone that’s been eroded by carbon-dioxide rich water to create a bizarre pitted effect. In layman’s terms it looks like a giant melted chocolate ice cream, which has hardened mid-dribble and had random chunks carved out of it. It’s quite incredible. You can get a top-down view over the falls by following the river a short distance from the road – be very careful as there are no barriers and sheer drops.

A person stands looking at the aquamarine rock pools of Wadi Darbat

Above the waterfall at Wadi Darbat, admiring the many pools and rock formations


A person stands looking at the aquamarine rock pools of Wadi Darbat

Above the waterfall at Wadi Darbat, admiring
the many pools and rock formations


To get the best views of the travertine curtain though, it needs to be admired from the bottom. From here you’ll also get a magical view of the waterfall and the various pools below it. There’s a short trail leading from the car park. Follow this, scrambling up a few rocky sections, until you have a clear view of the waterfall in all its glory.

Note that the amount of water can vary greatly from season to season, and even year to year. The area at the bottom of the curtain could be totally flooded, or practically dry. It’s best not to swim anywhere in the wadi as there have been reports of bilharzia, a nasty parasite that you definitely don’t want.

The waterfall at Wadi Darbat spilling down over the pockmarked rock face that is the travertine curtain

The view from below, waterfall spilling over the Travertine Curtain


The waterfall at Wadi Darbat spilling down over the pockmarked rock face that is the travertine curtain

The view from below, rushing waterfall
spilling over the Travertine Curtain


Tawi Atair Sinkhole

Not far from Wadi Darbat lies one of the biggest sinkholes in the world, measuring 150m wide by 211m deep. It’s a relatively popular stop on tourist itineraries, but most merely wander down to the viewing platform at the edge, glance around, and return to their Landcruiser. Don’t make this mistake! The view from the top is very limited, and I guarantee you’ll leave feeling wholly underwhelmed. 

To really experience the sinkhole in all its magical glory, take the rough path down to the right of the viewing platform and just keep going. You’ll climb deeper and deeper into the heart of the sinkhole, all the way to a rusty old platform 130 metres down. From here you can truly appreciate the scale of your surroundings, and hear why it’s known locally as ‘The Well of the Birds’. The symphony of birdsong is quite incredible.

A person looks out at the yawning chasm of the Tawi Atair sinkhole from a ledge halfway down

Stopping about halfway down Tawi Atair sinkhole to take it all in


A person looks out at the yawning chasm of the Tawi Atair sinkhole from a ledge halfway down

Stopping about halfway down
Tawi Atair sinkhole to take it all in


Khor Rori & Ancient Sumhuram

The water from Wadi Darbat eventually makes its way to the sea via the picturesque lagoon of Khor Rori. It’s a favourite spot for flamingos between autumn and spring, and camels at any time. There’s a strip of beach separating the lagoon and the ocean, with small cliffs rising on either side. Nearby is the archaeological site of Sumhuram, an ancient city dating from the 3rd Century BC. It is said to have been home to the famed Queen of Sheba, and this area comprises part of the UNESCO recognised Land of Frankincense. It’s a nice spot, worth visiting if you’re in the area.

  • A camel standing in front of a strip of golden sand where Khor Rori meets the sea
  • A camel standing in front of a strip of golden sand where Khor Rori meets the sea

Camels like to hang out at Khor Rori

Mirbat

Once the capital of Dhofar and a busy port trading in frankincense, Mirbat is now a sleepy fishing village. It’s an interesting place to wander, admire the old Omani houses, and appreciate the traditional dhow boats. A little outside the village, Mirbat has some attractive white sand beaches too. They’re ideal for a picnic, and if you’re feeling the heat, a refreshing swim.

  • White sand, blue sky and turquoise water at Mirbat Beach north of Salalah
  • White sand, blue sky and turquoise water at Mirbat Beach north of Salalah

A beautiful beach outside of Mirbat

Ayn Athum Falls

Another of Salalah’s waterfalls that appear only after heavy rainfall, Ayn Athum is worth a visit if you’re here during or just after the khareef. A string of falls flow side by side over a curiously formed limestone wall, surrounded by maidenhair ferns, creepers and all manner of greenery. The aquamarine pool below completes the idyllic scene.

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GREATER DHOFAR

Wadi Suneik

Around 200km east of Salalah lies an absolute gem of an oasis. Tucked between dramatic cliffs and surrounded by lush palms, the aquamarine water of Wadi Suneik snakes its way languidly to the ocean. It’s a remote spot, far from the standard Salalah tourist trail, but easy to access from the main coastal road heading north. It’s the perfect place to camp, relax and swim.

An aerial view over the green water of Wadi Suneik, mountains towering in the background

The inland view back over Wadi Suneik towards the mountains and the road


An aerial view over the green water of Wadi Suneik, mountains towering in the background

The inland view back over Wadi Suneik
towards the mountains and the road


For the best views you’ll need to swim across the pool to the rocks on the far side. Climb to the top (nothing strenuous) and you’ll be rewarded with an ocean vista, complete with white sand beach separating the wadi water and the sea. You can carry on walking over the rocky ground towards the beach, swimming the last section to reach the sand and sea. There are a number of birds nesting in the grasses lining the pool, so be considerate and stick to the obvious entry point to avoid disturbing them.

Coastal & Canyon Viewpoints

If you’ve made it as far as Wadi Suneik, you might as well carry on a little further north to the spectacular canyon and coastal viewpoints. Leaving the wadi, the road carves its way through the mountains. It’s an impressive drive, leading to an amazing canyon viewpoint before the vista opens up before you: an endless expanse of pale land and turquoise sea. Check our map for the exact coordinates.

  • The long pale dry coast north of Salalah
  • The long pale dry coast north of Salalah

The coastline stretching northward

Rub al Khali Desert (The Empty Quarter)

While Wahiba Sands may be the most famous desert in Oman, Rub al Khali is the greatest. The Empty Quarter stretches across parts of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Dhofar Governorate in Oman, covering a staggering 650,000 square kilometres. Its towering orange dunes lie in stark contrast to the verdant mountains and coast surrounding Salalah. If you’re looking for adventure, you’ll certainly find it here. It’s an incredible place to wild camp and experience the starry night sky with zero light pollution. Sunrise and sunset over this vast expanse of desert takes magic hour to a whole new level.

Be warned though, this isn’t a trip to undertake lightly. If venturing here independently you’ll need a 4×4 full of supplies, and special equipment to ensure your safety should you get stuck, break down or have an accident. Knowing your way around your car mechanically is vital too. Check our map for suggested camp spots that can be accessed via existing tracks (visible via satellite view and marked on Maps.me). Alternatively, you can visit as part of a day tour, or overnight camping tour with knowledgeable locals. You can check out a few options here.

See More Of Oman

Diving in Oman
Oman Video: walking on the Sugar Dunes
A beautiful coastal scene from our Oman Road Trip Video
Pinks and yellows light the sky at sunrise in the mountains of Musandam. The flat area shows our campsite where the tent and our Toyota Fortuner gleam in the morning light.
The mirror-like blue surface of Khor Najd stretches into the distance, framed by sandy mountains and cliffs

WHEN TO VISIT SALALAH

Unlike the rest of Oman which is best travelled between October and April, Salalah is considered a year-round destination. This is entirely thanks to the annual khareef which keeps max temperatures around a pleasant 27 degrees in the height of summer. As such, July and August are considered peak season for travel in Salalah. Generally speaking, the summer khareef season is popular with domestic or neighbouring country tourists escaping the heat, while the winter months are busier with European tourists seeking the warmth.

Khareef Season

(June to Early September)

Salalah’s landscape is at its most iconic during the monsoon. If you visit between mid-July and early September you’ll witness unique scenes of camels munching on lush vegetation, waterfalls in full flow and low hanging fog rolling over dramatic escarpments. But don’t expect to have these views to yourself! An average of 30,000 visitors flock to Salalah during this period, largely from other parts of Oman and the Arabian peninsula. That’s a heck of a lot of people, all following a similar itinerary of must-see places. The Salalah Tourism Festival is held between mid-July and late August, with social and cultural events taking place at the Al Murooj Amphitheatre and other locations across the city. 

A camel chewing on some branches

This camel is still dreaming about the vast quantities of vegetation it ate during the khareef


A camel chewing on some branches

This camel is still dreaming about the vast
quantities of vegetation it ate during the khareef


Inland sights like Wadi Darbat, Ayn Khor and Ayn Athum are all great to experience during the khareef, just don’t forget your bug spray! Coastal spots on the other hand, are pretty much off limits.The region is subject to such strong winds and wild seas that beaches can only be enjoyed safely from a distance. If you’re dreaming of picture perfect beaches of white sand and blue seas, don’t visit Salalah during the khareef. 

Near constant drizzle, fog and wind makes camping around Salalah far less enjoyable during this time too. Hotels are a better bet, but the prices are considerably higher than usual given the peak season demand.

Post-Khareef

(Mid-September to Early October)

Visiting just after the monsoon season can be a good time as the crowds are fewer, but there’s still plenty of greenery around and the waterfalls are likely still flowing.

October to May

With generally calm weather, clear skies, and pleasant temperatures, October to February is a great time to visit Salalah if you want to go hiking, camping or explore its beautiful beaches. There’s no guarantee the wadis will have water in them, so don’t expect to see flowing waterfalls or beautiful blue pools, although the closer you visit to the end of the khareef season, the better chance you have. Likewise, the lush green hillsides will start fading, but places like Wadi Darbat are usually fairly green all year-round.

It can get cool at night between December and February, especially so in the mountains, and this is considered the driest time of year. March to May sees temperatures and humidity rising, with some spring showers and increased wind. 

Fazayah Beach near Salalah at sunrise with soft golden tones

Clear skies, calm weather and sunny mornings on the coast in December


Fazayah Beach near Salalah at sunrise with soft golden tones

Clear skies, calm weather and sunny
mornings on the coast in December


There is a higher chance of cyclones developing in the Arabian Sea pre and post monsoon, from May to June and October to November. These have had catastrophic impacts on Salalah in recent years and any tropical storm warnings should be heeded with extreme caution.


HOW TO GET AROUND SALALAH

There are no public transport options for visiting all the best bits that Salalah and Dhofar have to offer. The local bus only really services the area between Salalah Port and the airport, via the city centre. Therefore, you either need to hire a vehicle or join a tour to get the most out of your trip.

Vehicle Hire

You can reach many of the best places to visit in Salalah with a 2WD. However, if you want to explore the mountain roads to the west, head into the Rub al Khali, or have the freedom to go off-road (in what is a very off-roadable country) then a 4WD is necessary. You can arrange to pick up and drop off a vehicle at Salalah airport, or in Muscat if you plan on making the long drive south. 

We always use Holiday Autos to hire our vehicle and have done so twice in Oman. They offer the best prices from a variety of companies. They’re also very transparent when it comes to exactly what is and isn’t included. Additionally, they usually include free cancellation up to 24-48 hours before pick-up too.

Be sure to check in advance if you need any special documents, for example an international driving permit. Also, check to see if your travel insurance policy can cover rental car excess – it may work out cheaper than taking out extra cover through the car hire company directly. World Nomads and True Traveller  both have options to include this.

You can get a quote and book your vehicle hire below.


Tours

If you can’t or don’t want to drive yourself, a tour is the next best option. This could be a private or group tour and there are loads to choose from. They cover west, north and east of Salalah, including Wadi Darbat, The Empty Quarter, Fazayah Beaches and Tawi Atair Sinkhole. Browse through the options here with Viator, and here with Get Your Guide.


WHERE TO STAY IN SALALAH

BEST SALALAH ACCOMMODATION

Salalah has a range of accommodation options, from budget oriented hotels and apartments to luxury resorts. Prices are always higher during the peak khareef season. Budget options can be found in the city centre, with resorts generally spread along the coast to the east and west.

Budget Salalah Accommodation

A few centrally located budget options to check out are Grand Flora Hotel, Argaan Salalah Furnished Apartments, Star Emirates Down Town, and Star House.

Mid-Range Salalah Accommodation

Luxury Salalah Accommodation

A number of luxury resorts can be found along the coast near Salalah, most with a private beach to enjoy. Some great options include the Crowne Plaza Resort Salalah, Salalah Rotana Resort, Souly Ecolodge Salalah, and Al Baleed Resort Salalah by Anantara.

Find Your Perfect Salalah Accommodation

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BEST SALALAH CAMPING

As with everywhere in Oman, there are amazing camping opportunities to be had in the Salalah area and greater Dhofar. We spent around a week camping in the region, enjoying some of our favourite camp spots in the whole country at Fazayah Beach and Wadi Suneik. Camping is best outside the monsoon season, when it’s too wet, windy and buggy. Dhofar has a wide variety of landscapes, from deserts and wadis to beaches and mountains. Some recommended spots to camp include Fazayah Beach, Wadi Darbat, Wadi Uyun, Rub al Khali, Khor Ruri and Wadi Suneik. We’ve marked a bunch of possible camp spots on our map at the top of this post.

A tent pitched on Fazayah Beach near Salalah

The perfect camping conditions on the beaches at Fazayah


A tent pitched on Fazayah Beach near Salalah

Perfect camping conditions on Fazayah Beach


For more info on camping in Oman in general, including what you need, how to find camp spots, and how to camp responsibly and safely, check out our full guide here.

HOW TO GET TO SALALAH

Salalah is in the far south of Oman, over 1000 kilometres from Muscat. There are three main options for getting there – flight, bus, or self-drive.

Flights To Salalah

You can fly direct to Salalah from Muscat. There are also a few international flights from places such as Dubai, Kozhikode (near Kochi in India), Doha and Sharjah. Some airlines add seasonal direct flights during the peak khareef season, including Etihad from Abu Dhabi and Gulf Air from Bahrain. European airlines Neos (from Milan, Verona and Rome) and Smartwings (from Prague, Bratislava, Katowice and Warsaw) operate seasonal direct flights during winter.


Public Bus To Salalah

You can travel by public bus to Salalah from Muscat and Dubai, as well as Nizwa. The journey takes between 10-12 hours from Muscat, and 16 hours from Dubai. The two main companies are Gulf Transport Company (operating the Dubai and Muscat routes) and Mwasalat (operating in Oman only). There are plenty of stops for praying, eating and toilets along the way.

Mwasalat

Mwasalat runs three buses a day between Muscat and Salalah via Nizwa, and more during the peak khareef season. Check the standard timetable here. Fares are OR7.5/12 one way/return.

Gulf Transport Company

Gulf Transport Company operates around 8 buses a day between Muscat and Salalah. They run between 7am and 8pm with a break in the afternoon. Times seem to change regularly so it’s best to buy your tickets at least 1 day in advance, in cash. Lonely Planet lists these departure times from Salalah, and a timetable photo added to Google Maps has these departure times listed. From Muscat to Salalah a timetable photo added to Google Maps shows these departure times. Check our map at the top of this guide for the bus station locations in Salalah and Muscat. Fares are OR7/13 one way/return.

Gulf Transport Company operates one bus a day between Dubai and Salalah in each direction. From Dubai the bus departs Dubai Deira at 3pm, arriving in Salalah at 7am the following morning. From Salalah, the bus also departs at 3pm, arriving in Dubai at 7am the following morning. Fares are OR10/18 one way/return. 

Self-Drive To Salalah

If you’re up for an Oman road trip, Salalah is well connected to the rest of the country by an excellent infrastructure. The most direct route linking Dhofar with the north of the country goes through the middle, via Haima. It’s over 1000km and about 10 hours straight driving. The more scenic route traverses the coast, taking much longer with multiple detour options. If you’re planning a round-trip from Muscat, you could make a loop travelling south via one road and north via the other. 

Notable places to visit if you’re planning a trip along the coast include Masirah Island, the Sugar Dunes at Al Khaluf, Wahiba Sands and Ras al Hadd. If you’re looking for a decent place to break the journey on the central road, there’s good camping opportunities at the wadi near Muqshin, in the very north-east corner of Dhofar Governorate (see map for exact location).

Palm trees reflected in the still water of the wadi at Muqshin north of Salalah

Still morning reflections at the Wadi in Muqshin


Palm trees reflected in the still water of the wadi at Muqshin north of Salalah

Morning reflections at the Wadi in Muqshin


If you’re driving from the UAE, you’ll probably find the border crossing at Al Ain/Mezyad the most convenient. Follow the main road towards Nizwa before heading south through the middle of Oman. Make sure you have the correct travel and insurance documents. And if you’re in a hire car, check that cross-border travel is allowed.


Oman Visa

Be sure to check your visa requirements in advance. As far as we are aware, GCC citizens can travel to Oman visa-free. Citizens of 71 other countries can apply for an e-visa in advance, usually for a stay of either 10 or 30 days. A multi-entry 1 year visa is also possible. Check your eligibility and apply for your e-visa here.

THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO SALALAH & DHOFAR

We hope you’ve found this guide to Salalah and Dhofar useful. It’s a fascinating region in a country just waiting to be explored. If you have any questions at all, get in touch via the comments below.
Happy travels!

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Everything you need to know about Salalah & Dhofar, Oman\'s unique governorate in the far south of the country. Famous throughout the Arabian Peninsula for its lush vegetation, waterfalls & fog covered mountains, Salalah is the perfect summer getaway thanks to its khareef, or monsoon season. But with warm winters, spectacular white sand beaches & numerous wadis and sinkholes to explore, it\'s one of the best places to visit in Oman any time. Incl. a video & map #Oman
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