Every year when the Asian monsoon season brings rain to a grateful India, a little piece of the Arabian Peninsula turns green – not with envy, but with a genuine burst of lush growth of grass, shrubs and trees.
The Khareef, the Arabian monsoon, transforms the desert terrain into a green landscape and sometimes creates seasonal waterfalls. The plain upon which Salalah sits is guarded inland by a low mountain range from which springs can flow down normally dry wadis.
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It is an annual holiday for many visitors from the surrounding desert lands. Historically, the area has been a grazing ground for camels – indeed over-grazing has been a problem. Now, human visitors make a point of coming to enjoy the cool, cloudy and damp weather.
This year, Tropical Cyclone Mekunu preceded the Khareef, bringing severe gales and widespread flooding. This steady monsoon moisture arrived a few days later and intermittent drizzle came with the nearly complete cloud cover. The waterfalls, boosted by the cyclone, have not been seen since 2011.
Mekunu ensured that the annual rainfall would be surpassed before the Khareef drizzle arrived. In fact, five times that amount of rain fell in under three days from this cyclone. However, that gave a head-start to the green growth and this season has turned this part of the Governate of Dhofar into an unbelievably green landscape.
From the first week of July, the temperature has stayed below 30C by day and dropped to about 24C by night under almost continuous overcast cloud conditions. Measurable rainfall has fallen on 22 days of July and every day of August so far.
The Khareef will continue until the Asian monsoon withdraws. Typically that will be during September, following which, Dhofar and Salalah will slowly return to a much drier and browner environment. Until next year.