Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 24 October 2020

Oman’s Khareef Festival in Salalah cancelled for first time in 34 years

The monsoon celebration pulls in more than 100,000 Emiratis every year

The monsoon, called khareef, continues from July to September, transforms the mountains of Salalah into a stunning, lush green landscape. Reuters
The monsoon, called khareef, continues from July to September, transforms the mountains of Salalah into a stunning, lush green landscape. Reuters

Oman’s Khareef Festival in Salalah has been cancelled for first time in 34 years because of the coronavirus outbreak, its organisers said on Monday.

The festival, which pulls in over 100,000 Emiratis and about 300,000 visitors from other GCC states will not take place this summer between June and August as the country's battle to stem the pandemic continues, Salalah Municipality said.

The popular festival attracts famous Arab singers like Lebanese Nancy Ajram, who performed there last year. It is a major tourism event in Oman. Other entertainment includes concerts, folklore dancing, exhibitions, live performances, shopping arcades and traditional markets.

Tourists generate an income of about 50 million rials (Dh492m) during the summer festival in the Omani southern resort city of Salalah known for its large population of camels and its greenery.

Local businesspeople say that the cancellation would take away much needed income from them.

“I make up to 120,000 rials (Dh1.15m) during the Khareef from my three restaurants. That is a lot of money to miss,” Abdulla Baomar, 63, a local restaurateur, said.

A bus operator who shuttles tourists from one attraction to another, said he would struggle to pay for the monthly installments of his four buses.

“I pay about 2,200 rials a month in installments for my three buses, which I bought them just before the last year’s festival. I made twice that amount a month in the 2019 festival. This time, no income at all,” Mohammed Bahajjaj, 48, a Salalah-based businessman, said.

But the Khareef also attracts visitors for Salalah’s cooler weather in the summer months when other Gulf countries see temperatures of up to 50 degrees Celsius. Not just from the regional countries, but thousands of domestic tourists as well, mainly from the capital Muscat.

“It is scorching hot in Muscat in the summer. Salalah is a quick one-week getaway for me and my family with lots of entertainment, too. Khareef is a budget holiday. It is cheaper than flying to Europe during the hot summer,” Hassan Al Tobi, 37, a civil servant based in Muscat, said.

The sub-tropical Salalah has mild weather during the summer where the average temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius, compared to the rest of Oman when the temperature can soar as high as 50 degrees Celsius.

Emiratis make up about 10 per cent of the Salalah Khareef visitors, mainly due to the close proximity and the traditional ties between the two countries. The popular festival has attracted an average of one million visitors a year in the last 5 years, according to the ministry of tourism statistics.

Oman on Monday reported 69 new Covid-19 cases taking the total of infected people to 2,637 and 12 deaths.

Updated: May 4, 2020 03:39 PM

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