The Dhofar is the largest of the eleven Governorates in the Sultanate of Oman in terms of area. It lies in Southern Oman, on the eastern border with Yemen. It is a rather mountainous area that covers 99,300 km2 (38,300 sq mi) and has a population of 250,000 as of the 2010 census. The largest city, as well as capital of the Governorate, is Salalah. Historically the region was the chief source of frankincense in the world.
While Arabic speakers from the dominant Omani culture have come to live in the province, especially the larger cities and towns, Dhofar has been the traditional homeland of many tribespeople speaking a variety of South Arabian Semitic languages. One of the languages most commonly spoken by the Al-Hakli (Qara), Al-Shahri, Al-Barami, Al-Mashaiki and Al-Bat’hari mountain tribes is Jeballi (Shehri). The Yemeni language Mehri is somewhat linked to Jeballi. Other indigenous groups speaking smaller languages such as Bat’hari live in the coastal towns of Shuwaymiya and Sharbithat. The Harasis, speaking Harsusi, number 1,000–2,000 and live in Jiddat al-Harasis.
Dhofar’s area geographically consists of coastal, mountainous, flat, and desert areas. Generally the people of Dhofar can be identified as either Jeballi (living in the mountains, or from the mountains), Badawi (living in the desert, or from the desert), or Hadhari (living in the cities or settlements).
During the Khareef (Monsoon) the mountains around Salalah are rainsoaked and shrouded in fog Archaeologists excavating a Middle Stone Age complex in the Dhofar Mountains. Dhofar has a subtropical climate. Dhofar and a small portion of the northern tip of Yemen are directly exposed to the South East monsoon from mid-June to mid-September; this is known as the Khareef. As a result, it has a lush green climate during the monsoon season and for some time after until the vegetation loses its moisture. Dhofar’s temporarily wet climate contrasts sharply with the neighboring barren Empty Quarter Desert. The Salalah plain was once a well cultivated area with a sophisticated irrigation system.
At Aybut Al Auwal (‘‘First Aybut’’) in Wadi Aybut (west-central Nejd) a site was discovered in 2011 containing more than 100 surface scatters of stone tools belonging to a regionally-specific lithic industry, the late Nubian Complex, known previously only from Northeast Africa. Two optically stimulated luminescence age estimates place the Arabian Nubian Complex at 106,000 years old. This provides evidence for a distinct Middle Stone Age technocomplex in southern Arabia around the earlier part of the Marine Isotope Stage 5.
Prior to Omani rule, a portion of Dhofar was partially part of the Kathiri Sultanate and later mostly controlled by tribes of Al-Hakli (Qara), thus given the name Qara Mountain Range. It is thought that the Al-Shahri were the original inhabitants of Dhofar.
Dhofar was a major exporter of frankincense in ancient times, with some of it being traded as far as China. During World War I it was fertile enough to produce food and grain to supply a large proportion of the requirement of the British Army fighting in Mesopotamia.
A counter-insurgency campaign—the Dhofar Rebellion—was fought here by the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces in 1965–1975 against guerrilla fighters of the Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Oman and the Persian Gulf (PFLOAG), supported by Communist South Yemen after that territory’s independence and several other socialist states, including East Germany. It aimed to depose the Sultan. The Sultan’s forces, assisted by the United Kingdom, Iran, and support from loaned officers and doctors from Pakistan and India, prevailed, and once the campaign was declared over in December 1975, the active remainder of PFLOAG forces surrendered.
In Mormon culture, scholars have identified the coasts Dhofar as the most likely location of the Book of Mormon land of Bountiful, from which the nomadic family of Lehi sailed in a ship constructed by his son Nephi, to the New World.
Culture and landmarks
Critically endangered Arabian humpback whales off Dhofar, the most isolated population in the world. Dhofar has a tribal community, and is home to many ancient tribes. The Arab tribes include, Hashimi, Al-Yafei, Al-Mashaikhi, Al-Shahri, Al-Mahri, Al-Bat’hari, and Al-Barami. It also houses many expatriates. Still, Dhofar is not a rural region but, in fact, has a combination of cultures. It is a mixture of traditional Omani heritage and an international way of living.
The city of Salalah acts as the regions capital. It has an International Airport, one of the largest seaports in the Middle East, several resorts including Marriott and Crowne Plaza, well-kept streets, international retail chain outlets, more than five 3D cinemas under construction, a university, colleges and schools (both English and Arabic medium). But the main attraction of the region is the natural beauty that has been preserved despite its industries. Dhofar has been praised for its scenic beauty from time immemorial. The Dhofar region is rich in meteorites. The Burj-al-Nadha Clock-tower is a popular landmark and is featured in the Dhofar Municipality coat of arms.
Dhofar Governorate consists of ten provinces (wilayat), with Al-Mazyona being the newest after it was declared to become detached from Rakhyut named in honor of Qaboos bin Said’s mother Maizoon bint Ahmed.
The following are the ten provinces of Dhofar:
- Al-Mazyona (المزيونة)
- Dhalkut (ضلكوت)
- Mirbat (مرباط)
- Muqshin (مقشن)
- Rakhyut (رخيوت)
- Sadah (سدح)
- Salalah (صلالة), the capital of Dhofa Governorate.
- Shalim and the Hallaniyat Islands (شليم وجزر الحلانيات)
- Taqah (طاقة)
- Thumrait (ثمريت)