Heading west out of Salalah, the main road is dual carriageway to the edge of the city and the vast Raysut Industrial Area and Salalah Port, one of the largest in the country, whose mass of towering gantries rises away to your left. Thereafter the road reverts to single carriageway, running across the rocky coastal plain beneath the mountains. The sea itself remains out of sight until a few kilometres before Mughsail when road and water finally come together, offering superlative views down the coast, with a long white-sand beach backed by the dramatic limestone mass of the Jebel al Qamar plunging sheer into the sea – reminiscent of the fjords of Musandam, at the opposite end of the country.
The tiny village of MUGHSAIL (also spelled Mughsayl) itself is little more than a clump of houses on the hillside above the road. Turn left opposite the Al Maha petrol station down the road signed Al Marneef Cave and continue 1km to get to Mughsail’s blowholes, reached by a path beyond the parking lot and the Mocca Cafe (a good place for a drink). The blowholes comprise three small holes in the rock through which jets of seawater shoot into the air. They’re particularly impressive during the khareef, when they spout plumes of water up to 30m high, regularly drenching unwary hordes of screeching tourists. Outside the monsoon they are less memorable, and during the driest parts of the year they cease to blow altogether, although the subterranean groaning of wind and water, eerily amplified by the blowholes themselves, is still strangely impressive. Al Marneef Cave itself is not actually a cave, but a kind of open-sided rock shelter at the base of the weathered limestone outcrop which towers up to the rear of the blowholes. The overhanging rocks here provide a convenient source of shade and shelter, and the “cave” is usually thronged with picnicking local day-trippers.