The Musandam peninsula is an Enclave of Oman surrounded by the United Arab Emirates, making this an ideal destination to combine with Dubai or even Abu Dhabi. The governorate has dry rugged coastlines, resembling the coasts of Norway. However, they have nothing to do with glacier carvings. Here the coast was shaped by the moving Arabian plates which slowly pushes under the Eurasian plate. This means the Musandam Peninsula is sinking, only showing the tops of the highest mountains above water and the sea filling up the ever-deepening valleys.
Khasab is the key regional city of the governorate and will likely be where you will stay during your time in Musandam. The town itself has not much to offer apart from the Khasab fort.
However, there something else to explore. Khasab has a very interesting trading position, due to its proximity to Iran. Officially Saudi Arabia and Iran do not trade (much) goods. However:
- Iranians export sheep and goats into Khasab’s port, from where the animals are dispatched to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in trucks.
- On their return trip, the sailors load their boats up with electronic goods and American cigarettes.
- The sailors arrive Khasab after sunrise and leave before sunset to conform to Omani immigration laws.
You can witness some of this action in the local port. Unfortunately, we went during the weekend, also included an Islamic holiday. This meant we did not see much of the action that usually would be there. Check with your hotel what on the best time to visit.
The Musandam “Fjords”
But obviously, the key attraction of Musandam is exploring the fjords. We booking a tour with one of the many traditional dhow boats. We did not come across any tour-operator companies in sleepy Khasab. Hence, it is likely easiest to arrange this via your accommodation or pre-book online. Or if you are staying in the UAE book a package tour including transport.
Top Tip: You can also drive yourself to Khasab. It is a very nice and scenic route. However, in case you drive a rental car, do make sure that your rental agency can provide you with the necessary paperwork. (Not all rental companies allow cross-border drives).
The Dhow offers great views of the submerged valleys and we were lucky to come across various pods of dolphins. Dhow boats proved ideal to interact with dolphins, as you sit really close to the water level. Making the close-up Dolphins even more exciting! (See the dolphins next to the boat below).
Itinerary & Telegraph Island
All tour operators (if there are even different ones) have similar itineraries. You will be served water, tea, fruits, and dates. Given it is all (very) similar, try to negotiate your price a bit down!…
You will also surely visit Telegraph Island. A small island which was the location of a British army repeater station to boost telegraphic messages along the Persian Gulf. You can imagine it must have been quite uncomfortable being posted here, in the hot summer and with hostile tribes around you. You can walk around the island and go snorkelling. There are a few nice fish, but nothing too exciting, likely due to the many visitors to this site. You will see most fish when one of the boats will start “feeding” them bananas or bread.
If you booked a half-day tour you will slowly head back to Khasab after visiting Telegraph Island. When booking a full day tour you will have lunch, and sail a bit longer before heading back.
As you will agree, Musandam is great for a weekend get-away from the United Arab Emirates. Another option to explore the spectacular nature is to book a 4×4 tour driving into the mountains.
Excited about versatile Oman? What about Camels roaming in misty meadows… or our wild-camping road trip through Oman. Do also check my Ghost around the Globe post about Al Ain, this lesser-known UAE date palm oasis amidst the rough desert mountains.