An exclave of Northern Oman has emerged as a major tourist hub offering a plethora of serene as well as thrilling experiences By: Dr Fatima Taneem Aftab
Nestled amidst the blue waters of the Sea of Oman and the Arabian Gulf with its rocky headland jutting into the Strait of Hormuz, the Musandam Peninsula is a labyrinth of impressive fjords (khors), steep mountain cliffs and picturesque small villages on the mountain tops and along the fjords. Hence, this region is aptly sobriqueted as the ‘Norway of Arabia’. In recent years, Musandam, an exclave of Northern Oman, separated from the rest of the country by a strip of the United Arab Emirates has emerged as a major tourist hub offering a plethora of serene as well as thrilling experiences.
Khasab Castle is famous for its museum which displays handicrafts and other archeological collections.
The Musandam Peninsula’s remarkable topography of the towering Al Hajar Mountains, dotted with fossils and petroglyphs, blending below with crystal-clear waters of the Gulf yield spectacular views and alluring attractions making the peninsula a perfect destination for nature-lovers, adventure-enthusiasts, history-buffs and geologists alike. Unspoilt beaches, breathtaking sceneries, ancient forts and a host of recreational activities like cruising, diving, snorkelling, parasailing, kite surfing and deep water soloing make the place a paradise for all kinds of travellers.
Musandam’s topography of the towering Al Hajar makes it a top tourist destination
The main tourist towns of the governorate are Khasab, Bukha and Dibba, each offering a myriad of attractions. Khasab, the capital of Musandam, is well-connected by land, sea and air routes, and serves as a perfect base for tourists who like boat cruises. Fjord Khor-as-Sham or Kumzar town can be cruised from here. Khasab is also the place to start your mountain safari up to the mighty Jabel Hareem. The Khasab Castle and Bukha Fort are other popular tourist spots here. The Khasab Castle is famous for its museum that displays handicrafts and other archeological collections. The Bukha Fort, also known as Bukha Castle, lies in the quiet fishing village of the same name. It has a, more or less, square ground plan with one round corner tower, two rectangular corner towers and one central rectangular tower. It was restored in 1990.
The eastern port town of Dibba is renowned for its clean beaches and unique White Sea caves. Adventure and thrill-seekers enjoy hiking and trekking in the Ru’us-al-Jabal mountain of Musandam with camping at Jebel Hareem, it’s highest peak. The four-wheel drive across the mountains and through the wadis is an exhilarating experience for one and all. Also a drive to the fjord, Khor an Najd, is a must to feast upon one of the most stunning and classic vista of Musandam which is often used for its tourist campaigns. The sightseeing places of ancient settlements, pre-historic tombs, Jabel Hareem’s fossils and petroglyphs are crowd pullers along with the unique traditional storage building ‘Bait al Qufl’, prevalent in almost all the mountain villages.
The Strait of Hormuz is the only sea passage from the Arabian Gulf to the open ocean. It is one of the world’s most strategically important choke points.
The most famous in Musandam are the ‘Dhow Cruises’ along the Strait of Hormuz and along its largest fjord, Khor ash-Sham. These traditional boat rides are a treat for all unfolding breathtaking sparkling coastline with rocky islands, pretty small fishing villages and distinctive rock formations coupled with rich and varied marine life, including the Humpback Dolphins, groupers, varied coral growth. The highlights of these boat trips are birdwatching, dolphin watching, along with stops at rocky islands like Mother Bird Island, Telegraph Island and Seebi Islands.
Another crowd-puller is the ride to the isolated yet popular town of Kumzar, the northern most village of Oman, housing the eccentric Al-Kumzari tribe whose unique dialect is a mix of 25 different languages. Although access to Kumzar is restricted, the fascinating village layout and the magnificent marine scenery along the Strait of Hormuz is truly captivating.