This Is Where My Story Begins


Thankfully my thermarest mat provides some mild padding from the rock floor and shields me from the dried-up goat droppings under me. I can barely move, and even my feet protrude from the entrance, exposed to the elements of the wind and driving rain. Fortunately, I had the hindsight to empty my dry sack and use this as a protective cover bag over my feet and legs. I’ve bivouacked in some obscure places in the past, but not on top of a mountain, squeezed in a small rock cave half the size of my body! I had previously been searching the summit area, moving quickly around, beaming my Petzl head-torch around in the twilight to find some adequate shelter for what I sensed would be a wild night.
My location - Pano Peak (real name - Khawr Habalayn Peak), some 714m above the majestic Musandam fjords. Six hours later, I wake up dreary eyed at dawn and there is dead calm. I wiggle and twist my body out of the lair, into the twilight and stretch my body. This is where my story begins. Let’s rewind 36 hours…… my orange sea touring kayak is loaded on the roof of my blue Toyota 4WD, car packed with a carefully planned equipment list. My expedition list has been weeks of meticulous planning - yes, I need to take this, yes if only I had space, ok - strike it off the list. Gear mitigation experience has been gathered from similar kayak expeditions.
In the furthest reaches of the Sultanate, isolated from the rest of Oman by the arm of the United Arab Emirate’s east coast, arises a land of dramatic beauty. Musandam took shape 1850 million years ago during the Cretaceous and Miocene ages. Here, awe-inspiring mountain faces overlook pristine blue expanses. These mountains, originally from the Zagros Mountain range, separated under earthquake and volconic violence to form the Hajar Mountain range. A starkly beautiful region of fjords, mountain-draped roads and bustling villages, Musandam is a must visit for any visitor to Oman. Nature in Musandam is raw, untouched and pristine and civilization is isolated distant from the world around. The looming mountains which descend into the sea are brown and grey and shaped alike anchored ships.
A perfect setting for a poet to write a few lines, for the ambience leaves one feeling as mere mortals, caught and suspended between the unfathomable depth of the sea and the sky, totally dominated by nature. The Musandam peninsula in the extreme north of Oman offers some of the most breathtaking and spectacular scenery in the country. In the last glacial period, the sea level rose by almost one hundred meters and submerged a large number of wadis, thus creating a landscape of fjords, which earned Musandam the title, ‘Norway of the Gulf’. Musandam in Arabic means anvil. And the name suits it as it reflects the geological changes the Arabian Peninsula has undergone over millions of years including the separation of the tectonic plates between Arabia and Eurasia. The passage of time has not changed the raw natural beauty of Musandam.
Flanked by the Arabian Gulf on the North West and the Gulf of Oman in the East, this land is home to four wilayats, Khasab, Bhuka, Dibba and Mudha. A boat ride across the coast of Khasab is a breathtaking experience, with panoramic views of craggy cliffs, a jagged coastline, and glimpses of little fishing villages nestled among them. Dominating the coast and surrounded by towering mountains, is the Khasab fort. The Shihuh tribe has survived the rigors of the living amidst the bare and solitary mountains of the Musandam. Up to a decade or so Musandam was an isolated region of Oman where communities existed in isolation, and the people spoke only their own typical language and lived contented within them.
They lived in stone huts, nestled like birds nests in the mountains and collected the winter rain in large containers for irrigating the terraced fields where they grew food crops for their sustenance. Pockets of flat land supported meager agriculture. In summer, when the water got depleted, they moved closer to the coast, collected dates in palm groves and fished. Today, some of the villages have been abandoned. In spite of leading a hardy life, the Shihuh’s have followed their traditional ways of life. They still carry long handled wooden hatches on their belts. Since 1970, the village of Khasab has become a modern town of Kamzar, the most distant village in Musandam, in the isthmus and which can be approached by boat and has more inhabitants than Bhukha on the west coast. Today there is an air network connection between Muscat and Khasab.
Where nature goes overboard with abundance. The Musandam coastline is peppered with many small islands and inlets, all teeming with bird and marine life. Seabirds, dolphins, whales and a colourful spectrum of fish species make this a nature lover’s and diver’s paradise. Divers especially, find an underwater haven in these blue waters. Mushroom Rock, a small island that just kisses the surface, has a reef that gently slopes down to the sand floor, making it the perfect dive spot. Another ideal dive spot is Limah Rock, a large island rising from the sea. Divers in these waters are astounded by the variety of reef fish and shoals of larger fish like the batfish and barracuda, which give it an almost aquarium like feel. Corals abound here - large green cabbage coral, red and yellow teddy bear coral, soft purple coral, brown and green table coral, and more.
A land that grows on you. Khasab means ‘fertile’ in arabic, and the cultivation of fruits and vegetables, fishing and animal rearing are the occupations followed by the inhabitants here. Mudha is irrigated by a falaj and natural springs. Some of these have astonishing properties, which put them high on a must-visit list. Al Samaai springs contain sulphurous water, which is said to cure skin disorders. Al Sheikh Mohammed bin Salim al Madhani falaj is cold in summer and warm in winter. To experience these rejeuvenating waters, be sure to make Mudha part of your Musandam itinerary. Ready to pack your bags for the majestic fjords? You can get to Musandam by air, with Oman Air which has three direct flights from Dubai to Khasab, and year-round Muscat- Khasab flights. The airline also has convenient connections from many Gulf cities. Also, check out the attractive pagkages linked to these flights. Citizens of GCC nations and most residents can enter Oman by road or air with valid passports. Citizens of 59 other countries like Australia, New Zealand and Japan can apply for a visa at the border or at Khasab airport.
The Musandam Governorate is a governorate of Oman. Geographically, the Musandam peninsula juts into the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow entry into the Persian Gulf, from the Arabian Peninsula. The Musandam peninsula is an exclave of Oman, separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates. Its location gives Oman partial control, shared with Iran, of the strategic strait. In the northern section of Musandam, around Kumzar, the language is Kumzari, which is one of the south-western Iranian languages and related to Luri and Persian. The Musandam Peninsula has an area of 1,800 square kilometers and a population of 31,425 people. For the latest update-to-date Musandam Peninsula travel advice, click here.
Dhahab, a restored classic Omani Dhow, is a 90 feet (27 meters) seafaring vessel capable of cruising the Musandam fjords at 10 knots. Developed by Six Senses Zighy Bay and their team of designers, the vessel has a relaxed yet luxurious feel in tune with the Zighy Bay brand, offering a bespoke experience coupled with exceptional service levels. Accommodating up to six guests in three well-appointed cabins (one king and two twins); the experience is perfect for families or groups of friends seeking a mini getaway. With a central air-conditioned saloon, two sun decks, multiple dining areas and a large open galley Dhahab is perfect for a relaxing break.
Offering a three day two night tailor-made itinerary Dhahab explores from Zighy Bay up the coast of Musandam past remote fishing villages and private bays surrounded by r rugged mountains. Time aboard can be spent kayaking, fishing, swimming or relaxing, there are options for cooking classes with your chef, diving or even having a spa therapist aboard. Evenings can be enjoyed with stunning meals, followed by an on-board cinema or simply stargazing. Six Senses Zighy Bay general manager Aaron McGrath said: "We are thrilled to launch this beautifully restored classic Dhow to our guests at Six Senses Zighy Bay. We are committed to offering unforgettable memories, and we look forward to welcoming visitors to enjoy this breath-taking experience".
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