This hidden corner of Oman was like nothing we had ever experienced before, with its rugged fjords, crystal clear waters, and beautiful coral reefs. Our visit to Musandam was just the first leg of a 14 day journey through Oman, but it was an impressive opening act.
Geographically speaking, the Musandam peninsula is fascinating. Although it’s Omani territory, it’s technically an exclave, meaning it’s not contiguous with the rest of Oman. The only way to access it by land directly is from the UAE. It’s much closer to Dubai than Muscat. What that means is that it makes an excellent day or weekend excursion from Dubai. It was the perfect introduction to Oman.
Our Playlist for Oman
The first day of our 2 day, 1 night excursion would take us on a dhow, a traditional Arabian vessel, cruising the jewel toned waters of the Persian Gulf, surrounded by rugged mountains that drop dramatically into the sea.
After spending a night on a secluded beach, under the stars, we would embark on a land based journey by jeep up to the highlands of the area. I loved that this allowed us to experience this beautiful region from two very different perspectives.
Dubai to Khasab
Our journey began with a 6AM pickup in Dubai. The route was fairly straight forward, taking about 3 hours, including a 20 minute border crossing at Ras al Darah. Our driver dropped us off to meet our guide at the port of Khasab, the commercial center of Musandam. It’s a very small town, but bustling with activity. We had our full set of luggage with us, as we would be heading directly to the airport the next evening. But only our overnight packs would serve us for the next 24 hours, with our suitcases staying at the tour operator’s office for safe keeping.
The dock was packed with dhows, serving many roles. What’s a dhow, you ask? It’s an iconic vessel of the Indian Ocean. Its origins are lost to time, but they’ve been use extensively for trade and travel through the region for centuries. Our guide brought us over to one that was prepped for cruising the local waters comfortably. Its open deck was lined with carpets and pillows, ready for lounging.
The Spectacular Seascape
Once we sailed away from the busy port, we were treated to breathtaking vistas of rugged mountains, jewel-toned water, and remote villages hugging the narrow coastline. As we cruised from cove to cove and island to island, we were treated to an amazing sight of playful dolphins jumping in and out of the water, leaving us all in awe. And after a delicious lunch onboard, we dropped anchor so those who were tempted by the crystal clear water could dive in and snorkel around the colorful coral reefs.
Our Beach Camp
By late afternoon, we had arrived at our home for the night — a secluded cove sandwiched between rugged mountains. We were shuttled to the beach by a smaller boat, and introduced to our campsite, a simple affair with a row of tents, carpeted lounge area, dining area, and recreation zone. The bathroom was a well-maintained porta potty, with potable water available nearby through a pump. Nothing fancy, but enough creature comforts for a night.
An Evening Trek
As evening drew near, we decided to explore the area behind the camp a bit, going on our own mini trek. The rocky path took us up above the cliffs overlooking our campsite, giving us more expansive views of our surroundings. And right as the sun was setting, an armada of speed boats set out from a hidden cove. We learned later that they’re smugglers (let’s call them black market traders) moving contraband between Oman and Iran.
Dinner and Revelry
As the sun dipped behind the dramatic horizon, we made our way back to camp, just in time for dinner. Grilled meats and biryani were the star of the show. It was also a great opportunity to get to know some of our trip mates a little better.
Sleeping Under the Stars
After dinner, we got ready for bed. Our tent was equipped with air mattresses, pillows, and clean sheets. But with the amazing weather, we opted to simply sleep under the stars on the inviting Persian rugs and pillows at the foot of our tent. The hearty dinner, cozy campfire, and sound of the waves gently crashing on the shore helped us drift off into a peaceful slumber under a canopy of stars.
Back to Civilization
The following morning, after a simple, but delicious breakfast, we did a little beach exploration. But soon, it was time to pack up and hop back on our dhow, which would take us back to the busy port of Khasab. Our excursion wouldn’t be over yet though. We would go from our dhow to a jeep to start exploring the highlands.
Into the Highlands
Our 3 hour jeep trek took us up some vertigo-inducing trails into the highlands, showing us some of the most breathtaking views of the rugged fjords so far. We stopped at several viewpoints and just stood there in awe of the rugged beauty of Oman. We were truly in another world. On the way down, we paused in several small villages, seeing a quainter side of this region.
The end of our trek brought us back to Khasab, so we were free to find lunch and explore the town for a couple hours before our driver would take us to Dubai’s airport (we had a flight scheduled later that night to Muscat, where our journey through Oman would continue). After sitting down for some lunch, we headed to Khasab Fort and wandered around town to do some final exploration. I really started to fall in love with the quiet and restrained aesthetic of Oman’s architecture. It lay in such stark contrast to Dubai’s maximalism. I couldn’t wait to see the rest of Oman in the days to come.