Opening up the Musandam Peninsula
Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 23rd February, 2008
When I first visited the Musandam peninsula in Oman, more than a decade ago, I arrived by sea, being decanted from a converted fishing trawler in the Straits of Hormuz onto a wooden dhow, which then sailed into a fjord, where some local men came out to meet us in a little boat. Many coastal villages then were only accessible by sea. And the whole peninsula was redolent of mystery and intrigue, largely cut off from the rest of the world (and, indeed, from the rest of the Oman, from which it is separated by a chunk of the UAE).
Returning there yesterday by the tarmacked road that hugs the towering rock cliffs and winds round the inlets, from Ras Al Khaimah to the Musandam capital of Khasab – as it is now possible to do, with a quick purchase of a visa at the border – brought mixed emotions. There was the pleasure of being back in this wild territory, and discovering some new places, but tinged with a certain nostalgia for an age when tourists couldn’t just drive in. In Khasab itself, high walls and fences have been built around many of the individual palmgroves. And the imposing shoreline castle has been given a facelift. But little boys in embroidered caps still run up waving and smiling when one drives off the beaten track, a European visitor as exotic to them as they appear to us.