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Travel Guide Middle East Oman Musandam

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Introduction

The Musandam Governorate is a governorate of Oman. It is located on the Musandam peninsula, which juts into the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow entry into the Persian Gulf, from the Arabian Peninsula. The Governorate is an exclave, separated from the rest of Oman 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 a southwestern Iranian language closely related to Larestani and Luri. The Musandam Peninsula has an area of 1,800 square kilometres and a population of 31,425 people.

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Geography

The rugged coastline resembles the glacier-carved coasts of polar regions, but in this case, the coast was shaped by the movement of Earth’s crust. The Arabian plate is slowly pushing under the Eurasian plate, creating the earthquake-prone mountains of Iran. On the leading edge of the Arabian plate, the Musandam Peninsula is sinking. The higher elevation mountains remain above the water, but the sea has rushed in to fill the valleys with fingers of water.

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Cities

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Sights and Activities

Musandam offers untouched nature, challenging mountains and water activities. Due to the sparse population of the Musandam Peninsula coast, wildlife is abundant in the waters along the coast. Scuba diving is one of the main and most popular tourist activities in this region.

  • Dolphin watching (fjords) - There are several dolphin families living in the fjords of Musandam. Several dhow tours include dolphin spots or specific dolphin tours are available. Don't feed them, and let the Dhow crew do the whistles.
  • Kite surfing - UAE residents brought this sport to Musandam. The constant wind and the long coast offer abundant places for kiting.
  • Diving - There are SSI and PADI certified dive centers in Khasab and Dibba

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Getting There

An entry visa is required if you are entering from the United Arab Emirates. The emigration offices on both sides of the border are painfully slow and require travellers to fill out forms. The process to get a UAE exit and Omani entry visa usually requires 30-60 minutes on normal days but during holiday season in the United Arab Emirates, it can take up to four hours. If possible, team up, so that one person queues while the other fills out the immigration forms (each for every person!). Also note that only the Omani immigration building offers restrooms. If you travel with a group (party of six or more) then the driver might receive a token that you have to hand over at the last border check to do a quick head count. Don't leave without handing it over to the border police.

The Omani visa costs 20 Omani rials or 200 UAE dirhams for most nationalities and can be bought directly at the border. The entry visa to Musandam is free for ten days if you have already entered the UAE on a tourist visa. Non-GCC UAE Residents have different rules depending on their nationality. Diplomatic or service staff residing in the UAE need to check individually but in general need a visa in advance.

If you use a private vehicle, Omani insurance is required and strictly controlled. Ensure that you have a written confirmation; otherwise, you have to buy insurance at an inflated price at the border. Rental vehicles will need a written insurance confirmation, so make sure to check before you go.

By Plane

Oman Airlines has regular flights from Muscat to Khasab. During peak holiday seasons, Emirates and other Gulf airlines offer charter flights from Dubai to Khasab.

By Car

The main road access is from Ras Al Khaymah (RAK) on the road E-11 (after Al Darah border called Khasab Road) and with more difficulty from the Dibba border of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. The E-11 road from Ras Al Khaymah is well sign posted to the Omani border but slow due to many construction sites. There are also major construction works directly on the Omani side of the border, so expect loads of trucks. From Dubai, drive the E-311 to RAK and change on the E-11 road. The whole trip should be done in about 2-2.5 hrs depending on the traffic within RAK.

By Boat

  • National Ferry Company (Muscat Ferry Boat), NFC Passenger Boarding Office Khasab (near Khasab Fort), ☎ +968 2673 1802, e-mail: reservation@nfc.om - There is ferry service to/from Muscat (5 hrs) and Dibba (2½ hrs). From Muscat, the ferry departs every Thursday at noon, and returns every Saturday at 11:30. From Dibba, ferries depart on Sundays and Thursdays (departure 13:00), and return to Dibba on Tuesdays (departure 10:00) and Thursdays (departure 12:30). All ferries have free Wi-Fi, with lunch, snacks and beverages included in the ticket price. You should get your ferry ticket in advance to ensure your place on the boat. Muscat one way: 45/23 OMR (business/tourist class); Muscat return: 85/44 OMR (business/tourist class); Dibba one way: 10 OMR (business class), 6 OMR (tourist class).

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Getting Around

Public transport within Musandam doesn't exist. You will need a four-wheel drive vehicle if you intend to see more than Khasab. Be sure to have spare water and tires with you if you intend to drive to Jebel Al Harim, the Arabian Sea beaches or destinations farther off the beaten track, as absolutely no facilities are along the road. Even if the altitude is high, the heat, dust and gravel will test your vehicle. Along the roads to popular sites are military installations that are regularly used by the Omani army forces for training purposes. Military vehicles have priority, so give way and don't photo/film them as this is strictly forbidden.

Fuel is very cheap in Musandam. A litre of gas (95/98 octane) costs close to 0.5 rials (€0.25), which is cheap even for the UAE. Therefore, lots of UAE travellers fuel their cars at Musandam petrol stations, and queues at the start and end of the weekend might require a 10-15 minute wait.

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Eat

Musandam is known for its fish. Today most of the fish is sold in Dubai as prices are about double those in Khasab. Local goat and lamb are also very popular on the grill as kebab or racks. Due to the big labour migration from India, Pakistan and the Philippines, several traditional dishes of South Asia are known and served as well. Only in Khasab and Dibba will travellers find some choice of restaurants, but only very limited international cuisine. If you travel outside of Khasab, stock your own food before because there are no shops.

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Drink

Water and tea are the main choices to combat the dry climate. Non-alcoholic soft drinks are available everywhere. The sale of alcohol requires a licence that only few places have. If you want more than beer (mostly cans), basic red or white wines and spirits then you will need to bring it with you. Your main hassle will be to bring the alcohol from UAE to Musandam as the UAE highway crosses some dry Emirates (e.g. Sharjah) where alcohol is strictly prohibited. These rules are strictly enforced, so you are better off not pushing your luck and living with a limited selection.

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Sleep

Accommodation is very limited for travellers. Khasab only has three hotels. The major exception is a luxurious resort at Zighy beach near the Dibba border with Fujairah, the Six Senses Zighy Bay resort. Several hotels and apartment complexes have been planned but due to the financial crisis, property development slowed down. Camping in some places is tolerated (e.g. Bossa Beach near Khasab), but inquire first if you stay near small villages and towns as several Bedouin villages don't accept camping near them, if you are not an Omani or exceptionally well connected to these Bedouins.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 13:19 on May 3, 17 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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