There are any number of places to go in Oman for a cheeky getaway – with partner, with family or with friends. At the recommendation of trusted friends and Instagrammers (@susann_johnston & @kathyleedxb – well worth a follow), I headed to Khasab, in Musandam.
First stop car rental, which is surprisingly affordable and the petrol ridiculously so. Then a shaky and nervous drive on what I consider the wrong side of the Sheik Zayed Road back to the apartment ready for a 5.30am start to get through the border and up to Khasab by 10am. On this journey I’m with my flatmate.
According to Google the journey should only take two and half hours, but we’re allowing for getting lost and the unknown amount of time it will take to get our passports stamped. Khasab is at the northeastern most tip of the Arabian peninsula, and separated from the rest of Oman by a wide swathe of the UAE. The dramatic Musandam peninsula, we are promised is scenically spectacular. We made a couple of wrong turns – the principle of keeping to the coast road came unstuck in RAK when we ended up in the fish market.
It was peak hour at the border, as we lined up behind three French men who as heads of households seemed to have about seven members and seven passport each, and the immigration officer took to hand writing all the entries. Tick, tock, tick, tock … the 10am deadline to meet dhow boat got closer and closer.
At the final check point I parked too far from the window. Had a nano-second of Mexican stand off where I tried to lean as far as I could out the window, refusing to the open the door and him staring at me. I gave up and opened the door, handed over the bit of paper and he asked me if I wanted two hard boiled eggs in return.
Getting a visa stamp and exiting the country was the main purpose of this jaunt, so mission accomplished!
My impression on this and a previous visit is that Oman people are very friendly, despite only ever meeting men during our 24 hour stay. It made me think that maybe it is a poor country, so I Googled it when I got back. Turns out it is not. It has oil and a Sultan. The capital is Muscat and I found out that on the other side it has a monsoon season and there are trees. Not so much on the Dubai side.
But the water is an amazing colour, a very vibrant turquoise-green and clear through to the bottom. It is indeed scenically spectacular.
Beyond the border the road does hug the coast. It winds around and at times it seems like a stiff breeze would bring the waves up over the road and at others we are on the edge of a cliff looking down. Several small fishing villages dot the coast before we get to Khusab.
I drove like a maniac, foregoing Moira’s offer to peel the hardboiled egg so that I could eat it. No time! That is until we reached a convoy of what we guessed were the French contingent, also headed for Khusab and the dhow cruises and driving much slower. We followed them in, which was fortuitous because we wouldn’t have found the launching area otherwise. It is at the end of a construction site with quite a lot of high fence around it and no indication whatsoever that it is a marina.
‘Dhow’ is a generic term to describe the wooden boats that are used from Tanzania, into Egypt and throughout the middle east and even over to India. Historically they’re used to carry freight and have had sails. Ours had no sail, and measured about 20m long by 8m wide, so a decent size.
The cruise was called a ‘dolphin dhow cruise’. The attraction is a pod of dolphins that swim next to the boats. Turns out the tour also included snorkelling. I avoided the first bit of snorkelling because I can be very lazy, but then it turned out the tour was basically a snorkelling tour with some dolphin viewing so I jumped in at the second snorkelling location.
At the end of the cruise and as we left the marina the light was beautiful and we pulled in to take photos, whereupon two things happened. A goat started to pose for me, and as if the cuteness wasn’t enough went to stand inside a fish trap while I snapped away, and Moira realised that the shorts she was wearing on the boat were not an appropriate length for standing next to a mosque so she dived back into the car.
At Al Shamaliah Grill Restaurant that evening the fresh hammour fish was recommended, and I couldn’t resist both hummus and tabouli as side dishes. The tabouli was 95% parsley, which is fine with me, but not if you don’t like a dish that tastes a lot like grass. While Omanis are friendly, the countryside seems to be a lot more conservative that what we have become used to in Dubai and we had to eat while being stared at by a room full of men in white.
After a day full of adventure we had an easy trip back to Dubai the next morning.
Oman – well worth a visit.
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