Touring Musandam

Khasab Travel Blog

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Another dhow tour departs immediately before us.

Jet lag is not an issue.  Slumbered through the night and didn’t awake feeling groggy.  Mark & I went down for a buffet breakfast that was comparable to anything I’ve enjoyed in the States.  Just gabbing away while we ate was a pleasure.  Such a treat to catch up with old friends!

After breakfast I sat on the porch enjoying the water and mountain view that was utter peace.  The water is amazingly clear & calm.  There were countless white/silver flashes as members of some large school of fish skimmed the surface of the Gulf.  The sole audio was the faraway thrum of boat engines, apparently off to harvest fish.

And speaking of boats, I forgot to mention last night’s incident.  Mark & I were enjoying our porch and its view of the Persian Gulf framed by swaths of the Harrar Mountains plunging into the sea when suddenly we heard/saw eight power boats rocketing full tilt out of Khasab and into open sea.

Mark on dhow, docked at Telegraph Island
  Who would be heading out to open waters at dusk???  Certainly not fishermen, and the watercraft didn’t appear to be leisure vehicles (only one person per boat).  Need to remember and ask one of the locals about this today!

An amazing boat ride.  The water is exceptionally clear and we can see fish swimming well below us.  We are navigating fjords and surrounded by endless mountains of pure rock (and I mean 360 degrees).  Mark and I only signed up for a half day and the sole other party sharing our excursion is a French family of six:  husband & wife, son, daughter + grandparents.  The husband is apparently with the French military and stationed in Abu Dhabi.  They bought a full day, so a speedboat is supposed to pick us up at Telegraph Island around 1PM.

Another Musandam view...

Our boat driver is Mohammed Kuzmar, the same gentleman who escorted Mark & Samia two weeks prior (they went on a preliminary excursion to check things out --- their first visit to Musandam.  And they’ve never been to the Empty Quarter yet…good thing I came over to drag their butts around!).  He speaks Arabic, French & English and I am truly impressed!  Mohammed gave me the lowdown on the speedboats from last night.  Apparently Khasab gets daily visits from Iranians who load up on American cigarettes.  They hang out all day and depart at dusk to make the two hour return across the Strait of Hormuz, benefiting from nightfall to elude the Iranian coast guard as they smuggle nicotine back to their homeland!  I found this incredible and Mohammed claimed it is a substantial part of Khasab’s economy.

Cool images ---> flying fish, which were apparently disrupted by our bow and leapt out of the water and quite literally flapped their wings to gain air for perhaps 10-to-20 feet!  Delightful.

Mohammed just waved a boat over and the fisherman presented us with a barracuda, which the French husband gladly accepted & started cutting up for bait…up until this visit he had been using an apple!

We have passed two villages that are only accessible by boat.  The first, Nadifi, has a population of about 100 and consists of four families (all this info provided graciously by Mohammed).  Children are boated to Khasab daily for school and a “grocery boat” delivers food each morning.  The village is deserted in summer (everyone relocates to Khasab) and the sole occupation is fishing.  It is amusing to witness the occasional pile of fishing gear piled on a rock outcropping with nothing else around…guess theft is not a concern here.  An amazing footnote is that you can see the power lines (using the standard wooden poles we’re familiar with in the US) traversing the rugged mountain landscape down to this remote speck of humanity.  Appears they have both electric & phone.

The grandest part of the boat ride occurred as we approached Telegraph Island and several dolphins accompanied us.  They seemed to delight in riding the boat’s wake, and would accelerate up one side, breach, dive beneath our craft and surface on the opposite side to repeat.  Mohammed really cranked the dhow up to encourage our bottle-nosed friends (dhows are constructed pretty much as centuries ago…just now they drop engines in ‘em!) and I'm sure he was amused as the entire group scurried back and forth across the deck after each dive!

The fascinating conclusion for our expedition was docking at Telegraph Island.  One could quickly see how one might “go round the bend” here.   I had learned earlier the British built a small fort here in the 1860’s to garrison a handful of troops tasked with guarding an underwater telegraph line…faced with utter calm the soldiers routinely went crazy and this wee island is the derivation of the phrase “going round the bend:”.  The foundations of several buildings remain, but nothing else.

Mark had packed along snorkel gear and we witnessed an impressive fish collection (snorkeling Musandam was unexpectedly par with similar ventures in Hawaii & the Caribbean).  Minor bummer was that I went barefoot as my feet were too big to slip into Samia’s flippers!

My compliments to Mark’s driving which deposited us safely back at their apartment in Sharjah.  I thought the steep, twisty coastal drive along the Persian Gulf in Oman was treacherous, but it paled in comparison to rush hour traffic in Ajman!  Scariest one was this woman trailing us in slow moving traffic.  She was flashing her headlights (as in “let me pass”) although we were creeping towards a dead stop…about thirty cars from the stoplight.  The light eventually turned green and we progressed to where there was a third lane presented for folks wanting to turn left at the intersection.  Our scary woman took this opportunity to cut into that opening and pass us and attempt to swerve back --- unfortunately Mark had been foolish enough to allow maybe a ten foot following distance from the car in front and of course someone from the right lane had to seize the opportunity and lurch into our lane as well.  I am astonished that they didn’t collide (both swerved back from each other…but the woman kept her pedal to the metal and actually pulled in front of the dude who cut us off from the other side!).

Now, here’s the fun cultural story.  Mark had informed before the lady pulled her stunt that her license plate was Umm-Al-Qwain #581.  Apparently in the UAE each emirate awards license plates by family power.  For example, sheikh Zayed (the sheikh of Abu Dhabi & ruler of the UAE) has about twenty vehicles…so he probably has license plates 1-to-20 in Abu Dhabi.  Mark asserted that as the tiniest emirate, #581 had to be the member of a very minor family…SO PISS ON HER!!!

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Another dhow tour departs immediat…
Another dhow tour departs immedia…
Mark on dhow, docked at Telegraph …
Mark on dhow, docked at Telegraph…
Another Musandam view...
Another Musandam view...
photo by: vances