Around two and a half hours’ drive north of Dubai lies Oman’s Musandam Peninsula, perhaps the most scenically spectacular area in the entire Gulf, as the towering red-rock Hajar mountains fall precipitously into the blue waters of the Arabian Gulf, creating a labyrinthine system of steep-sided fjords (khors), channels and islands. This is one of the region’s most pristine natural wildernesses, thinly populated and boasting a magically unspoilt marine environment, including pods of frolicking humpback dolphins and the occasional basking shark. The contrast with Dubai could hardly be greater.
Until the last few decades this was one of the least accessible places in Arabia, and even now there are few roads into or around the peninsula. The easiest way to explore is by boat, offering superlative views of the surrounding khors. Various boat trips, usually aboard a traditional wooden dhow, start from Khasab, the peninsula’s main town, most of them heading up into Khor Ash Sham, the largest of Musandam’s many khors, ringed with remote fishing villages. Alternatively, local operators also offer dramatic trips into Musandam’s mountainous interior, following the rough road (4WD only) which climbs dramatically up the towering Jebel Harim (“Mountain of Women”), the peninsula’s highest peak.
Visiting Musandam from Dubai
The peninsula is separated from the rest of Oman by a large stretch of UAE territory, and is actually a lot easier to visit from Dubai than from Muscat. Musandam is just about possible as a day-trip from Dubai, if you make a very early start. Leaving at around 6am, you’ll have time for a five-hour boat ride or mountain safari before heading back, although you probably won’t be back in Dubai anytime much before 10pm. It usually takes about half an hour each way to clear the UAE–Oman border post and you should be able to get an Omani visa on the spot. The peninsula also makes a good destination for a longer two- or three-night stay.