The longest and most dramatic of all the Musandam khors, Khor ash Sham stretches for some 16km in total, hemmed in between two high lines of mountains, the bareness of the craggy surrounding rocks offering a surreal contrast with the invitingly blue waters of the khor itself. A string of remote hamlets dots the shoreline, accessible only by boat; each is home to just ten or so families. All water has to be shipped in by boat, while children must commute to school in Khasab. Not surprisingly, the khor-side settlements are becoming steadily depopulated as the younger generation of villagers tires of the rather monotonous life of their ancestors and move off to Khasab or beyond. Those who remain live in the villages for just six months a year, earning a living through fishing, before decamping to harvest dates in Khasab during the summer months, when the water in the khor becomes too hot for fish.
The khors also boast a healthy population of dolphins, and you’ve got probably an eighty percent chance of seeing at least one pod during a full-day dhow cruise. Dolphins are attracted by the sound of boats’ engines and the water churned up in their wake – they’ll often swim alongside passing dhows, dipping playfully in and out of the water, reaching remarkable speeds and keeping up quite easily with even the fastest dhows.
About halfway down Khor ash Sham lies lonely Telegraph Island (or Jazirat Telegraph), an extremely modest bit of rock named after the British telegraph station which formerly stood here. The extensive foundations of the old British buildings survive, along with a flight of stone steps leading up from the water. The island is a popular stopping point on dhow cruises which often halt here for lunch. Boats can moor next to the island at high tide; at low tide you’ll have to swim across.