From here, it’s another 20 minutes or so to the highest point of the road, below the summit of Jebel Harim, literally “Mountain of Women” and at 2087m the highest peak in Musandam. The mountain takes its name from the days when local women would retreat to caves up here in order to avoid being carried off by pirates or rival tribes while their menfolk were away on extended fishing or trading expeditions. The actual summit is home to a radar station monitoring shipping way below in the Straits of Hormuz and is out of bounds, although there are superb all-round views from the road, with breathtaking views back to Khasab and onwards towards Dibba. Many of the rocks up here are also studded with superbly preserved fossils, offering the remarkable sight of ancient submarine creatures – molluscs, fish, clams and numerous trilobites – now incongruously stranded near the summit of one of Arabia’s highest mountains.
The highest point of road (at around 1600m) sweeps through a large rock cutting next to an air-traffic control radar installation. Just below here, a track leads off to a fine collection of petroglyphs carved into mountaintop boulders: rudimentary but evocative weathered images chipped out of the stone, including matchstick human figures alongside animals such as gazelle, oryx, Arabian leopards and even what is thought to be a man on an elephant. Further fossils can be seen in the surrounding rocks.
Past the summit, there are sensational views of the road ahead, as it runs along a narrow ridge before descending towards the Rawdah Bowl, plus stomach-churning views into the deep gorge below. En route you’ll pass a remarkable fossil wall, formed out of what was originally a chunk of sea bed rock and covered in a dense layer of fossilized impressions among which the outlines of crabs, starfish and shells can clearly be made out.