Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Oman: Khasab and the Khors of Musandam

Over the weekend, I headed up to Khasab in Oman with my best friend. He needed to do a visa run to refresh his UAE visa, and Oman is a popular destination for doing just that in addition to the attraction of the natural beauty of the fjords and the wildlife that lives there. While it's easy to get to Khasab today, it obviously hasn't always been that way and even today the minuscule villages in the fjords themselves are accessible only by boat. After the break, I'll have some photos from Khasab and from the dhow cruise in the fjords.

Getting to Khasab requires a drive along a twisty coast hugging road. In extreme high tides, this road can be flooded but it was just fine this time around. It's a high quality road and relatively recent: Google doesn't even show that it goes all the way to Khasab on their maps!

Once there, there really isn't much to the town itself. It's a small town with apparently some aggressive expansion plans (judging by the new central mosque and a couple of other smaller ones scattered around town in odd, desolate places). Tourism is a big draw here, but even with that there's only two or three places to stay. Another source of income is smuggling electronics and cigarettes to Iran using high speed boats.

As with the rest of the region, night is when people start to come out and when things get active. People meet and eat later here than in Seattle, which makes sense given the heat here, but the mix of people is also obviously different here. In total, we saw perhaps six women during our night out, and three of them were westerners. Public space here is dominated by men at night.

There aren't too many restaurant options, but this one was both busy and offered a spot to sit outside (a sure fire way to get the tourists: It's not that common here). Fortunately, we got lucky and the food was really good. Even though the tables were packed, there main business obviously came from take out since at one point ten cars were lined up to pick up orders from this place.

 The next day we headed out on the fjord. They actually aren't technically fjords, since these are formed by the pressure of tectonic plates versus glacial movements like in Norway, but it's easier to talk with them as if they were. The main difference is that these are more like crumpled paper, with the layers of sediment going any which way according to the pressures while fjords are like a cake slice: Each layer goes more or less the same way.

The area is pretty amazing, but we also had a couple visitors. Dolphins!

Our destination inside the fjord was actually a place called Telegraph island, which was used as a relay station by the British back in the mid 19th century. Today it's a popular (if over used) snorkel spot and the end of the line for us for this particular trip. After an hour or so here and a half a sun burn later, it was time to head back to the UAE and back to Abu Dhabi! Next time, I'll have a piece on Abu Dhabi and the effects of transportation choices (plus a little something from Ferrari World and the world's fastest roller coaster Nah, Ferrari World looked lame)!

Telegraph Island

No access by anything but boat


  1. Hi SFG, great post about Khasab. Heading there within a few days and your pictures have me really excited about the trip. Can you tell me where you came across that fort in the first picture? Is it just on the way in, and therefore you can't miss it?

    Happy travels!!

  2. It's on the way in, but you have to stop and look around at another fort to see it. It's not in Khasab itself. It's right here: http://g.co/maps/xtg4k

    As you're driving up, you'll round a bend in Bukha and turn fairly sharply along the water (I think it's the first roundabout you get to in the country). Then about 1km in on the right there will be a fort that is very hard to miss and this fort is just behind it.

    Hope you have a great time!

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