The Musandam Peninsula - a journey into seclusion

The Musandam Peninsula is separated from the rest of the country by the United Arab Emirates. At the Strait of Hormuz, the cliffs of the Hajar mountains fall steeply into the sea. The name Musandam refers actually only to an island in the extreme north of the peninsula, however the name became generally accepted for the whole area. Its wildly fissured fjord-like landscape gives it the designation "Norway of the Middle East".

 

Strictly speaking “Musandam” is the name of the small island Jazirat Musandam lying in the Strait of Hormuz off the extreme northeast of the peninsula, even if today it is used to designate the entire region.

The northeastern tip of the Arabian peninsula is made up of a mighty limestone mountain range which soars  to a height of 2087 meters. Its sides tower steeply out of the turquoise-blue water, and then abruptly down to the deep valleys of the wadis or bays. They form a bizarre tangle of fjords, and the cliffs look like the gigantic walls of a fortress designed to keep people from entering the area and to make life harder for those who live here. The longest of the fjords is the khor shamm.

This situation first changed only when Sultan Qaboos ordered the building of the first roads and an airport. Nowadays desalination plants, power stations, hospitals and schools as well as supply ships to distribute drinking water all serve the basic needs of the people even in the most remote parts of the peninsula.

Currently about 35,000 people live in this rocky fortress. Most of them live in Khasab, the coastal oasis, the peninsula’s largest and greenest place. These people are seminomadic - in summer they live along the coast; in winter they stay in the mountains. During their absence they stow away their supplies in buildings called bait al-qafl.