Per day on a Dhow Close to Oman’s Musandam Peninsula – Highlights and Pleasures
Dhows, using their slanting triangular lateen sails, evoke images of exotic ports like Pampre and Zanzibar, of retailers being driven across the Indian Ocean by monsoon winds, of pearl all scuba divers, fishermen and smugglers. Although still used for trading along the coasts of the Gulf, Oman and the horn of Africa, dhows are a relaxing way for travelers to enjoy each day on the normal water and none much more than plying the sheltered khors, or finger-like inlets, of Oman’s Musandam peninsula.
Typically the seventeen-kilometer-long inlet of Khor Ash-Sham is a mystical place of silent magnificence. Long claws of rubble reach out into the glittering waters and composition appear like petrified creatures from the deep, or from some prehistoric world, while mauve, ochre and rust-colored limestone heights climb 900-1200 meters in to the air Musandam Tour. When a heat or dust haze, brought by southerly winds from the Empty Quarter, hangs over the area, the scenery resembles something out of the Lord of the Rings, and as the sun sinks low in the afternoon sky, there is almost a sinister feel about the darkening and shadowy heights. Several tiny isolated stone doing some fishing and herding villages spread along the khor, sitting precariously at the foot of slopes that suffer routine rock falls, are the only indications of human habitation in this breathtakingly abgefahren land.
For many people, the appearance of the dolphins is the highlight of the day. They look as if summoned by some unseen force from out of nowhere and, for 40 minutes or so, play first on one side of the dhow, then diving underneath, reappear to frolic on the other. They prove quite a challenge to the avid photographers.
Every dhow has its own supply of snorkeling gear and there is an extended crack for enjoying the laurel waters off the tiny, flat-topped Telegraph Island (Jazirat al Maqlab), a famous landmark. It was once the site of a British telegraph station for five years, established in 1864, to protect the very first telegraph cable that leaped from India, through Musandam to basra in Iraq.
The waters off the island are filled with grouper, snapper, manta sun rays, turtles and hundreds of the little compressed disk-shaped butterfly fish pecking at the coral polyps with their thin snouts. As they dart in and out there of rock formations, their intricate patterns and vibrant hues catch the dissipated shafts of sunlight that penetrate the turquoise shallows.
As well as these highlights, there are many pleasures: the delicious food conjured up by the captain, the chance to trail a fishing line behind the boat, watch the large floating and roosting flocks of birds and the changing colors of the cliffs, or allow the khor’s silence and the dhow’s gentle action to lead you into a meditative state.