IT WAS in October 2006 that I visited Musandam in Oman with family.
Musandam became the obvious choice for two reasons-a) It was very close to the UAE border, b) You get a Visa on arrival if you hold a valid UAE resident Visa. I did the hotel booking through Khasab Tours & Travels some 15 days before our schedule departure during the Eid holidays.
Musandam, like Muscat, is a governorate of Oman. It is separated from the rest of Oman by the UAE. Its strategic location gives it partial control (along with Iran) of the Strait of Hormuz. Khasab is the local capital of the peninsula.
We went by road with a friend's family. Our journey started at around seven in the morning. It was a fun-filled ride. We got a chance to see the red dunes while nearing Ras al-Khaimah on the Emirates road. As we near the Oman border the sea turned green and the real mountainous stretch started.
Our first stop was at the UAE-Oman border post. It was a rather frustrating wait with the long queue of cars moving at a snail's pace. It's better to leave Dubai around noon to avoid the morning rush during holidays. That would give you enough time to visit Musandam and come back in case you don't want to stay overnight.
The Visa costed us UAE Dirhams 20 per person. Our two hours ordeal ended and we headed off to Musandam.
We drove through some breakthrough views of the mountains and the sea on the left. The highway itself was very neat and smooth. Driving on such stretches is always a pleasure. Sadly I couldn't lay my hands on the wheels during the whole trip.
It took us a little over 2 hours (excluding the delay at the border) to reach Musandam from Al Barha in Dubai. The journey could have been shorter had it not been my friend's brand new car; we never exceeded the 100 kmph mark on the dashboard.
We reached our hotel at around noon. The road leading to the hotel apartments was rough. But, the location was picturesque with the mountains in the background. As if we were destined to wait everywhere, this time for some 30 minutes for the key to our apartment. The apartment was a well-equipped, nice and cozy little place. But not much rest was in store for us as the driver for mountain safari was ready to take us around.
After a quick shower and lunch we sat in his vehicle for an adventurous 4-wheel drive experience. It was very thrilling and all of us enjoyed every bit of it. We stopped only to take pictures from spots providing some rare view of the mountains and the sea. Amidst the evening dust we drove back to our apartment for some much needed rest and a cup of refreshing tea.
Going out for dinner was a chance to see the city centre and the local market. We had our meal under a clear moonlight sky. Back at the apartment, we watched a little television before retiring to our separate rooms. It marked the end of a long and tiring day!
Day two was more relaxing and the one most anticipated. We were booked for the day on a traditional dhow cruise in the sea. Having taken the breakfast we headed to the harbour where some boats and small ships were resting. The dhow was waiting for us. One more family from Dubai joined us in.
Everybody was brimming with the excitement of a possible encounter with the dolphins. The dhow had a small sonar device to attract the dolphins. And they did come - in abundance! We saw a number of dolphins as we went farther into the sea. At one particular spot, near one shore, there were some 6-7 dolphins making a lot of noise. It was a moment to cherish and one for some pictures. Seeing the dolphins in their natural habitat is a rare and wonderful sight.
The dhow had chicken biryani for lunch. The surroundings made it all the more special. Even chickpea would taste like biryani in such settings!
Later my friend and I took a swim near a shore. I could actually see the shells and pebbles lying on the bottom through my goggles, so clear was the sea water.
By four in the evening we were heading back to the main shore.
At the apartment it was the usual evening tea and some rest before we went out for some site seeing. After a delicious Arabic dinner at one of the better looking restaurants we came back to the comfort of our hotel. The sad realisation that our trip was coming to an end was finally settling down on everybody. We chatted late into the night only to wake up late the next morning.
Day three saw our final breakfast at the hotel restaurant. We checked out of the apartment at around eleven-thirty.
The ride back to Dubai was full of memories of two beautiful days gone by. We stopped for a while at a small and lonely stretch of beach. The water was all green and sand glistening in the bright sun. The ladies had gala time playing with the sea waves.
The immigration formality at the Oman-UAE border was a breeze this time. In less than an hour the tranquility of Musandam gave way to the noise of contruction and heavy traffic as we entered Dubai.