Heading north on the E311 just after 5pm at the start of the weekend.
Despite living in the UAE for many years I had never been to the Musandam Peninsula. Jutting into the Strait of Hormuz, the exclave of Oman is often referred to as the "Norway of Arabia" due its rugged coastline resembling the glacier-carved coasts of western Scandinavia.
Instead of glaciers howevr, plate tectonics are the cause with the Arabian plate slowly being pushed under the Eurasian continent. Hence the Musandam Peninsula is gradually sinking by 4mm per year, creating fjords as the sea water floods into the mountain valleys.
This evenings drive would be for 239 kilometers and would involve a stop for dinner at Rak Mall and one border crossing at Al Dhara.
A quick stop at an ADNOC service station on the E611 at dusk.
At the food court at Rak Mall in Ras Al Khaimah for dinner.
And about to enjoy some tasty beef, chicken and rice from Chowking.
We then made the short drive to the border crossing at Al Dhara.
And inside the lobby of the four star Atana Musandam Resort, 40 minutes and 42 kilometers later in the town of Khasab.
Our room for the next two nights. Although normally $220 a night I managed to get a very reasonable $200 special for a two night weekend stay.
First opened in 2014, the resort was both relatively modern and new but also designed with architecture and interior design reflecting Omani traditional culture and heritage.
And complete with Omani Raydan brand toiletries.
We then put Hannelie to sleep in the cot and then crawled into bed ourselves at the end of day 1.
Looking out of our balcony at dawn on the morning of day 2.
I then went for a short run through the streets of Khasab.
A phone box. Not sure if it was still working though!
A local mosque with the rocky, granite hills that surround the town in the background.
The cruise ship Horizon in the distance coming in to berth at Khasab Cruise Terminal after sailing from Muscat.
Back in our room with Hannelie now wide awake and giving her legs a good workout on the bed.
At the hotel's Al Mawra restaurant for breakfast and where they had a good selection of both Western and Arabic cuisine.
And Hannelie enjoying her breakfast on our balcony.
We then made the short drive to Khasab Port to the meeting point for our dhow cruise today.
For our cruise today we would depart from Khasab and then head east to Khor ash Sham, the longest and most dramatic of all the Musandam khors (Arabic for creek or fjord).
Rianda and Hannelie in the shade as we cruise out of port.
The Horizon now moored at Khasab Cruise Terminal.
Now heading west with two boats heading to some of the villages in Khor ash Sham.
Getting a closer look at the sheer granite cliffs at the entrance to the khor.
When then stopped just inside the khor to try and see some of the local dolphins. There is purportedly a 80% chance of seeing at least one pod during each visit so we were hopeful of at least a glimpse.
Sure enough they were out to play! They are attracted by the dhows and the water churned up in their wake and often swim alongside the passing dhows.
Dipping playfully in and out of the water, they were real delight to see.
We were a bit worried how Hannelie would handle a day out on the sea but she was fine and enjoying her very first dhow trip.
Another close up view of the rocky cliffs as we head further into the 17 kilometer long Khor ash Sham.
The small fishing village of Qanaha, accessible only by boat. There are several small villages lining the khor, each home to a few families.
The families live in the villages for six months a year, earning a living through fishing. They then decamp to Khasab to harvest dates during the summer months when the water in the khor becomes too hot for fish.
Looking across to the mountains of Shamm Peninsula.
We then moored just off Telegraph Island situated in the middle of the khor.
The name comes from the telegraph-cable repeater station built on the island by the British in 1864. The station was used to boost telegraphic messages along the Persian Gulf submarine cable which was part of the London to Karachi telegraphic cable.
Life on the island was not easy with the severe summer heat and hostility of local tribes. Because of this, the island is purportedly where the expression "go round the bend" comes from. Uncomfortable from the insufferable heat the officers were desperate to escape, which meant a voyage around the bend to the Strait of Hormuz and back to India.
Abandoned in the mid-1870s, the crumbling foundations of the repeater station and the operators' quarters are all that remain.
The island is a regular stop for the dhows, both to visit the ruins and to snorkel in the waters around it.
Some fish coming to check us out.
The colourful Butterfly fish just below the surface
And I couldn't resist jumping in for a swim too.
After our stop at Telegraph Island we raised the anchor and proceeded further west further into Khor ash Sham.
Lunch served on the dhow.
With some tasty chicken, fish, rice, hummous and bread.
We then anchored just off Seebi Island located at the end of the khor.
And another chance to swim in the crystal clear water.
Looking west with the mountains rising out of the sea in the distance.
Our skipper diving in for a sea urchin.
And a closer look at its long black spines.
We then pulled anchor again and started to make our way back towards Khasab.
Hannelie taking her afternoon nap.
The village of Sham on the northern side of Khor ash Sham and home to ~100 residents. Water is brought in by boat and is provided free by the government. Children in the village travel by boat to Khasab for school, staying in the town from Sunday to Thursday.
Looking out from the stern of the dhow as we continue cruising west.
And one last magical encounter with the playful Musandam humpback dolphins.
The cruise ship Horizon heading out of port and on to Dubai for the last leg of its Legends of Arabia cruise.
And walking back onshore after berthing at Khasab Port.
We then headed back to the Atana Musandam Resort after the memorable excursion.
In the evening we went for dinner at the hotel's Al Mawra restaurant.
Even though it was well past her bedtime Hannelie still managed a smile before passing out in her stroller.
We both decided to try some local dishes with Rianda opting for the delicious Omani Chicken Saloona, slowly cooked with oriental spices and served with makbus rice.
While I had the traditional Omani Muqalai Laham, simmered tender lamb with local spices.
We couldn't resist sharing some sweet Omani halwa for dessert .
And Hannelie fast asleep in her cot at the end of an exciting day 2.
I decided to head out for another short morning run to explore Khasab again on the morning of day 3.
A couple of curious local goats.
And more of them congregating outside a local mosque.
A lush local farm. Khasab derives it name from the Arabic word for 'fertile'.
And a selfie by the dinghies tied up in the man-made estuary.
Breakfast al fresco with some eggs, fresh fruit, waffles and hot black coffee.
After feeding Hannelie her morning bottle I went for a dip in the hotel infinity pool.
Luckily it was well heated otherwise I would have frozen in the 15°C morning air!
After packing up the car and checking out we went to visit the nearby Khasab Fort. Some of the local goats welcoming Rianda and Hannelie.
The fort was built by the Portuguese in the 17th century around a much older circular tower of Omani origin.
A graphic showing the history of the fort. The tower in the middle of the courtyard provided a last line of defence in case the outer walls were breached.
The fort was also later used as the home of the Wali (Governor) of Musandam.
Another graphic detailing how Musandam Peninsula was and is being gradually transformed as the Arabian plate is slowly pushed under Eurasian.
We then began the drive back to the UAE via Khasab Coastal Road.
After driving in the dark on way up on Thursday evening I was keen to enjoy the drive and scenery in the full light of day for our return.
The Old Coastal Watch Tower at Al Jadi.
Looking south with the golden sandy beach below.
And the small fishing village of Al Jadi.
Bukha Fort in the town of the same name. It was built in the 16th century by the Portugese.
And a short while later arriving back at the Al Dhara border post, ready to cross back into the UAE.
Unlike locals on both side of the border, we had to make a quick visit inside to get our passports stamped.
Stopping to get a Kentucky Burger for lunch.
And back in Dubai on the E311 after a relaxing and fun weekend in Musandam!