From its stunning landscape and warm people to its strategic location, everything about the Musandam governorate is unique.
The beautiful inlets of gleaming blue-green water cutting into the mountains take your breath away, and the hospitality of the people around make you feel at home. As progress continues its persistent march all over Oman, the Musandam governorate, too, is experiencing major development.
His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said had directed the government to start implementing major projects in the Governorate of Musandam as part of the Royal initiative to enhance development across the Sultanate. It has been reported that the cost of the projects approved for Musandam governorate during the Eighth Five-Year Plan stood at OMR500 million.
The four wilayats that come under the Musandam governorate — Khasab, Diba, Bukha, and Madha — are certainly reaping the benefits of the development projects.
"The Musandam governorate is witnessing major development, and a number of measures are being initiated to implement different projects," said a Ministry of Tourism official.
A visit to the governorate gives you a glimpse of the major projects underway in various sectors, such as energy, tourism, roads, power, ports, health, and education.
Among the major projects in the offing is the Musandam Gas Plant (MGP) in Bukha. "The MGP project is being developed by Oman Oil Company Exploration and Production (OOCEP) to process well fluids from the existing West Bukha platform, located close by in Omani waters.
The design, procurement, and site preparation activities have commenced, with MGP expected to commence commercial operations in the second quarter of 2014," informed the OOCEP website. Besides this, the Musandam Power Project is also set to come up near Tibat in Bukha.
The Ministry of Health, too, has initiated the construction of a referral hospital in Khasab, in addition to a number of other health projects.
Two fishing ports in Khasab and Diba; housing projects and related facilities; a youth complex in Khasab and Diba Sports Club; a ground water recharge dam in Ghamdha in Bukha; a vocational training centre; a cultural centre; and the modernisation of Khasab airport are also in the pipeline.
A lot is also being done to perk up the tourism sector — the mainstay of the governorate.
The expansion of Khasab Port and airport is expected to draw tourism flow to the governorate.
Oman Air, the only airline flying to Khasab, has been attracting tourists from far and wide. National Ferries Company (NFC) has also been hugely contributing to the growth of local tourism, with NFC's high-speed catamarans already operating the Muscat-Khasab, Khasab-Lima, and Shinas-Khasab routes.
The road is being constructed under the supervision of the Ministry of Transport and Communications. The work will cover the 65-kilometre coastal road, starting from Al Khalidiya in the wilayat of Khasab to Diba, passing through the village of Lima.
The project includes the construction of seven tunnels to help vehicles avoid the high slopes, and 18 bridges built across valleys, with a road cross-section that consists of two lanes, each 365 metres wide, with 2.5 metres-wide asphalt shoulders on each side. The people of Musandam are happy about the development that the projects will bring about in the governorate.
"We sincerely hope that a college will soon be built in the region. Then our children will not have to travel to other governorates for higher education," said a resident.
Those who haven't visited the Musandam governorate are certainly missing something. Musandam is one of the most impressive natural beauty locations you will ever see. Take a dhow from Khasab town and sail through the fjords. The spectacular view is sure to take your breath away.
"The juxtaposition of sea and mountains is considered to be an exclusive feature of this area. Excursions in boats and traditional ships afford an unforgettable experience for the visitor. Diving fans can plunge to their hearts' content at the beautiful coral reefs. The area is also rich in archaeological sites," according an official from the Ministry of Tourism.
A fascinating place to visit as you sail through the waters (around 45 minutes by boat from Khasab town) is the Telegraph Island.
At the time when it took four to six weeks for a letter to go from London to Karachi, the gateway to Britain's Indian Empire, this small islet in Khawr Sham acted as a relay station for the first telegraphic messages from Britain to India. In 1865, the islet lost its original name of Jaz Al Maqlab and came to be known as Telegraph Island, states the information displayed at the Khasab castle museum.
The rock formations, the colours of the water, the still mountains, the dolphins playing in the water, and the untouched and unspoiled natural beauty of the place truly mesmerises the visitor.
The geology of the cliffs and mountains is beyond description, and the little fishing villages dotting the edge of the cliffs amaze you. "There are no cars in these villages. People hop on to their boats and go to the mainland to shop," informed Suleiman Mohammed Al Dhahori, a boatman.
Known for its quaint beauty, the wilayat of Khasab offers adventure for those interested. The sparkling clear water offers great diving and snorkelling opportunities for those interested. The clean beaches are perfect for camping, and the mountains offer the just right location for hiking and rock-climbing enthusiasts. "Peak tourism season is between October and April. That is when the governorate comes alive with a lot of visitors," says a tourism ministry official.
The Khasab Castle
The Khasab Castle, too, is a favourite with the visitors. The Ministry of Tourism website informs that Omanis built the present Khasab Castle on the ruins of the old castle that had been constructed by the Portuguese in the 11th century Hijri (the 17th century).
Some parts of the old castle are still visible through the circular tower that stands in the middle of the castle. The present castle has four strongholds.
The castle's gigantic middle tower has been renovated and turned into a museum that displays various handicrafts and the archaeological collection from Musandam governorate. The housing quarters in the castle have also been renovated and converted into a furnished home containing all the furniture of the castle, including an exhibition of traditional clothes and ornaments.
A model of Bayt Al Qefel (the lock house) is built in the castle's courtyard, with exhibits of the dhow that this governorate is renowned for and a model of the Al-Arish suspended house. A well has been dug to demonstrate the method of drawing water from it. In addition to this, the castle also displays a traditional oven and hand mill.
Rock carvings at Tawi village near Wadi Quida allow visitors to view prehistoric rock paintings representing animals and warriors dating back 3,400 years, a proof of the ancient settlement in the region.
Another unique aspect of Musandam is the town Kumzar —reachable only by boat — where the inhabitants speak their own unique language and still practice a culture dating back over 500 years.
Musandam also houses the unique village-style resort, Six Senses Zighy Bay, located in the Zighy village. Jabal Hareem Fossils, Lima Village, Lion's Jaws Gate, Khawr Najd, Qannah, Wadi Ar Rawdha, Khawr Sham, and the Strait of Hormuz are the other attractions worth seeing. It is a land waiting to be discovered.