The Omani government tries to prevent migration from the small fishing villages into Khasab and offers fishermen and Bedouin villages free electricity and water supply. Therefore along the coastline and in some few places in the mountains tiny Bedouin villages can be found.
Tradúzcase Musandam is on the Strait of Hormuz, separated from the rest of Oman by the eastern coastline of the United Arab Emirates. It also includes the exclave Madha which is completely enclosed by the United Arab Emirates, inside of which is a truly tiny exclave called Nahwa that is part of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
The mountains have housed extremely isolated communities for centuries and many coastal villages can only be reached by boat. Some Bedouin communities are still today closed for non-Omanis. The highest mountain is Jebel Al Harim with an altitude of 2,087 meters above sea level. Most of the roads are still gravel/dirty roads and only the major highway from the UAE border to Khasab is perfectly built for the increasing traffic.
Omanis in the region have for centuries developed close trading ties with Iran. The Iranian city Bandar Abbas is just 65 km or 1.5 hours by boat across the Strait of Hormuz. Locally Khasab is known for the smuggling by Iranians in and out of Musandam. The trading is only illegal for the Iranian traders as Oman has a free trade zone and regulates the trade in its port. Today Iranians in general sell cattle (sheep/goats), spices and other agricultural goods in exchange for TV sets, computers and other electronic goods. You can watch the trade in Khasab harbour without major restrictions.
Tourism has become important since the construction of the Khasab Road to the UAE border. The tourist season runs from late October until April. The tourist swell is usually limited to the weekend (Thu-Sat), when UAE residents arrive with their families. During these days, reserve hotels and tours in advance to avoid problems. Also when cruise ships arrive in Khasab, facilities like transport will be stretched to the maximum.
The main road access is from Ras Al Khaymah on the road E-11 (after Al Darah border called Khasab Road) and with more difficulty from the Dibba border of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. The E-11 road from Ras Al Khaymah is well sign posted to the Omani border but slow due to many construction sites. There are also major construction works directly on the Omani side of the border, so expect loads of trucks. From Dubai, drive the E-311 to RAK and change on the E-11 road. The whole trip should be done in about 2 - 2.5 hrs depending on the traffic within RAK.
An entry visa is required if you are entering from the United Arab Emirates. The emigration offices on both sides of the border are painfully slow and require travellers to fill out forms. The process to get a UAE exit and Omani entry visa usually requires 30-60 minutes on normal days but during holiday season in the United Arab Emirates, it can take up to four hours. If possible, team up, so that one person queues while the other fills out the immigration forms (each for every person!). Also note that only the Omani immigration building offers restrooms. If you travel with a group (party of six or more) then the driver might receive a token that you have to hand over at the last border check to do a quick head count. Don't leave without handing it over to the border police.
The Omani visa costs 20 Rials / 200 Dirhams for most nationalities and can be bought directly at the border. The entry visa to Musandam is free for ten days if you have already entered the UAE on a tourist visa. Non-GCC UAE Residents have different rules depending on their nationality. Diplomatic or service staff residing in the UAE need to check individually but in general need a visa in advance.
If you use a private vehicle, Omani insurance is required and strictly controlled. Ensure that you have a written confirmation; otherwise, you have to buy insurance at an inflated price at the border. Rental vehicles will need a written insurance confirmation, so make sure to check before you go.
Public transport within Musandam doesn't exist. You will need a four-wheel drive vehicle if you intend to see more than Khasab. Be sure to have spare water and tires with you if you intend to drive to Jebel Al Harim, the Arabian Sea beaches or destinations farther off the beaten track, as absolutely no facilities are along the road. Even if the altitude is high, the heat, dust and gravel will test your vehicle. Along the roads to popular sites are military installations that are regularly used by the Omani army forces for training purposes. Military vehicles have priority, so give way and don't photo/film them as this is strictly forbidden.
Fuel is very cheap in Musandam. Currently a litre of gas (95/98 octane) costs close to 0.5 rial (25 Euro cent/litre), which is cheap even for the UAE. Therefore, lots of UAE travellers fuel their cars at Musandam petrol stations, and queues at the start and end of the weekend might require a 10-15 minute wait.
Due to the sparse population of the Musandam Peninsula coast, wildlife is abundant in the waters along the coast. Scuba diving is one of the main and most popular tourist activities in this region.
- There are several dolphin families living in the fjords of Musandam. Several dhow tours include dolphin spots or specific dolphin tours are available. Don't feed them, and let the Dhow crew do the whistles.
- Kite surfing UAE residents bring this sport to Musandam. The constant wind and the long coast offer abundant places for kiting.
- Diving There are SSI and PADI certified dive centers in Khasab and Dibba.
- Deep Water Soloing Niche sport activity that is growing fast on the Dibba coastline. It is one of the best areas in the world and offer breathtaking clifflines.
Musandam is known for its fish. Today most of the fish is sold in Dubai as prices are about double those in Khasab. Local goat and lamb are also very popular on the grill as kebab or racks. Due to the big labour migration from India, Pakistan and the Philippines, several traditional dishes of South Asia are known and served as well. Only in Khasab and Dibba will travellers find some choice of restaurants, but only very limited international cuisine. If you travel outside of Khasab, stock your own food before because there are no shops.
Accommodation is very limited for travellers. Khasab only has three hotels. The major exception is a luxurious resort at Zighy beach near the Dibba border with Fujairah, the Six Senses Zighy Bay resort. Several hotels and apartment complexes have been planned but due to the financial crisis, property development slowed down. Camping in some places is tolerated (e.g. Bossa Beach near Khasab), but inquire first if you stay near small villages and towns as several Bedouin villages don't accept camping near them, if you are not an Omani or exceptionally well connected to these Bedouins.