The remote and still pristine wilderness area of Musandam is thriving with a dynamic diversity of life, with rugged mountainous fjord's giving a truly unique natural character.
Separated from the rest of Oman by the east coast of the UAE, and guarding the southern side of the strategically important Strait of Hormuz, the Musandam Peninsula is a land of beautiful fjords, small villages and dramatic, mountain-hugging roads. No longer difficult to reach, this beautiful peninsula, with its cultural eccentricities, is well worth a visit if you're on an extended tour of Oman, or if you're after a taste of the wilderness away from Dubai.
Just as the endless development of the UAE withers and the straight road begins to buckle towards the Musandam border, a cliffside track winds around the fractured coast and leads you to this Omani exclave.
The capital of the province, Khasab, is small, but far from sleepy. Its souq resounds to a babble of different languages, including Kumzari, its harbour bursts with activity, and there's the splendid fort, built by the Portuguese to keep their sailors supplied with dates and fresh water.
Despite the tanker motorway a few miles to the north, the waters around Musandam are pristine and full of dolphins that streak through the water like torpedoes. Just an hour from Khasab are dive sites with schools of blue and yellow Indian Ocean angelfish, Arabian butterfly fish, snappers, lionfish, groupers, stingrays and turtles. Some experts think the coral of Musandam is among the best in the world due to the absence of heavy industry along the coast and few fishing fleets in the area.
Rolling off the road onto any of the beaches that line the coast offers the perfect opportunity to while away the hours splashing in the Arabian Gulf. Later in the evening, the beach packs out with locals conducting meetings around a campfire, and makeshift fishermen catching local delicacies with a piece of string and a hook.
As the only access to the Persian Gulf, the Straits of Hormuz wash the shores of Musandam carrying rich nutrient laden waters from the Indian Ocean into the gulf attracting a staggering range of marine life - from turtles, mantas, sharks, rays, whale sharks, dolphins and whales - to the small reef dwelling creatures that form the basis of the area's food chain.
Until recently, the dusty heart and stony interior of Musandam could only be explored on the back of a mule. Now, a road climbs steadily into the great Hajar Mountains that stretch for close to 500km, reaching 3,000 metres at its highest point. The road soon becomes a track carved into the hillside, with extraordinary drops off the side into oblivion. At the crest of one hill the entire landscape will open up before you. Mountains hewn, carved and hacked from the ancient foundations of Earth sweep to the horizon.
It is the Gulf, but not as you know it: otherworldly Musandam is not a place for those wanting fusion food and FIJI Water, fine hotels or a Lamborghini showroom. This is the Middle East of wilderness, serenity and beauty.