Musandam Peninsula and Exclave, Oman

The Omani exclave of Musandam lies north of the United Arab Emirates. Its wild, untouched peaks, adventurous tracks, breathtaking bays and fantastic diving spots make a trip to Musandam an unforgettable experience.

At the northernmost tip of the Arabian Peninsula lies the Omani exclave of Musandam. It is part of the Sultanate of Oman, but geographically cut off from Oman by the United Arab Emirates. At first glance, the entire Musandam peninsula appears rugged and hostile. Here, the foothills of the mighty Hajar Mountains rise up to the sea coast.


PICTURES: Musandam

Photo gallery: Peninsula and exclave Musandam

The island's rugged coastline peaks in the north to form a multitude of small islands and fjord-like bays, which have earned Musandam the nickname "Norway of Arabia". The desert-like climate with hardly any rainfall makes it difficult for the vegetation. Greenery in Musandam can only be found in artificially irrigated oases. Some vegetation-rich plains in the otherwise barren mountain world seem like paradise.

The barren landscape was also the reason why Musandam never really attracted the interest of the rulers in office. Only Sultan Thuwaini bin Said declared Musandam as part of Oman in the late 19th century - following the advice of his British advisors who recognised Musandam's strategic importance for their colonial empire.

However, even when the affiliation of Musandam to Oman was fixed in 1970 by a border agreement with the United Arab Emirates, the peninsula remained isolated from the rest of Omani territory.

Musandam becomes independent and modernised

With four-wheel drive, you can reach the most beautiful places in the mountain world of Musandam, but the demanding routes are not for beginners, Oman - © Styve Reineck / Shutterstock
© Styve Reineck / Shutterstock

In 1979, Musandam's independence was finally declared and the exclave was given its own budget. A year later, telephone, radio and television arrived in Musandam. In addition, an airport was built, as otherwise Musandam could only be reached via a dhow trip lasting several days.

Musandam's approximately 35,000 inhabitants live from fishing, the oasis economy, import and export and wage labour in large cities, such as Musandam's capital Khasab or in the United Arab Emirates. Since 1992, tourism has also been considered a source of income for Musandam, as the entire peninsula was previously a restricted military area.

The Omani military secured the Strait of Hormuz here for the passage of ships from all nations of the world. Although the waterway no longer has the same importance as it once did, 20 to 30 cargo ships still pass through every day.


Journey to Musandam

The cliffs in the north of the Musandam peninsula rise up to 900 metres from the sea, Oman - © Joseph Calev / Shutterstock
© Joseph Calev / Shutterstock

The best way to get to Musandam is by plane from Muscat. The small plane should be booked early enough due to the few seats. Since 2009, there is also a ferry between Muscat and Khasab, which brings its passengers to their destination after 6 hours.

Tip: The best view of the fjords is when you sit on the left side of the plane from Muscat.

By land, there are two roads leading to Musandam, but the road from Dibba to the next road is usually closed by the military. The other route (also easier in terms of roads) leads on the other side of the coast via Ras al Khaimah. On this road, you can reach Dubai in just two hours.

Tip: If you want to drive through the UAE by rental car, you need a confirmation of UAE insurance from the car rental company. The visa can be obtained at the respective border under normal circumstances, but there may be waiting times of several hours.

Best time to visit Musandam

On the Omani peninsula of Musandam, traditional fishing boats are equipped with cosiness for tourist trips - © Fotonium / Shutterstock
© Fotonium / Shutterstock

The best time to travel to Musandam is during the autumn and winter months. In summer, the thermometer often climbs to 50°C, which is quite unbearable for Europeans, and the water temperature is also above 30°C. In February and March, however, you have to expect more rain showers. The rainfall is short but heavy and can literally ruin existing travel plans.

On the road in Musandam

The peninsula itself does not have many highlights to offer in terms of classic sights. You can get everywhere by car, but there are only a few kilometres of asphalt roads. That is why there are more boats than cars on Musandam. You can see the entire enclave in about three days. A trip to the rugged and mostly deserted mountains and a tour through Musandam's breathtaking fjords are a must.

Tip: Especially in winter, Musandam can receive rare but heavy rain showers. The unusual water masses lead to the impassability of many runways and the cancellation of flights and boat trips. Unfortunately, this is a risk you have to take if you want to get to know Musandam.

Recommended accommodations: Oman


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