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Oman: Musandam mountains

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Musandam mountains | Oman | Asia

[Visited: September 2014]

After enjoying the coastline for which the Musandam peninsula is famously dubbed the Norway of Arabia, I decide to explore the mountainous interior, too. After visiting Khor Najd in the late afternoon, I take a road to the south, towards Dibba, and when I reach the Sayh plateau, it is getting dark and time to go back to base in Khasab. I make sure to leave very early the next morning, when it is still pitch dark. Driving up the gravel road into the mountains, I pass Sayh plateau; I am entering uncharted territory. In the east, the sky is getting lighter, and the contours of the mountains around me are slowly appearing from their sleep. When I reach the mountain pass at over 1400m, just under the mountain top of Jebel Harim, or Mountain of Women, I see that sunrise is imminent. Below me, a majestic landscape of barren mountains stretches out before my eyes, with wadis and several small settlements haphazardly glued to the mountainside.

Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): The mountains of Musandam in the early morning light

Driving down the road, I hope to see the sun around every turn, but when I finally reach the ridge on which the road continues towards Dibba, the sun has just risen above the mountain ranges to the east. Once on the ridge, I take a short walk, look back at Jebel Harim behind me. I feel a strong urge to hike, but this region does not have a network of developed and indicated trails. I drive down a little more, park the car, and invent my own hiking trail. I see a small settlement on a ridge, below steep rocky cliffs, and walk down through the dry and rocky landscape until I reach the stone houses where only goats seem to live. I follow the ridge, enjoy some spectacular views of the canyon and mountains around me, and have to climb down a narrow wadi, and up again on a steep climb where I imagine waterfalls could form during the rainy season - even though I wonder if this region ever sees serious rainfall. The loud goats that I have seen before, now seem to guide me up the mountain, and I follow their steps, admiring their ability to scale mountains as if gravity did not matter to them.

Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): The rugged landscape with canyons south of Jebel Harim

Back on the gravel road, I walk back until I reach the car, have some breakfast, and drive down into Wadi Bih. The road to Dibba is forbidden for foreigners, and I continue straight into Rawdah Bowl. After driving through a narrow wadi, the landscape opens; a circular plain surrounded by unforgiving mountains. I see several surprisingly big, old cemeteries, and am looking for the traditional houses I have read about. But most houses seem to be modern. To my surprise, part of the road here is asphalt. Walking along the ridge of the bowl, I finally find several traditional stone houses, with wooden doors, decorated with carvings, and a special locking system. Peeking through a small opening, I can see that the floor in the spartan mansions has been lowered. There are acacia and ghat trees here, as well as dead trees, testimonies of the harsh climate here. On my way back, I drive north into Wadi Bih, which has peculiar striated, slanted layers of rock. The mountains of Musandam peninsula are created by the movement of the Eurasian and Arabian plates: the peninsula is slowly sinking. I drive up the mountain road again: there is only one way out of here. I make several more stops on my way up to the mountain pass: the settlements that have been built on the slopes of the mountains look even better now. I make another stop at the queer, green oasis of Sayh plateau, where I see grass and palmtrees in stark contrast with the barren landscape, and goats and donkeys happily grazing on the delights that the plantations offer. I leave this green bowl for Khasab again - back from the mountains to the seaside.

Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Jebel Harim towering over the landscape and gravel road
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Early morning view of the gravel road on the mountains south of Jebel Harim
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Scenery of the Musandam mountains just after sunrise
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Gravel road to Dibba in the morning
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Old cemetery in Rawdah Bowl
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Settlements carved out on a bare mountain range south of Jebel Harim
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Early morning view of a typical settlement south of Jebel Harim
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Hot day in Rawdah Bowl with dead tree
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Colourful rocky landscape with peculiar striated rock formations in Wadi Bih
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Looking into Wadi Bih with a small settlement in the foreground
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): The Sayh plateau, a small fertile valley surrounded by bare mountains
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): Early morning in the Rawdah Bowl, surrounded by mountains
Picture of Musandam mountains (Oman): The older houses in Rawdah Bowl are made of stone with wooden doors, and a special locking system

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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