As dhows continue to rule the waters of Musandam, it is also the the modern day tourist’s choice of travel and opportunity to explore.
The Traditional dhows of Musandam are still one of the biggest tourist attractions in the peninsula. AbdulFateh al Shihi realized the potential of tourism in this sector way back in the 1990s when he was a fisherman.
Today, he is the owner of five dhows, a yacht as well as a luxury dhow in the near future. Reflecting back, AbdulFateh said he has been in the tourism industry for around 16 years and is the owner of a Tourism Company called Musandam Sea Adventure Oman. In 1995, still practicing the traditional occupation of fishing, he a sudden influx in the number of tourists visiting and exploring Musandam rising. “I had a small dhow and on Thursday and Friday, which were the weekends then, I would clean the dhow and make it comfortable. Some of the tourists used to come directly to the harbour and when they spot my dhow they would immediately choose mine,” proudly said Al Shihi.
Back in the day, Al Shihi hardly spoke any English, “I did not speak any English then, but they would communicate to give me an idea that they wanted to go to the telegraph island, be with the dolphins or watch the sunset. My brothers were always ready to help but working on my own helped me pick up the English language.”
Today he speaks fluent English (video on @omanobserver facebook page and www.omanobserver.om).
Soon the word spread and tourists started recommending his dhow services to people from around Oman and the other Arab countries, it was then “when I decided to start my own company,” said Al Shihi.
In 2005 onwards, Al Shihi started visiting trade fairs and exhibitions in Europe, spreading the knowledge about the dhow and his company. His first trade fair was during his visit to Germany. The exposure from the trade fairs brought him direct queries from the European countries. Today his company enjoys an international status.
We got the opportunity to meet him after his return from Italy on his custom made yacht that he called Rubba. Every inch, corner and detail was designed by Al Shihi himself. The top of the yacht was shaped like a car, whilst the rest of the yacht although modern had strong influences of Omani traditions and culture.
When the Rubba was completed, Al Shihi, proud of his work wanted to surprise his father. He had a car sent to the house to pick up him up and taken to the workshop the yacht was being completed at. According to Al Shihi, the joy his father felt was the best reward he could have ever received. “My father, my brothers and I came back to Musandam on the new Yacht,” added Al Shihi.
We asked him about what it was the tourists enjoyed the most, he replied, “People have various interests some like sightseeing while others want to spend the night laying on the deck watching the stars. Many tourists prefer camping and we provide all the necessary equipment. We have the facilities for diving, fishing and trekking in the mountains. We have Wadi Ain here and the trekking is a wonderful experience as at the end of the wadi, tourists are surprised with is a perennial water fall. Where we are right now, Khor Shams, is good for diving but there are also many other spots that are also great for diving,” explained Al Shishi enthusiastically.
AbdulFateh is not only the owner of the dhows and the captain of his vessels, when it comes to hospitality he likes to be part of the team. Today he has a team of 38. “It is important how we serve and what we serve. My wife has shared the traditional recipes and that is what we cook and serve. My journeys abroad gave me an insight into international standards of hospitality. We are particular we maintain international standards,” he added.