Nestled amidst the turquoise blue waters that jut into the Strait of Hormuz is the marvel of Arabian Gulf — the Musandam Peninsula. A three-hour ferry ride from Shinas harbour, the journey to this part of the Sultanate is a mesmeric glide through the azure ocean and as the ferry passes in-between the golden-brown craggy facades on either side, the landscape ahead as a dramatic revelation.
What makes Musandam Governorate unique are its people, culture, history and the remarkable village layout clinching along the khors of this peninsula. The incredible village sights are well draped with the aquamarine water of the beach by the khor; rich in marine life which includes the friendly bottle-nose dolphins, butterfly fish, groupers and varied coral growth. The rutted stone houses made from local stones, embossed against the hilly terrain built as defence lines, are now stunningly juxtaposed alongside the vibrant modern homes.
Khor Shem, Khor Najd and Khor Ghob Ali, the three of these major khors frame the peninsula, where the population blooms on fishing and herding.
Khor Shem is a stretch of 18 km fjord. Five villages, Qanah, Maqlab, Shem, Nadafih occupy this inlet and village Sibi decorates the end of the khor. “Sibi village has only 12 houses and most people prefer herding and fishing for their livelihood,” says Mazher al Dhahhori, a tourist guide at Atana Musandam.
Each island and its village have their own story to share. Mahzer al Dhahhori even explains three tribes dwell in this part of the Sultanate: The Al Kumzari tribe, much acclaimed for their unique language style, is positioned at the northernmost tip of the peninsula, the Al Dhahhori and the Al Shehhi tribe, all populates the rest of Musandam.
The villages of these khors are accessible only by boats or traditional dhow from a jetty, nearby the port of Khasab. A round trip of maximum three hours offers a spectacular view of dolphins racing along the dhow, cormorants resting on the rocky edges, scenic islands and fishing boats. If your travel itinerary falls on a Friday or a Saturday you can spot boats carrying gallons of fresh water to be distributed for free to all these villages for daily use.
The historic Telegraph Island
As the dhow reaches the calm clear waters of Jazirat Al Maqlab, snorkelling becomes a treat for those who dare to plunge in and enjoy the underwater charms. The most famous landmark of Jazirat Al Maqlab other than the village is the renowned Telegraph Island.
The first telegraph was first set up in 1864, which ran from Iran to India via the peninsula.
Kumzar- A solitary splendour
An hour and a half boat ride from Khasab, takes one to a legendary land that is the last village of Oman.
This northern most part of Oman embraces the Strait of Hormuz and the village stands highly guarded by rugged mountain at the backdrop, overlooking the bay. Kumzar, as the name suggests, is unique in a special way is the second biggest after Lima village. The land is dominated by the Kumzari tribe, who follow their exclusive tradition and culture, quite altered from the rest of the country.
A history of several centuries, Kumzar is well known for the dialect that is influenced by twenty-five languages from across the globe.
“The Kumzari language is not pure Arabic, it is mix of different languages like Lari, Portugese, Hindi, Indo-European, Arabic, French and many more in the list. The reason behind such an amalgamation of language is the people inhabiting this coast. Many here found solace after fabled shipwreck or those who once with invading intentions made a strong foothold, never returned and settled down several hundred years back. All of whom hail from various nations from across this part of the Gulf and Europe,” says Lathifa al Kumzari, a dweller of Kumzar village.
If language is what make Kumzar exclusive, the warm hearted and sociable people makes the place worth mentioning. This solo village island stretches not more than 4 km and is inhabited by 5000 villagers, who pursue fishing, farming and livestock rearing as their major part of their living. Their culture and tradition, which is much of their own origin is generously passed through generation to follow. “Now-a-days young crowd is seen living in Khasab for their job and visit the village on holidays. All of them have house both in Khasab and Kumazar. During the summer months (May to August) the village dwellers shift to Khasab and spend their holidays before returning back at the end of August,” says Lathifa al Kumzari.
Though little patrolled, yet a visit to each of these villages unfolds history and tradition as old as time.