As a tiny fishing village tucked away in the rugged mountains of Musandam, the island of Kumzar has become an intriguing destination for a lot of travellers and one that should definitely be added to your list of destinations this summer.
With an estimated population of around 500 people, Kumzar is very isolated and is only accessible by boat or by treacherous mountain roads. It continues to lure tourists because the village offers a glimpse into a way of life that has largely remained unchanged for centuries.
According to the oral history and folklore of the village, the locals believe that their village was founded more than 1,000 years ago by a group of Arabs trying to flee the Umayyad caliphate. It is said that they found refuge in the rugged mountains of Musandam, where they built a settlement and established trade with nearby countries.
With limited land to build a refuge, Kumzar is presently a maze of narrow alleys and stone houses, with occasional mosques or schools. The tall mountains usually shield it from wind and rain, but the village does get flooded during heavy rainfall. In the summer, some of the villagers are reported to move to the nearby Khasab to rent a few farms where they grow dates and harvest the produce from these farms to feed their families for the rest of the year.
With limited resources, the Kumzaris had been relying on the abundant waters of the Arabian Gulf to sustain themselves. While there has been a major improvement in the way they fish today, the villagers used to rely on small wooden boats and use nets and traditional fishing techniques to catch a variety of fish, including tuna, mackerel, and barracuda, among others.
The fishing industry remains at the heart of Kumzar. Whatever they harvest from the sea is then dried in the sun, a process that can take several days before being sold in the nearby markets or shipped to other parts of Oman. This labour-intensive process has been essential to the survival of the village.
The language spoken by the villagers of Kumzar is a unique dialect of the Shihhi Arabic language, which is spoken in the Musandam Peninsula of Oman. This dialect is often referred to as Kumzari, and it is distinct from other Arabic dialects in the region.
The origin of Kumzari is not entirely clear, but some linguists believe that it may be related to an ancient Arabic dialect known as Himyaritic, which was spoken in southern Arabia more than a thousand years ago. Others speculate that Kumzari has been heavily influenced by the languages of neighbouring tribes and cultures, such as Baluchi and Persian.
Despite its unique characteristics, Kumzari has remained largely unchanged over the centuries. This is partly due to the isolated location of Kumzar, which has allowed the language to develop independently of outside influences. The villagers have also made a conscious effort to preserve their language and culture, passing down their traditions and stories through oral history.
In recent years, there has been some concern about the future of Kumzari, as younger generations have started to learn Arabic and English in school, and are becoming less fluent in their native language. However, there have also been efforts to preserve and promote Kumzari, such as the establishment of a Kumzari language and culture centre in the nearby city of Khasab.
For visitors to Kumzar, the Kumzari language can be an intriguing aspect of the village’s culture. While most villagers can speak Arabic and some may also speak English, Kumzari remains the language of daily life in Kumzar. Visitors can listen to the villagers conversing in Kumzari and observe the unique intonations and pronunciation of the dialect.
One for the bucket list
Today, Kumzar is a peaceful oasis in the midst of the Arabian Gulf, a place where time seems to stand still. Visitors can explore the village on foot, admiring the rugged beauty of the mountains and the azure waters of the Gulf. They can also take a boat tour to see the fishing boats in action or try their hand at catching their own dinner.
But perhaps the greatest attraction of Kumzar is its people. The villagers are friendly and welcoming, happy to share their culture and way of life with visitors. They take pride in their traditions and are eager to preserve them for future generations.
To reach Kumzar from Muscat, visitors will need to travel to the Musandam Peninsula, which is located in the northernmost part of Oman.
There are different ways to get to Kumzar. The easiest option and one that is not complicated by border issues is to fly direct from Muscat to Khasab, which takes approximately an hour. The other option is to take the ferry, which usually takes five hours from Oman and goes directly to Khasab port.
For those seeking a beautiful adventure this summer, Kumzar is an ideal destination for those seeking a peaceful and authentic experience of life in the Arabian Gulf.