The Fjords of Musandam

I have always presumed that fjords were created by glaciers. So when my husband signed us up for a day trip to the Musandam Peninsula for a dhow boat ride through their “fjords,” I was confused. More so when I read this fascinating fact about where we were headed.

Musandam was an Omani enclave within the UAE, which makes it a territory of Oman that is separated from the rest of the country.

The tour operator required us to submit in advance our passport and Dubai visa information so they could process our entry to Oman. On the bus from Dubai, we passed three other Emirates—Sharjah, Ajman and Ras al-Khaimah—before we reached the border. After checking our documents, we were driven to the Dibba Port.

The traditional dhow boat comes in many forms, but it has long been part of the history of this region—used for livelihood before the rise of oil and gas. Our ride for that day was the typical two-level wooden boat fancied up so visitors could have a relaxing day. The first level had a cozy corner up front, a counter in the middle that served all-day snacks of milk cookies, dates and fresh fruits. This counter also served as the lunch buffet table and behind the counter was the changing area/washroom. Our group was a mixed one but primarily made up of Egyptians and Filipinos—most of which were Dubai-based workers that were clearly not first-timers. They came prepared with comfort food and drinks of their choice, and had already planned out how to maximize their time on this cruise.

I was merely an observer since I had no idea what was in store for the day. But once we left the port, I realized just how beautiful the weather was. In our perch on the second level of the boat, which I will call the “chill area,” I found it quite amusing that despite the heady mix of random conversations, Egyptian music blaring through a speaker and the booming voice of the boat captain trying to amuse the crowd with his jokes, I actually felt very relaxed.

It was a good day to go sailing. There was only one other boat in the general area and soon, as we entered calmer seas, the view became even more breathtaking. Our travels have brought us to both the famous fjords of Norway and New Zealand but this was a totally different experience altogether. For example, the view from fjords formed by glaciers is usually tiny waterfalls streaming down the mountain. Here in Musandam, tiny patches of vegetation sprout out from the rocks in its jagged coastline, a reminder of life amid those walls. Now I understand why they call this the “Norway of Arabia.”

Boasting of stillness and strength, I was enamored by the view from all sides. The Filipina I became acquainted with told me we would be on the boat for around six hours. I already knew there would be swimming involved because their group had swimming attire under their street clothes but I was thinking that, being from the Philippines, it’s kind of hard to be impressed when it comes to gorgeous beaches.

As soon as we stopped moving and dropped the anchor in a cove, I realized that the whole ambience was worth going all the way there. It seemed like a switch was turned on and suddenly, the boat was abuzz with excitement.

The exodus from the upper level began—a thrilling speedboat ride awaited those who wanted a fast spin before being brought to the nearest shore to swim. Some just simply jumped into the waters near the boat and others lined up for their turn on the banana boat.

My husband rode a kayak for a bit, then went for a swim while I decided to get on the speedboat at the last minute, fully dressed, after hearing all the excited squeals from a distance. The navigator deliberately twisted and turned at high speeds for a quick adrenaline rush and I really had fun.

Lunch was served and after some time, the boat began to move elsewhere for a fishing stop. As I was looking at those trying their luck below, the dolphins made their appearance—jumping out of the water—in areas surrounding the dhow. And they began to follow us as well as we sailed back to the port, grateful for such a perfect day.

As we piled back to the bus for the long ride back to Dubai, I was so thankful we decided to do this. The stop at the border for re-entry to the UAE was more tedious but understandable due to illegal crossings that have happened in the past.

We left our hotel at 8 a.m. and returned at 8 p.m.—a good 12 hours, half of which was travel time. We highly recommend making this trip if you have an extra day or two in the area. Better yet, stay longer to explore the villages we passed, hike through the mountains or just spend the night in a boat, being rocked into a state of blissfulness.