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Monday, February 9, 2009

OMAN’S MUSANDAM PENINSULA

THE LEOPARDS, DOLPHINS AND FJORDS OF ARABIA:

MUSANDAM:

Straddling the world’s most important shipping lanes (Persian Gulf) is Musandam, which nurtures Oman’s most dramatic coastline. Interspersed with serrated cliffs that abruptly rise to 2,100 metres, quaint fishing villages and jagged peaks that form part of Oman’s expansive Hajar Mountain range Musandam is also surrounded by a narrow inlet of water with a cluster of islands that were shaped by ancient, violent earthquakes and visited by Arabia’s earliest mariners and explorers

At the heart of Musandam’s waters is the Strait of Hormuz, a passage sprinkled with fishing boats and dhows and teaming with coral reefs, marine life (dolphins, whales and shoals of fish) and a host of beautiful and secretive khors – the fjords of Arabia – none more alluring than Khor Shim, the largest fjord in Musandam.

Often coined “The Norway of the Arabian Gulf”, the Strait’s warm waters and ubiquitous cliffs additionally offer visitors some of the world’s finest deep-sea diving and snorkelling experiences. The small islands of Mushroom Rock and Limah Rock provide divers with the perfect location to view Oman’s marine life; so ideal the islands almost replicate an outdoor aquarium, where barracuda, plankton and batfish weave in and around a kaleidoscope of iridescent purple, yellow and green-hued coral.

Visitors to Musandam who want to recreate the seafaring journeys of Sindbad the Sailor can also cruise the khors in a dhow or visit the fishing villages by speedboat that dot the coastline.

Because much of Musandam is mountainous, camels are not a common sight however visitors will see plentiful Bait A Qufl, - small rectangular houses built of local stone with roofs made of wood and earth by local tribesmen. Inside the dwellings the floors are constructed one metre below the ground, designed for sleeping and storing food.

The highest peak in Musandam is Jebal Harem (mountain of women) that stands at 2087 metres. Nurturing a carpet of wildflower – iris and gladioli, visitors will additionally view cave paintings and rock art on the boulders. The most northern part of Musandam (and Oman) is Kumzar, which can only be reached by sea.

Khasab, Musandam’s capital, which was settled on a pretty harbour and built around three saw-toothed hills, is also bustling with local markets and colourful souqs. A city built of white-flat roofed houses and built near a sheer rocky wadi, visitors can walk the town or few the port’s bustling activities – from visiting Iranians engaging in contraband (only upon their return to Iran) or livestock including goats, arriving by speedboat.

Khasab is equally famous for Fort Khasab, an 18th century citadel built by the Portuguese during their occupation of the region. The fort also has three cannons facing towards the sea, which were used up until recently to signal the presence of the full moon, indicating the end of Ramadan and the beginning of Eid.

MUSANDAM’S WILDLIFE:

Though Musandam’s marine life is largely the main attraction it is the elusive and rare Arabian leopard, which prowls and hunts in Musandam’s foothills (and in Dhofar in the southern region of Oman), that gives the region its special mystique. Protected and endangered, the Arabian Leopard is one of the last surviving species of large cats that roam the Arabian Peninsula, evidence of its presence in Musandam has been found around secluded waterholes and goat herders in the deep chasms of the Hajar Mountains have also heard its rasping snarl.

Other nature reserves have been established throughout Musandam (and the Sultanate) to protect the natural habitats of Oman’s wildlife – from the Arabian leopard, Oryx, gazelle, desert fox to the wild cats, turtles and ibex. Also home to 22 species of whale and dolphin, Oman is a member of the International Whaling Commission and follows the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species, which prevents the trade of endangered animals.

SUSTAINABLE RESORT AND SPA:
LUXURIOUS SIX SENSES HIDEAWAY:

Visitors to the Arabian Gulf seeking a classic Arabian getaway in the tranquil folds of a Small Luxury Hotel property - and on a strip of land that once saw the Portuguese and Persians fight to take possession of – should visit Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay in Musandam, the smallest and most northern region of Oman.

Musandam’s private beachfr0nt enclave was the perfect location for Six Senses Hideaway to build a luxurious yet self-sustainable resort spa and villas for the discerning traveller. Just a short flight from the Arabian Gulf airline hubs of Abu Dhabi City and Dubai - and located in a region that is separated from the rest of Oman by 70 kilometres of the United Arabs Emirates - Six Senses Hideaway is the ultimate romantic or corporate incentive retreat.

Located on a secluded beach near a quaint fishing village at Zighy Bay the property also offers luxurious villa accommodation, which includes infinity pools, immediate access to 1.6 kilometres of private beach and a wealth of activities (such as paragliding and snorkelling), a private marina and the Six Senses Spa, featuring the ultimate in holistic treatments, including their signature Sensory Spa Journey.

With its provincially chic décor and personal space, which includes bathrooms that extend to outdoor showers, Six Senses Hideaway offers a beautiful contrast to the bustle of Dubai, especially for visitors wanting to blend the quiet customs and hospitality of old-world Arabia with contemporary luxury.

And how to sell Six Senses Hideaway? Imagine going on a picnic atop an ancient mountain, enjoying a luxurious spa treatment or strolling the beach overlooking the cerulean waters where pirates once clashed and dolphins still play. This quiet pocket strip of old-world paradise is truly the ultimate Arabian getaway.

Unlike other popular Arabian Gulf getaway destinations, great importance has been placed on preserving Musandam’s unblemished landscape and heritage through the Sultanate’s visionary 2020 economic charter, which ensures controlled sustainable tourism throughout the region.

The recommended stay is two-three nights.

FAST FACTS:

* Oman Air offers three direct flights from Dubai to Khasab in Musandam as well as direct services to Muscat. www.omanair.aero
* Khasab is only 3 hours by car from Abu Dhabi and approximately 2 hours from Dubai
* Private luxury car transfers (from Dubai or Abu Dhabi) are available for guests staying at Six Senses Hideaway Zighy Bay (a member of Small Luxury Hotels).
* Visitors can also stay at Golden Tulip Khasab Hotel or Khasab Hotel. Their locations are ideal for organising diving and boat trips.
* Opening 2009: Alila Villas Musandam, Designed to blend unassumingly into the surroundings, it will offer a rare and privileged lifestyle on the towering cliffs overlooking the sea. A true oasis of luxurious living that creates a surprisingly different experience to perfectly complement the extraordinary surprises of this unique destination.

For further information please contact Oman Ministry of Tourism

Telephone: +61 2 9113 5959
Email: info@tourismoman.com.au
Visit: www.omantourism.gov.om
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