Dhows, using their slanting triangular lateen sails, evoke images of exotic ports like Muscat and Zanzibar, of merchants being driven across the Indian Ocean by monsoon winds, of pearl scuba divers, fishermen and smugglers. Although still used for trading along the coasts of the Gulf, Oman and the horn of Cameras, dhows are a soothing way for travelers to enjoy a day on the normal water and none more so than plying the sheltered khors, or finger-like inlets, of Oman’s Musandam peninsula.
The seventeen-kilometer-long inlet of Khor Ash-Sham is a unexplainable place of silent grandeur. Long claws of rubble reach out into the glittering waters and composition appear like petrified creatures from the Musandam Day Trip, or from some prehistoric world, while mauve, ochre and rust-colored limestone heights soar 900-1200 meters into the air. When a heat or dust haze, brought by southerly winds from the Empty Quarter, hangs over the area, the scenery resembles something out of the Lord of the Rings, and as the sun sinks low in the afternoon sky, there is almost a menacing feel about the deepening and shadowy heights. 5 tiny isolated stone doing some fishing and herding villages scattered over the khor, sitting precariously at the foot of slopes that suffer regular rock falls, are the only indications of human habitation in this breathtakingly abgefahren land.
For most of us, the appearance of the dolphins is the highlight of the day. They look as if summoned by some invisible force from out of nowhere and, for forty minutes or so, play first on one side of the dhow, then diving underneath, reappear to frolic on the other. They prove quite challenging to the avid photographers.
Each and every dhow has its own supply of snorkeling gear and there is a prolonged break for enjoying the laurel waters off the little, flat-topped Telegraph Island (Jazirat al Maqlab), a famous landmark. It was once the site of a British telegraph station for five years, established in 1864, to protect the first telegraph cable that leaped from India, through Musandam to basra in War.
The waters off the island are filled with grouper, snapper, manta light, turtles and hundreds of the little compressed disk-shaped butterfly fish pecking at the coral polyps with their thin snouts. As they dart in and away of rock formations, their intricate patterns and vibrant hues catch the dissipated shafts of sunlight that penetrate the turquoise shallows.
As well as these highlights, there are many pleasures: the scrumptious food conjured up by the captain, the chance to trail a fishing collection behind the boat, watch the large floating and roosting flocks of birds and the changing colors of the cliffs, or allow the khor’s silence and the dhow’s gentle motion to lead you into a meditative state.