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My weekend in Musandam, Oman

13 April 2013, 22:08

In Oman the weekend starts on Wednesday evening and lasts until Friday evening. For those of you who do not know where Oman is; Oman is a country on the Eastern side of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Yemen to the South, the United Arab Emirates to the Northwest and by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the West.

Muscat is the capital and it is situated on the Northern coastline of Oman. What few people know is that there is an exclave of Oman to the North…this is Musandam. Another exclave, Madha, is slightly further South from Musandam.

Musandam is a strategic asset. It is situated on the Strait of Hormuz and this gives Oman and Iran joint control over this 54 kilometre-wide channel of water which allows entry into the Arabian Gulf. In a region with many complexities even the name is contentious and the Iranis refer to it as the ‘Persian Gulf’.

There are only two legal ways to get to Musandam. One is by ferry from Muscat – more about this later – and the other is at the border crossing between Al Qir in the Emirate of Ras Al Khain (also Ras Al Khaimah) and Tibat which is on the Musandam Peninsula i.e. in Oman.

Musandam is a part of Oman purely because the tribal leaders there want it that way. It is an allegiance that goes back hundreds of years to the beginnings of the Al Said dynasty which still rules today. But it is a complex issue…

 So, for example, the governate of Madha is physically situated in Sharjah (UAE) but it is aligned with and part of Oman. Inside Madha is Nahwa and there the people are aligned with and part of the UAE. Hence there is a piece of the UAE in a piece of Oman which is in the UAE. Little wonder that Westerners get confused here.

The ferry fleet consists of two sister-boats: the Shinas and the Hormuz. These are the two fastest ferries of their size and type in the world and the numbers are mind-boggling. The Shinas set the world speed record at 57.2 knots – about 103 km/h. They cruise at 40 to 43 knots (80 km/h) and over the trip distance between Muscat and Khasab of 435 km the four diesel engines consume more than 72,000 litres of fuel. That’s enough to burn a hole in anyone’s credit card…

People in Musandam speak a language called Kumzari that nobody else on earth understands. It is a mixture of Farsi, Arabic, Hindi and English. They have customs that are different from Arabs as highlighted in their traditional wedding dance (see Jonas’ uploaded photos).

So, while it is back to work for me, you lot are wished a great weekend…enjoy the rugby.

Send biltong and boerewors!

Jonas Barbarossa

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