In the final part of our series on Musandam, Felicity Glover heads to Jebel Harim on a safari like no other.
We are standing at the foothills of Jebel Harim – or Mountain of Women – and looking up at the soaring limestone cliffs. At 2,087 metres above sea level, Jebel Harim is the tallest mountain on the Musandam Peninsula and on this day, we were heading off on a mountain safari that would see us traverse some very scary roads to get to the top.
We were kept on the edge of our seats thanks to the numerous hairpin turns and heart-stopping moments where we were so close to the edge that we could stare straight down into the deep ravines. But without a doubt, the views were magnificent.
After spending the morning cruising the pristine khors, or fjords of Khasab, it was now time for our mountain safari. Our guide picked us up at our hotel, the delightful Atana Musandam, at 2pm and we headed inland to the mountain.
Formed thousands of years ago thanks to plate tectonics, or massive movement of the earth’s crust, Jebel Harim is brimming with massive boulders that appear bigger than buses – many of which were sitting precariously on the sides of cliffs and even the rocky road taking us to the top.
We spotted terraced mountain villages and many herds of goats, while a stark reminder of just how dangerous mountain living can be was unavoidable: a rusting, dusty wreck of a car laying on its flattened roof was planted by the roadside. It had been left there to remind motorists to drive safely or suffer the consequences.
As our 4X4 climbed higher, every now and again our guide would stop to allow us to take photos of crumbling Bedouin houses that were abandoned years ago. At one stage, we could spot a couple of “homes” that had been built at the opening of deep caves – how anybody reached them was baffling.
We finally reached a village built on a plateau, where date trees and other crops were being cultivated. A curious herd of goats and even a few donkeys were grazing by the roadside while a cemetery full of broken headstones was another reminder of just how difficult it would be to live here with no immediate medical help nearby.
Our ears were beginning to pop now and from this village, we could see the top of the mountain. This, unfortunately, is out of bounds to visitors as it’s a military radar post that monitors the strategically important Strait of Hormuz.
Next up was a field filled with 200-million-year-old fossils from the sea – or at least what was once the sea, but are now sitting at 1,400 metres. From hundreds of pre-historic fish to molluscs and shells, they have survived the harsh conditions and can easily be seen thanks to a splash of water on the rock faces.
But it was almost the end of our journey to the top – we headed up the final winding road and hopped out at 1,600 metres – a point where we were looking over a stunning canyon dotted with a beautiful array of colours – from pinks, to greys, to browns and the occasional splash of green from a hardy bush.
It was an incredible view and worth the heart-stopping climb to get here.
Our way back down was a little quicker but perhaps even scarier as it was a steep drive and we were stuck in low gear the entire time. But at the end of the day, it had been a remarkable journey to the Mountain of Women.
Built in the style of a traditional Omani village, Antana Musandam is centrally located and the perfect base to explore Khasab and beyond. The friendly staff can help you to arrange tours, while the 110 rooms and suites are spacious and luxurious and feature either a terrace or balcony. For bookings and more information, go to www.atanahotels.com.