Into the unkown
An innovative itinerary and pioneering approach toisland-hopping in the Arabo-Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.
This is not a place blessed with many must-see sights – actually, none.
Some would even say there aren’t many reasons for non-Iranians or Arabs to visit. Well, we had already done island hopping in the Indian Ocean, SE Asia, the Caribbean and the Pacific, but to us the attraction of island hopping in the Persian Gulf was the novelty of the itinerary.
Indeed, if outlandish ports such as Muscat, Sohar and Badar-e-Abbas doesn’t sound interesting already, the exotic-sounding islands will send most people scurrying for a map to look up destinations such as the Daymaniyat Islands, the Musandam Peninsula, Hormuz Island, Queshm Island and the former peal diving beach villages of Qatar – all places on our innovative itinerary during this trip.
Locations: Oman, UAE, Qatar and Iran; during 1,5 months
Rich in oil, gas, historic trading ports, remote islands and mystique, few geographical regions are as evocative and as controversial as the Persian Gulf.
This body of water and surrounding land is the heart of Arab consciousness and pride. No wonder, then, that Iran and her neighbors to the south have long argued over its name. Arabian countries may call it the Arabian Gulf or just The Gulf, but for all Iranians in the south, including the Bandari (traditional Iranian Arabs), it can never be called anything but the Khalij-e Fars: Gulf of Persia.
This region demonstrated to us that is has its very own flavor with lively colorful bazaars, charismatic local smugglers and traders, beautiful Bandari women wearing leather face masks, old Portuguese forts, bone-dry islands, deep salt caves, weird rock formations, inland deserts and mountains in shades of pink, red, purple and yellow, overlooking white shorelines where turtles, flamingos and wild camels roam or sunbathe.
Oh, and did we mention that we went drift diving among splendid coral gardens and whale sharks off oil rigs in the geostrategic choke point for the most of the world’s oil? A quite extraordinary experience.
Also see our 'Persia' page covering a journey across classical Iran, our 'Hippy Trail' page covering more remote parts of Iran, our 'Kurdistan' page for the Kurdish provinces inside Iran bordering Iraq. In Iran, we also climbed 'Damavand', the highest mountain in the Middle East.
Selected pics during our encounter:
As we arrived we spent some time arranging a diving trip to the remote Dimaaniyat Islands off the coast of northeast Oman, and in the meantime we explored the old city of Muscat as well as several oasis towns inland. In Muscat, we slept in Mutrah (Old Muscat) with acces to all the bazaars, the port and several palaces.
It was easy to rent a car and visit oasis towns in the Al-Dakhiliyah region and Al-Natinah region. On the way to Nizwa oasis we had lunch in Birkat. Lunch around here means one thing: rice with saffron and sultanas, buried in seasoned chicken, lamb or camel.
Nizwa, the former capital and religious centre of Oman, was a good place to kill a few days. The entire village is sourrounded by a thick palm oasis and some of Oman's highest mountains. We came on a Friday and saw the animal market. A stroll through the vegetable-, silver- and general markets was nice too. Yet, the real highlight of Nizwa was the round Bahla tower fort and the Jabrin Castle.
In the early morning we went snorkeling off Al Jissah beach near Muscat.
Before our diving expedition we did some hiking in the Hajar Mountains around Nakhal, home to one of Oman's most dramatic forts.
This can also be done during a long day trip from Muscat, but it is easier done from Nakhal off the Nakal-Rustaq road. The wadi flows year-round and a discrete dip can be done.
We stayed a few days in Sawadi village as part of our diving expedition to the remote Damanyat Islands. The small village boast a truely unique atmosphere.
There are several scattered islands off the shore of Sawadi. At low tide, we could walk to a watchtower on one of the islands. But these are not the Damanayat Islands, which are about 1½-2 hour's boat ride off the coast of Sawadi.
We spent several days diving on the Damanayat Islands off the northeast coast of Oman. We saw several turtles, angel and parrot fish, and sharks.
Anders in front of whale shark, Damanayat Islands.
We had lunch and dinner on the beach.
Separated from the rest of Oman by the east coast of UAE, the Musandam Peninsula was a land of beautiful khors, small villages and dramatic, mountain-hugging roads. It was convenient that we had our own car, which was not even a 4WD.