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Khasab – The Anti-Dubai

Khasab Fort, Musandam, Sultanat of Oman, Arabic Peninsula

Khasab Fort, Musandam, Sultanat of Oman, Arabic Peninsula

The Anti-Dubai seems the perfect dubbing for this sleepy harbor town on the tip of Musandam, only a three hours drive from glittery Dubai. Khasab, right on the straight of Hormuz, was not on the tourist radar 20 years ago and could only be reached by boat. Today, it attracts three cruise ships a week and is most popular with expatriates fleeing the traffic jams and glass palaces of Dubai to enjoy the cool mountain air and tranquility. Their pit stop is the luxurious Golden Tulip Hotel on the western end of the bay.

The mountains that frame the city seem so close that we puzzled how the daily plane navigates its way into this small valley. Apart from the dramatic mountains scenery and quietness, Khasab has many other attractions. The most popular ones? Dhow trips into the fjords and mountain safaris that take you 1800 meters above sea level. Several villages heck out a living on flat terrain guarded by mountains. In the beginning of January, this trip was a windy and chilly affair. So was our day of scuba diving.

Khasab has no public transport, not even taxis. The city center can be easily explored on foot in half an hour: a big mosque, a few shops and restaurants that frame the main square, that is pretty much it! Our favorite was Al Shamalayi, where we ate every single meal. Spicy grilled fish, king prawns and once even a grilled lobster, all served on heavy metal plates still sizzling when put on the table. It was the best place for people watching and running into familiar faces, like tourists we had met at other places.

Khasab also surprised us with unusual attractions. One was a brand new LuLu Hypermarket down at the harbor that carries pretty much everything you need, from food to clothing to electronics. Of course, it was not the shop itself that was so fascinating, but the customers. It was not exactly busy due to the rather high prices, but strolling through the wide aisles seemed a novel experience for the locals, especially for the ladies. Deeply veiled, they wander along the shelves packed with stuff that they could only dream off a year ago or only shop in Dubai. We were attracted by what is unique for, like cardamom, incense, rosewater and “Essence de Fleur d’Oranger”. We bought a couple of bottles… One day we will surely know what to do with it. Another great souvenir is Iranian saffron, which perfectly leads into another story: smuggling.

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