The Desert Fjords of Oman - Atlas Obscura

The Desert Fjords of Oman

Khasab, Oman

Take the most scenic fjord landscape in Norway and add dramatic red cliffs, warm clear water, and playful dolphins. 


At the far northeastern tip of Arabia exists a landscape like no other. Separated from Oman proper by the United Arab Emirates, the Musandam Peninsula reaches toward Iran and into the notorious Strait of Hormuz with delicate, dramatic mountains of barren red rock falling into an emerald sea.

These are the only desert fjords in the world.

Known locally as khors, these jagged coves were created by the collision of tectonic plates instead of the glacial activity that shaped their Nordic and Alaskan cousins. But the uncanny similarities persist with 6,500-foot (2,000-meter) mountains and razor-thin spines of rock towering over deep water teeming with wildlife. Dolphins, rays, and a variety of colorful reef fish can be found throughout the inlets, and the warm, clear water makes for excellent scuba diving and snorkeling.

Easily explored in a day trip from the town of Kasab, most excursions will be aboard a traditional fishing vessel known as a dhow. Between vibrant local history lessons and fascinating facts of geography, guides may even free dive for scallops freshly served as ceviche with a bit of lemon and spices.

Know Before You Go

Although the Musandam Governorate does have a small airport, getting to this unique territory is easily achieved overland from major airports in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah.

The drive itself is well worth the journey, with the excellent asphalt winding its way around dry mountains along the picturesque coast. Simply follow the E11 highway up from Dubai and Sharjah until it turns into the Khasab Coastal Road at the border crossing in Ras al Dahrah. That road will dead end in the port town of Khasab. Can’t miss it.

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August 8, 2023

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