Arabian Gulf and Oman Cruise 2016 Blog 1 Dubai, Ras al Khaimah, Kasab Jebel Hareem


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Middle East » Oman » Musandam Peninsula
January 14th 2016
Published: January 15th 2016
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Dubai to Khasab

First day's sail (actually a very slow overnight journey) from Port Rashid Dubai to Khasab Oman

RAKBANK Old BoysRAKBANK Old BoysRAKBANK Old Boys

Chris Dommett, Stephen Hanlon and Travelling Jenks
We arrived in Dubai on Saturday 9th January for a two night stay prior to boarding our ship, The Splendour of the Seas, on Monday 11th for a 7 night cruise calling at Khasab in the Musandam Peninsula, Northern Oman, then Muscat: back to Abu Dhabi and finally Dubai.

Good flight from Heathrow on Friday 8th January on a Quantas A380 ("a city in the sky": or at least a decent sized village in the sky). We arrived in Dubai at 07.10 on the the Saturday morning at the impressive new Terminal 3 and took a driverless train to the main terminal where we spent a fair amount of time waiting for the immigration staff to condescend to approve our visit; then another wait for our baggage. It was an hour and a half before we cleared Customs and met the transport rep for the drive to our hotel, the Arabian Courtyard in "old" Dubai directly opposite the Dubai Museum - a convenient location. As our room wasn't ready we left our bags at the hotel and walked the short distance to the Creek where we enjoyed a coffee and watching the abras (little launches) taking passengers across the Creek.
RAKBANK friends Ram & Mohamed KuttyRAKBANK friends Ram & Mohamed KuttyRAKBANK friends Ram & Mohamed Kutty

Still there. These guys have been with RAKBANK for more than 25 years and were already veterans when I arrived in November 1996.
We were able to get into our room by 1pm and I contacted two of my good friends from my RAKBANK days about meeting up for dinner later. Then we unpacked and settled in. In the evening we took a taxi to the Boardwalk Restaurant at the Creek Golf Club and met my friends Chris Dommett and Stephen Hanlon and enjoyed a decent dinner and even better reunion. The next day, Sunday, we hired a car and headed along vaguely familiar roads up to Ras al Khaimah to meet another friend from my time at RAKBANK, Mohamed Kutty, and to have a look at the Bank's new and very grand Head Office. Afterwards we had lunch at the Al Sahari Restaurant where they used to make the best tabuleh, and still do, and also an excellent humous. Back to Dubai and our hotel with only two wrong turns, both quickly rectified. Chris had invited us to dinner at his villa and we were picked up by his wife Theresa just after 5pm for the drive down to their villa in the Jumeirah district. We had a truly excellent dinner: Chris had made a steak & kidney pie (his Mum used
RAKBANK's new Head OfficeRAKBANK's new Head OfficeRAKBANK's new Head Office

A bit of a step up from the original three storey office in downtown Ras al Khaimah. The Bank now has over 5,000 employees: when I left in 2002 the total was nearer 500, and the Bank has another similar but larger, Head Office building in Dubai
to make the best steak & kidney pie in the world and the skill has been inherited), followed by Chris's speciality chocolate fondant. A wonderful evening.

Next day Monday, we transferred to the ship and were very pleased to have allocated a really nice cabin (or stateroom as they are referred to by the crew) with a balcony on a high deck in the middle of the ship. Our luggage however didn't make it straight away and we spent an increasingly anxious time before we were allowed to go down to the baggage area and identify our cases. The ship set sail out of Port Rashid at 6pm and after a good dinner we headed to our stateroom for the night.



Tuesday 11 January: we arrived at Khasab in the Musandam at 8am and I contacted a car hire firm about the 4X4 I had booked for a drive into the mountains. The rep arrived at 10.30am and we took the car and headed into the hills. The road (track) leading up Jebel Hareem (Mountain of the Women - it's where the women used to go to hide from pirates in the olden days) had improved from the last time I drove along it but was still very bumpy in places and low ratio 4 wheel drive was occasionally needed. At over 3,000 feet and directly below the 6,000 summit there's a valley which has a Shangri-la type quality to it as it's green and flat with lots of plump, happy donkeys and goats grazing on the comparatively lush pastures. We continued on past this enchanted valley and up the mountain until we came to a sign warning that unauthorised people entering the military area would be arrested and charged; so we turned round and headed back down. The ride down was if anything slower than the journey up the mountain as there is less margin for error when heading downhill. Back in Khasab Jane went back to the ship to relax in the sun while I drove south on the road leading to the UAE. I'd travelled this road a few times while living in Ras al Khaimah as it's very scenic and a great drivers' road - especially if you happen to be driving a big bad American sports car with a rumbling V8 engine. I travelled as far as Bukha, a little town
Port Rashid DubaiPort Rashid DubaiPort Rashid Dubai

Dubai skyline with Burj Khalifa in the background and the QE2 in the middle right: looking rather small, dusty, forlorn and forgotten.
spectacularly positioned below a massive mountain wall, and about halfway to Ras al Khaimah, then I turned round to head back to the ship in Khasab and to return the 4X4 to the rental company. Back on board: I took a quick shower then watched as a flotilla of Iranian smuggler boats, which take goods from Khasab to Iran (45 minutes away by speedboat), set sail in what looked to me like grossly overloaded little boats. Then we set sail and steamed slowly down the spectacular but totally arid shoreline of the fjiord-like inlet to the open sea and through the Strait of Hormuz en route for Muscat.

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Start of the climbStart of the climb
Start of the climb

The road up the mountain looking back down to the wadi that leads to Khasab on the coast about 5 miles away
Jebel Hareem summit, over 6,600 feet, 2,000 metersJebel Hareem summit, over 6,600 feet, 2,000 meters
Jebel Hareem summit, over 6,600 feet, 2,000 meters

The highest point in the Musandam with the summit being a closed military area
Shangri La Musandam styleShangri La Musandam style
Shangri La Musandam style

A flat fertile valley at 3,000 feet in the heart of the otherwise arid Hajar Mountains of the Musandam - actually the correct name of this community (too small to be a village) is As Sayh
Shangri La the Big ViewShangri La the Big View
Shangri La the Big View

Jebel Hareem summit to the right
Shangri La up closeShangri La up close
Shangri La up close

At 3,000+ feet with Jebel Hareem in the background at 6,600 feet
Low ratio 4 wheel drive requiredLow ratio 4 wheel drive required
Low ratio 4 wheel drive required

Sometimes it felt that the SUV was about to stand on its nose
Staying coolStaying cool
Staying cool

Jebel Hareem veteran at Khasab Port
On the road to BukhaOn the road to Bukha
On the road to Bukha

Where the mountains drop straight into the sea and the road follows the base of the cliffs
Bukha Old FortBukha Old Fort
Bukha Old Fort

With a massive mountain wall as the backdrop
Road to KhasabRoad to Khasab
Road to Khasab

Where the mountains meet the sea
Road to KhasabRoad to Khasab
Road to Khasab

A new road is being built alongside the old road presumably because of the danger of falling rocks, and/or falling cliffs - but driving along here in an open car with the engine sound echoing back from the cliffs was pretty cool
Khasab FortKhasab Fort
Khasab Fort

Built by the Portuguese in the 16 Century to protect their trade route with Goa. It used to be situated on the seashore but is now nearly quarter of a mile from the sea thanks to reclamation in Khasab Bay
Ready for the offReady for the off
Ready for the off

Fully loaded: actually overloaded for a safe crossing
Contraband ahoyContraband ahoy
Contraband ahoy

The smugglers' jetties loaded with goods awaiting shipment across the Strait of Hormuz to Iran
Anchors awayAnchors away
Anchors away

A flotilla of smugglers setting off for Iran. Their launches are so overloaded that there was a danger of the outboard engines being flooded


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