Jebel Harim, which translates as the ‘mountain of women’ and at 2000m the highest peak in Musandam. The mountain takes its name from the days when local women would retreat to caves up here in order to avoid being carried off by pirates or rival tribes while their menfolk were away on extended fishing or trading expeditions. The actual summit is home to a radar station monitoring shipping way below in the Straits of Hormuz and is out of bounds, although there are superb all-round views from the road, with breathtaking views back to Khasab and onwards towards Dibba. Many of the rocks up here are also studded with superbly preserved fossils, offering the remarkable sight of ancient submarine creatures – molluscs, fish, clams and numerous trilobites – now incongruously stranded near the summit of one of Arabia’s highest mountains.
Past the summit, there are sensational views of the road ahead, as it runs along a narrow ridge before descending towards the Rawdah Bowl, plus stomach-churning views into the deep gorge below. The bowl has several interesting features including the local stone-built houses known as bayt al qifl,or the ‘house of locks’. The area has a long history of settlement, as can be seen from the pre-Islamic tombstones (lying close to the road) made either from luminous yellow sandstone or grey limestone and etched with script or pictographs. Surrounding the outskirts of the village are old cemeteries, evidence of population for many years. There are about 500 graves in this cemetery on a plateau just off Wadi Bih, the bowl was formerly used as a local tribal battle ground, which presumably accounts for the large number of people buried here.
Our mountain safari tour Buckle up for a 4×4 adventure to 6,000 feet above sea level. From Khasab city, we’ll drive up into the mountains of the Musandam Peninsula, making pit-stops at viewpoints along the way. The village of Sayah is on the cards, too. This picturesque hamlet tumbles down the hillside, and is still occupied by desert-dwelling Bedouin people. The settlement is famous for its ancient petrography – 3,000-year-old paintings splattered on the rock face.En route you’ll pass a remarkable fossil wall, formed out of what was originally a chunk of sea bed rock and covered in a dense layer of fossilized impressions among which the outlines of crabs, starfish and shells can clearly be made out. Later on, we drive up near the summit of Jebel Harim, literally “Mountain of Women”. Of course, the photo opportunities from these heights are spectacular, in particular the Khawr Najid this stunning view point overlooks the Indian Ocean.