Hello, and welcome back to my travel blog. For this trip, I’m going to talk about Masirah Island, Oman. Masirah is the Sultanate of Oman’s largest island and it lies off it’s east coast. There are about 12,000 residents on the island, and Ras-Hilf is the main town on the northern end of the island.
To start, I’m going to tell you why you need to make a visit to the island. Oman is unlike any country I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to many countries in the Middle East, but Oman stands apart. First, it’s the people. The people are very welcoming. I can recall several interactions I had with Omanis, and they were all pleasant. It may spring from the fact that many Omanis are followers of the Ibadi school of Islam. Ibadism apparently predates Sunnism and Shi’ism, which led these practitioners to isolate themselves from the rest of the region. Also, Ibadis of Oman have been referred to as tolerant Puritans or as political quietists because they preferred way of solving conflicts is through dignity and reason instead of forceful confrontation. This doesn’t mean that other people in the region are bad, or that they are not as nice. It doesn’t mean that their sect of religion sets them apart, and it doesn’t mean other sects are not as good. It’s just a guess, because I have had a different experience in Oman than I had in other Middle Eastern countries and I don’t know why the experience was so different.
The isolation that defined Oman’s past leads to the next reason why Masirah is a great place to visit. Because Oman has been isolated for so long, the country isn’t as highly developed as the countries around it. The Sultan’s of Oman started modernization after the surrounding countries did. But that doesn’t mean that the country is lagging behind. Muscat is a modern city with all of the amenities you could find in other cities of its stature, but you could often mistake parts of it for Muscat of a few centuries ago.
As countries surrounding Oman expanded their empires to the North, West, and East, Oman’s empires of old set their sights on the east coast of Africa; further isolating themselves from their neighbors. You can see the results of this southern expansion in the people who make up Oman, as their empire was one of a mix of Arab and African peoples.
Muscat; the capitol, is beautiful but you still have a Bedouin feel to it as you travel within the country’s borders. Oman doesn’t have as much oil and natural gas resources as other countries do, but they have enough to support economic diversification and development programs. The country is agricultural in nature, with a focus on livestock and farms, but it should soon grow into a global economic powerhouse with the renewed focus on diversified development. Until then, you can still enjoy picturesque rides through the mountainous interior and regal the beauty of the unforgiving desert that leads you to the island itself. And that island? When visiting Masirah, you have a sense that it hasn’t changed very much since Alexander The Great’s fleet explored it so many centuries ago.
To get to Masirah, you need to travel to the port in Shannah on the east coast of Oman. You know you’re close to Shannah when you pass the salt flats.
Now here’s the thing… If you get to Shannah, you will not find much there. Boat service runs during daylight hours, and the ferry boats can only take so many vehicles. The vehicle ferry’s are based on Masirah Island, not in Shannah. Also, if there’s a fuel truck, a ferry can only take that truck. So, as you’re waiting for a ferry to arrive, you will find yourself parked along side other tourists and local residents all waiting to drive their cars on board. I suggest you gas up before you get to Shannah, and get there as early in the day as you can. If not, you may risk having to sleep in your car overnight until ferry service starts again the next morning. You can always leave your car and take a fast boat over, but you would still need to get your vehicle on the ferry for the crossing the next day.
There are two types of transportation to the island. Speed boat if you took a cab to Shannah, or the vehicle ferry. You can walk onto the ferry and sit down if you don’t want to take a speed boat, but the ferry’s are mainly geared for vehicles. There aren’t many seating areas on this style of boat.
Orange paint indicates taxi cabs.
I hope that you’re comfortable with your driving skills. You don’t drive straight onto a ferry, you have to reverse your vehicle onto it.
Once you’re on the vehicle ferry, you can relax for the next one and a half to two hours as you take the slow ride to the island’s port in Ras Hilf. The ferry speed depends on the tides because it travels along a channel, as well as the weather. High tide and clear sky’s lead to faster and smoother sailing.
In this picture, you can see my wife and our lil one relaxing in the back. If you look closely, we have a trunk full of groceries. We lived on the island, so we would take the 7 hour drive up to Muscat once every few weeks to stock up on supplies.
Not for the weak of stomach, but at least you get off first.
A view of the island as the boat nears. On a clear day, you can see Masirah island from Shannah.
A traditional fishing Dhow with some kind of radar site in the background. Ras Hilf is also home to a Royal Air Force of Oman Air Base.
The ferry will pull into the small but bustling fish port, and you are now in Ras Hilf.
Ras Hilf is on the northern part of Masirah, and its the most developed town on the island. There are ATM’s, gas stations, small hotels, eateries, and even small grocery stores that carry fresh fruit and vegetables.
A big draw for tourists to the island is the Shamal. Shamal is wind in Arabic, and it gets windy on the island. You can find Kiteboarders descending on the beaches, and some need a place to stay. Some camp out in tents, but for those who prefer a room, you can try the largest hotel on the island, the Masirah Island Resort.
The last reason why you should visit are the beaches. The island is in the warm waters of the Arabian Sea. The sea-side part of the island has very large waves because of the strong winds during the windy season. The area is great for fishing, surfing, wind boarding, and kite boarding. You can also find all sorts of marine life visiting the shores as well.
My mom and dad came out to visit us! It’s Ramadan, so we’re waiting for the sun to set so we can eat some snacks on the beach.
TBGC. Turtle Beach Golf Club.
Some may find the following images disturbing. Due to the fact that the seas around Masirah are rich in marine life, sometimes dead animals wash up on shore. Masirah is a turtle nesting site, and sometimes turtles pass away due to any number of things. You do not have to continue past this point to see the closing statement if you do not want to see the deceased animals. I just showcase them because it lets the visitor see what kind of diverse wild life call the waters around Masirah Island, home. So if this is the part where you end your tour, please consider Masirah Island; or Oman in general, for a future trip.
So we don’t end this on a sad note, here is a chameleon we found on the island.
In closing, Masirah is a great place to visit. You can disconnect from the hustle and bustle of city life and relax on the beach. When you’re done with the island, you can travel inland to ride on camels through the desert, or camp on the dunes. You can visit the mountains and buy honey and dates that are sold on the roadside. You can visit the historic old market called Mutrah Souq in Muscat. The possibilities are endless.
All content and images are owned by Paul Russell Parker III. Copyright 2017. All Rights Reserved.