Masirah Island, Oman

Photo: Marlon Cureg via flickr

Oman itineraries typically follow two patterns. Both start in Muscat. Everyone spends at least one night in the capital due to a particularly large percentage of flights that arrive in the middle of the night. Then they follow a triangular pattern west into the mountains, south to the desert, and back to the airport. Or it’s done in the reverse, starting in the desert, heading north to the mountains, and then returning to the airport. It’s time to see what else this Middle Eastern country has to offer.

Masirah Island is an interesting possibility. Oman’s largest island lies 12 miles off the central coast in the Arabian Sea. The desert island is rugged, particularly on the east coast where the wind’s power is displayed by the wrecked dhows that litter the beaches. Fishermen were the only ones here until the 1930s, when the British built an aircraft refueling station to aid flights between Muscat and Aden, Yemen. The Royal Air Force of Oman took over the small base in the 1970s. It was subsequently used as a staging point by the United States for operations in Iran and Afghanistan. Yet it still feels remote and untamed.

Tourism is a relatively new opportunity for the island. It started, as so many isolated locations do, with campers. They rented sturdy vehicles, road the ferry for an hour, and then felt like they had Masirah Island to themselves, aside from the loggerhead sea turtles, the pink flamingos, and the ghost crabs that greatly outnumbered people. Wave surfers (kite and wind) quickly discovered that the summer brings delightful monsoon winds. Masirah Island was on the map.

Obviously, this island won’t stay a secret for very long. First, small hotels started popping up to accommodate the adrenaline junkies. A real resort recently made Masirah Island a destination for more discerning visitors. Masira Island Resort sits on the northeast coast. That means you should set an early alarm to watch the sunrise at least one morning. The small resort features 22 rooms filled with dark-wood furniture, blue- and sand-colored accents, and water-facing balconies. The pool is surrounded by what might be the only green lawn on the island. While the Dhow Restaurant plays it safe with familiar international dishes (the best ones highlight local seafood).

Though more daring options are surely on the way, this is a reliable home base on an island that’s surely about to change. Triangles are out. Oman itineraries are about to become squares.

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