A mountain landscape of stark grandeur (up to 2,087 m), with a tortuous peninsula at the northern end where the mountains sink precipitously into the Strait of Hormuz, creating a tortuous coastline with fjord-like drowned valleys. In the mountains there are plateaus and flat-bottomed wadis with some cultivation. Surface water is very scarce. Vegetation above 1,000 m is dominated by the shrubs Dodonaea viscosa and Amygdalus arabica and a relict Artemisia steppe. Below 1,000 m the slopes are sparsely vegetated with grass, and a sparse shrubland of Acacia tortilis, Ficus salicifolia and Ziziphus spina-christi occurs along drainage lines. Human settlement is sparse, limited to several, small coastal villages and mountain localities, some seasonally occupied. Local Shihuh and Kumzari people still follow their traditional ways of life based on fishing; the Shihuh also practise opportunistic pastoralism, with some subsistence farming inland in the mountains during the hotter months. There is also some irrigation cultivation in wadis. The road system has been much expanded in recent years.
See box for key species. There is a good selection of restricted-range birds. Other species known or expected to breed (not all proven) include Alectoris chukar (common resident; the only site in Oman) and Anthus similis. Other wintering birds include large numbers of Alcedo atthis on the rocky shores. Raptor migration is known to occur in spring and autumn on at least a small scale, but has not been investigated in detail (it is unclear whether more than 3,000 birds pass per season); the main species involved appears to be Aquila nipalensis. At least 180 species occur overall; coverage of the area has been limited.
Non-bird biodiversity: Mammals: Panthera pardus (rare), Caracal caracal (rare), Gazella gazella (V) and possibly Canis lupus (V). Restricted-range species or subspecies that are endemic or near-endemic to Oman are particularly common, including at least two plants and four lizards.
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Musandam (mainland). Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/01/2021.