Ruus al Jibal
The northernmost area, Ruus al Jibal, extends from the Musandam Peninsula to the boundary with theUnited Arab Emirates (UAE) at Hisn al Diba. It borders the Strait of Hormuz, which links the Persian Gulf with the Gulf of Oman, and is separated from the rest of the sultanate by a strip of territory belonging tothe UAE. This area consists of low mountains forming the northernmost extremity of the Al Hajar alGharbi (Western Al Hajar) Mountains. Two inlets, Elphinstone (Khawr ash Shamm) and Malcom(Ghubbat al Ghazirah), cleave the coastline about one third of the distance from the Strait of Hormuzand at one point are separated by only a few hundred meters of land. The coastline is extremely rugged,and the Elphinstone Inlet, sixteen kilometers long and surrounded by cliffs 1,000 to 1,250 meters high,has frequently been compared with fjords in Norway.
The UAE territory separating Ruus al Jibal from the rest of Oman extends almost as far south as thecoastal town of Shinas. A narrow, well-populated coastal plain known as Al Batinah runs from the pointat which the sultanate is reentered to the town of As Sib, about 140 kilometers to the southeast. Acrossthe plains, a number of wadis, heavily populated in their upper courses, descend from the Al Hajar alGharbi Mountains to the south. A ribbon of oases, watered by wells and underground channels (falaj),extends the length of the plain, about ten kilometers inland.
Muscat-Matrah coastal area
South of As Sib, the coast changes character. For about 175 kilometers, from As Sib to Ras al Hadd, it isbarren and bounded by cliffs almost its entire length; there is no cultivation and little habitation.Although the deep water off this coast renders navigation relatively easy, there are few natural harborsor safe anchorages. The two best are at Muscat and Matrah, where natural harbors facilitated thegrowth of cities centuries ago.
Coastal tract, and island of Masirah
The desolate coastal tract from Jalan to Ras Naws has no specific name. Low hills and wastelands meetthe sea for long distances. Midway along this coast and about fifteen kilometers offshore is the barrenMasirah island. Stretching about seventy kilometers, the island occupies a strategic location near theentry point to the Gulf of Oman from the Arabian Sea. Because of its location, it became the site of military facilities used first by the British and then by the United States, following an access agreementsigned in 1980 by the United States and Oman.