Oman - The Great Arabian Experience

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Day 1: Arrive in Dubai

Upon arrival a transfer will be waiting for you at the airport. Day is free to rest or explore on your own. In the evening, meet your Tour Leader and fellow travellers for a welcome dinner and orientation.
Overnight in Dubai.

 

Day 2: Dubai Sites

Today we set out on a full day city tour of this fascinating city. We begin in Dubai marina before heading towards Palm Jumeirah, the famous palm shaped man-made island. We drive around the Palm passing the Atlantis Palm Hotel, built around the myth of the lost continent of Atlantis. We then head to the Burj Al Arab hotel, the world's only seven star hotel, for a photo stop. Pass by Jumeirah Mosque, a spectacular example of modern Islamic architecture.

After lunch we visit Al Bastakiaya's old Al Fahidi Fort, home to the Dubai Museum and take in views of the cannons and fortified walls. We cross Dubai's central waterway, Dubai Creek, in a traditional water taxi called an "abra" towards the Deira side. Here we soak up the colors and perfumes of the spice souq before heading to Dubai's legendary gold souq.

Later that evening, we visit the Burj Khalifa, the highest building in the world at 2,719 feet (829 meters) before enjoying dinner while taking in the famous Dubai Mall Fountain show.

Overnight in Dubai.

 

Day 3: Abu Dhabi Sites

Abu Dhabi is close enough to Dubai to make it a perfect day trip. In Abu Dhabil, the first destination is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest and most impressive mosques in the world.
We continue our exploration of the city through the well laid out roads, surrounding lush greenery, beautiful parks, and rows and rows of trees until we reach Abu Dhabi's oldest building, Al Husn Palace built in the 18th century.

Enjoy a magnificent view of the city by driving along the beautiful Corniche and make a photo-stop at the Breakwater. We then visit the Heritage Village and journey to the past, to experience life before oil was discovered.

Also during our visit of Abu Dhabi, we will visit a falcon hospital. Falcons have been a part of UAE's culture as falcons were traditionally used for hunting. This is a fascinating encounter with falcons up close, including the Peregrine falcon, the fastest animal which has been clocked at 389 km/h (242 mph).

We return to Dubai for overnight.

 

Day 4: Dubai, to Khasab, Fortress

Today we say goodbye to the extravagance of Dubai and UAE and head towards Khasab, Oman. After lunch in a local village, we head out on a city tour of Khasab. Built at the beginning of the 17th century by the Portuguese, Khasab's natural harbor was perfectly situated to provide shelter from tough seas. Unlike many forts built for defensive purposes, Khasab was designed as a supply point for dates and water for Portuguese ships sailing through the strait. We visit Khasab fort and museum and explore the area's unique history.

Dinner and overnight in Khasab.

 

Day 5: Fjords of Musandam - Dhow Cruise

Today we enjoy a full day cruise through the "Fjords of Musandam" on board our traditional Omani Dhow, where you can sit comfortably on cushions and carpets while feasting your eyes on the striking scenery. A Dhow trip to the fjords offers an insight into its fantastic landscape. During the Dhow cruise you can cruise into the fjords of Musandam and discover different villages. The Dhow is anchored at the famous Telegraph Island as well as Seebi Island where you can swim and snorkel in the clear waters. There is also the possibility to see "humpback" dolphins along the way. Lunch, refreshments, snorkelling equipment and towels will be provided. We return to Khasab for dinner and overnight.

 

Day 6: Fly to Muscat, Muttrah Souq

Today we fly to Oman's capital city of Muscat. This afternoon we drive along the waterfront Corniche and visit the famous old Muttrah souq. The colorful souq will take you back in time, allowing you to browse, shop and practice your bartering skills.

After having enjoyed your time at the souq, you have a short walk along the Corniche with lots of photo opportunities. The "Frankincense burner" is a delight to watch at night with its full illumination.

Dinner in local restaurant. Overnight in Muscat.

 

Day 7: Muscat Sites

Today we explore Muscat. With it's natural harbor, Muscat means "Anchorage" and lies in a natural volcanic bowl. Our exploration of the city starts with the visit to the Grand Mosque. The third biggest mosque in the world covering 416,000 square meters, it is a very good example of modern Omani architecture. The Grand Mosque, until recently was home to the largest Persian carpet in the world.

Please note that women are required to cover their heads with a scarf and wear clothing that fully covers arms and legs. Shorts or sleeveless tops are not permitted. Men are also expected to be fully covered, and slip on shoes are recommended.

We have lunch with the Omani Women's Association in old Muscat. Established in 1970, the OWA aims to provide support services to women seeking child care, education and job training.

After lunch, we explore the old section of town. Our first stop is at the Bait Zubair Museum to trace Oman's history and development while seeing a wonderful display of historic photos and traditional furniture. Later we head to Al Alam Palace, the official palace of his Majesty Sultan Qaboos and then visit the outside of the 16th century Portuguese forts, Mirani and Jalali.

Dinner and overnight in Muscat.

 

Day 8: Wadi Bani Auf; Al Hamra and Honey

Today we leave Muscat behind and head towards the mountains of Oman. We cross Wadi Bani Auf; this 70km stretch of graded road is an adventurous switch back road, offering spectacular views of large canyons. We visit the charming mountain village of Bilad Sayt where we can take in the beauty of its landscape.

Dinner and overnight in Nizwa.

 

Day 9: Nizwa Cattle Market; Jebel Shams and Grand Canyon of Arabia

Our day starts with a visit to Nizwa's renowned cattle market. Taking place every Friday, this is where locals buy and trade the best livestock, from goats to cattle directly from the herders. It's a fascinating event to experience as you immerse yourself in the dealings and trading that takes place. From here, we take some time to explore the Nizwa Souq, one of the few souqs in Oman featuring exclusive traditional Omani goods, including pottery, intricately hand-carved "khanjars" and ornamental silver jewelry. We also explore the Round Tower Fort, built in the 17th century.

From here, we proceed to Al Khatim/Wadi Nakhr in the impressive Jebel Shams, or Mountain of the Sun and stopping at the highest point in Oman (3,000 meters/9,842 feet). From here we enjoy our first view of Wadi Nakhr, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of Oman. We enjoy lunch at a mountain resort before we begin our hike.

A short distance from lunch we will commence our hike along a trail known as the Balcony Walk. This spectacular route takes us along the edge of the Grand Canyon where we can see the tiny village of Nakhr far below. If we are lucky we will be able to see Egyptian vultures circling over the canyon. We will hike to a stunning lookout (90 minutes each way) before returning to our starting point and a welcome return to our hotel for the evening.


Dinner and overnight in Al Hamra.

 

Day 10: Bahla Fort, Jabrin Castle, Jabel Akhdar

This morning we visit Bahla Fort and Jabrin Castle. The oasis of Bahla owes its prosperity to the Banu Nebhan tribe which dominated the area from the beginning of the 12th century to the end of the 15th century. The ruins of this immense fort with its walls and towers of unbaked bricks and stone foundations are remarkable examples of the power of this region and its importance in Omani history. We then visit Jabrin Castle, the finest of Oman's castles built in the 17th century. The castle became a primary influence in Omani learning and displays the highest achievement of Omani ceiling paintings and beautifully executed woodcarvings.

After lunch, we make our way to Jabel Akhdar, which translates to "Green Mountains" and is one of the most scenic areas in Oman. We hike through the villages of Al Aqor, Al Ain, A'Sherraijah and Sayq village. Here we explore lovely terraced plantations, old mud homes, abandoned villages lined with pomegranate and walnut trees. Be sure to look out for the Omani pink rose bushes as well.

Dinner and overnight in Al Hamra

 

Day 11: Great Wahiba Sands & Bedouin Tents

After breakfast, we begin our journey into the desert. On the way we stop in the pretty village of Birkat Al Mauz for a short walk through its oasis of palm trees and date plantations.

We then continue to the desert. The Great Wahiba Sands are longitudinal sand dunes that run south from the Eastern Hajars to the Arabian Sea. The dunes are 100-150 meters high in stunning shades of orange and amber.

The area is also home to the Bedouins and their many camels, with camps along the tracks and trails. We stop to visit a Bedouin family and enjoy some Bedouin hospitality with qahwa (Omani coffee) and dates, before reaching our tented camp.

In the evening we go on a sunset dune walk before enjoying a traditional Arabic dinner complete with Omani music and dancing.

Overnight in camp in traditional Bedouin tents, with private, open-air washroom facilities.

 

Day 12: Desert Experience; Wani Bani Khalid; Turtle Watching

Today we experience the thrills of dune driving in the desert. We cross the desert to Quahed on the coast. After enjoying a picnic lunch by the beach, we make our way to Wadi Bani Khalid, a beautiful oasis in the middle of barren mountains, where we will have some time to relax.

We then pass through the old fishing village of Al Ashkara before reaching Ras al Jinz, the easternmost point in Oman and the natural nesting beach for endangered Green Back turtles. Oman is a vital area for Green Turtles in the Indian Ocean being heavily protected by the government. In fact, over 275 of the Sultanate's beaches double-up as nesting grounds for five of the seven recognized species of sea turtles, the most common being the Green Back turtle.

After dinner tonight, we are led to the beach by an ecologist to (hopefully) see the females return to their beach to lay eggs. (Please note that the main nesting season is Jun-Aug, at other times of the year, there may not be turtles every night).

Dinner and overnight in Ras al Jinz.

 

Day 13: Sur, Dhow Building Yards; Wadi Tiwi

After breakfast we proceed to Sur. Our first stop is the bustling fish market to see the catch of the day. From here we visit the dhow building yards, where we get to see these wooden boats being built by hand. We continue on to Bilad Sur Castle, built over 200 years ago and also Sunysilah Castle built over 300 years ago. Our day ends in Wadi Tiwi, a spectacular deep and narrow gorge carved out of the mountains, running between towering cliffs right down to the sea. Its old traditional villages, surrounded by lush plantations of dates and bananas are a great example of how the network of "aflaj" irrigation systems still work to this day.

Dinner and overnight in Wadi Shab.

 

Day 14: Wadi Shab, Qalhat

We spend the day exploring Wadi Shab. Known as one of the most beautiful places in Oman, Wadi Shab is a spectacular range of narrow mountains with turquoise pools and waterfalls surrounded by sandstone walls lined with date plantations and banana palms. Our hike today is a mix of trekking and swimming in "wadi" pools. We enjoy a picnic lunch before heading to Bimah Sinkhole.

Dinner and overnight in Muscat.

 

Day 15: Nakhal, House of Amouage, Muscat by Night

This morning we drive towards Nakhal. On the outskirts of Muscat, we visit the House of Amouage. Now in it's 28th year, the House of Amouage creates some of the most expensive perfumes in the world for both men and women. Here in the headquarters, the blending of some of the finest ingredients takes place, including frankincense and myrrh found only in Oman and Yemen, using rose from Taif in Saudi Arabia and Arabian amber.

We drive from the date palms to the sparkling springs and fort at Nakhl and stop to visit the Wakan village famous for its terrace farming.

Later in the evening, we enjoy a sunset cruise along the Muscat harbor. We embark on a traditional dhow and see the Muscat coast through the eyes of ancient seafarers. We stop at a natural cove and pass by the spectacular Al Bustan Palace Hotel before we return back to the Marina. Tonight we enjoy a traditional Omani dinner at a private Omani museum.

Dinner and overnight in Muscat.

 

Day 16: Fly to Salalah; Tomb of the Prophet Job, Mughsail & Frankincense

Today we fly to Salalah, the capital of the southernmost province of Dhofar. We begin with a visit to the ancient tomb of the Prophet Job, situated in the scenic green mountains of the Salalah Plains. We proceed to Mughsail where the white sand touches the deep blue of the ocean. At high tide, the waves burst through the natural perforations in the limestone rocks creating natural "blow holes" making it a spectacular site to see. We continue along the "hair-pin-bend" road towards the western border of Oman, with its breathtaking cliffs on either side to see the historical frankincense trees growing in their natural habitat, deep down in the valleys, dotting the dry and craggy countryside. We walk into the valleys to smell the "holy incense" once traded as a commodity more precious than gold. On our return journey, we make a stop at a bird sanctuary, where migratory birds (occasionally flamingos) are a common sight.

Dinner and overnight in Salalah.

 

Day 17: Taqah Castle, Sumharam & Mirbat

Our day begins with a visit to the fishing village of Taqah, famous for the manufacture of dried sardines and it's traditional Dhofari stone houses. We visit the old Taqah Castle, the former official residence of the "Wali" governor of the region and obtain a glimpse into the rich history of the region. We continue to the ancient ruins of the once famous city of Sumharam (UNESCO World Heritage site). The city was the easternmost outpost of the Hadramawt Kingdom on the ancient incense route between the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and India. Sumharam was one of the major hubs, harbors and trading cities of frankincense.

After lunch, we explore Mirbat, the ancient capital of Dhofar and where the frankincense trail began. In the 9th century it was the most important trading point for horses, slaves and frankincense. We explore the town taking notice of the unique architecture and old houses famous for its woodcarvings and visit one of Dhofar's best known historic sites, Bin Ali's Tomb. The tomb of Mohamed Bin Ali who died in 1135 AD is a fine example of medieval architecture.

Dinner and overnight in Salalah.

 

Day 18: The Lost City of Ubar ; Empty Quarter Camping

We begin the day by exploring Salalah. known as the garden city of the south. We visit a garden farm with groves of coconuts, banana, papaya and vegetables. After enjoying a Salalah banana, we drive by the beautiful Shanfari Mosque with its exquisite artwork and stained glass windows and Al Husn Palace, the summer residence of his Majesty Sultan Qaboos. We stop at the Al Husn Souq where you'll have some free time to explore the frankincense crystals of Dhofar or just enjoy a walk along the waterfront Corniche.

After lunch, we begin our journey into the Empty Quarter in search for the lost city of Ubar, or the Atlantis of the Sands. Known as the lost city deep in the sands of Arabia, Ubar is thought to be the fabled center for the rich frankincense trade thousands of years ago. We walk along the Wadi Dawka, dotted by frankincense trees and then drive along the old frankincense trade route to Shisr, an Iron Age site, thought to be the infamous "Lost City of Ubar". From here, we follow Wadi Hadhef to our camp in the dunes of the Empty Quarter (Rub-al-Khali) evocatively described by Wilfred Thesiger.

Tonight we enjoy a true adventurous experience as we have the Empty Quarter just to ourselves. Individual tents and mattresses are provided. Shared bathroom facilities are on site.

 

Day 19: Return to Salalah

For those wishing to rise early, a sunrise walk is a great way to start the day. After breakfast we begin our return journey back to Salalah. After lunch we visit the Al Balid Museum also known as the museum of Frankincense Land and a UNESCO World Heritage site. We enjoy a lecture by an archeologist on site. Our evening ends with a farewell dinner in a local restaurant in Salalah.

 

Day 20: Depart Salalah

We say a fond farewell to Oman with a transfer to the airport for our departure flights.

 
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