Oman: An Arabian Odyssey9 days & 8 nights, Escorted Discovery Group
Escorted Discovery Group
Muscat, Sur, Wahiba Sands & Nizwa
Combining breathtaking natural beauty with a well-preserved cultural legacy, the sultanate of Oman is one of the least known yet most exciting tourist destinations in the Middle East. Taking in magnificent forts and palaces, the rolling dunes of the Wahiba Sands and the stunning Islamic architecture, this tour discovers one of the region's best-kept secrets.
Day 1Arrive Muscat
On arrival in Muscat, you will be met and taken to your hotel.Al Falaj Hotel - 3 Nights
This morning, enjoy a tour of Muscat.
The Royal Opera House, Muscat is one of the most striking architectural masterpieces in the Sultanate of Oman and hosts some of its biggest cultural events. The season runs from September to the following June, during which time numerous international and regional shows are performed. The Royal Opera House is also home to the Royal Oman Symphony Orchestra.
Visitors are permitted inside the building daily between 8:30 am to 10:30 am. You will be collected at your Muscat hotel in the morning and driven the short distance to the Royal Opera House, where a guide will take you on a 30-minute tour.
Visit the Grand Mosque, which can accommodate up to 20,000 worshippers and consists of a main prayer hall, ladies' prayer hall, covered passageways, meeting hall and a library that will eventually contain up to 20,000 books. The mosque is open Saturday to Thursday; women visiting the mosque must cover their head with a scarf and should not wear shorts, beachwear or sleeveless outfits. Men must also be fully covered.
Continue to the Bait Al Zubair Museum where displays reflect Omani heritage. The museum collection includes traditional Omani weapons such as swords, daggers, rifles and their accessories, along with jewellery, cosmetics and costumes from various regions of Oman.
Drive along the Corniche to Muttrah; pay a visit to the colorful, bustling souk before continuing to the old part of Muscat with its surrounding wall. Finally, view the beautiful Al Alam Palace flanked by the twin forts of Mirani and Jalali, which majestically guard the entrance to Muscat Bay.
Enjoy the afternoon at leisure.Al Falaj Hotel (B, L)
For your afternoon at leisure we recommend a visit to the National Museum of Oman.
Located over 13,700 sq., including 4,000 sq. allocated for 14 display halls displaying over 5,000 artefacts, the National Museum of Oman will feature numerous treasures collected from around the country. The museum will be divided into separate galleries, each of which have their own collections. These will include Maritime history, the making of civilization, Splendors of Islam and the arms and armor section. There is also space for temporary exhibitions, a cafe and a gift shop.
Embark on a full day tour to visit the Barka fish market, Nakhl and Rustaq forts. This tour visits the traditional military forts which guard the base of the Jebal Al Akhdar massif. Leaving Muscat, you will drive along the expressway, past the airport and along the Batinah coast. The first stop is the bustling fishing village of Barka, where fishermen bring in their fresh catches early in the morning and sell them at the lively fish market. Nakhl is a short distance south of Barka and its 350-year-old fort is set in a gorge surrounded by a mountain enclave. In 1990, sympathetic restoration work began using traditional building materials and period furnishings. The carved master gate is believed to date back to the 1830s, during the reign of Sayyid Said bin Sultan.
Visit the village of Nakhl, which is set below the fort and home to a warm spring, and forms a picturesque oasis for lunch, before returning to Muscat with a photo stop at Rustaq fort.
Optional Excursion: Twilight dhow cruise - duration of approximately 3 hours, including transfer time (shared excursion-payable locally)Al Falaj Hotel (B, L)
Transfer from the hotel to marina to embark on a relaxed dhow (fishermen's boat) cruise, during which, you will view the Muscat coast through the eyes of ancient seafarers who plied this route for centuries. The cruise will make a brief stop at a natural cove before returning to the marina for the transfer back to the hotel. Soft drinks, tea, coffee and dates will be served on board the dhow.
Day 4To Sur
Drive to Sur, a distance of 168 miles and journey time of approximately 7 hours, including stops.Sur Plaza Hotel (B)
Leaving Muscat, the first visit will be to Quriyat, a fishing village between the lagoon and the sea. The port of Quriyat is still guarded by a watchtower. Continue on the new coastal road, sometimes touching the sea, following a creek or overlooking superb white beaches hundreds of feet long. The next stop will be Wadi Arbayeen. En route, pass by the Bimah sinkhole, a huge limestone crater filled with blue-green water. Additional photo stops will be made at Fins beach, Tiwi beach, Wadi Shab and Wadi Tiwi.
A short distance outside Sur is the ancient ruined city of Qalhaat, a place visited by Marco Polo on his travels. It was a major city in medieval times and compared favorably to the African trading centers, such as Malindi and Zanzibar, as a thriving, trading city. Its history is slightly vague; some say that the town was ruined by several earthquakes and others say that it simply fell into ruin after decades of decadence.
This evening, enjoy a turtle viewing on Ras Al Junaiyz beach. This is a rare opportunity to see giant turtles laying their eggs at night. You will drive for approximately one hour to the viewing beach at Ras Al Junaiyz. Groups of up to 25 people are taken to the beach and qualified rangers will carefully monitor each group. The viewing often starts after 9:30 pm and can last for one to two hours, so be prepared for a late return to your hotel. Photography is strictly forbidden and torches are allowed if used with caution.
Please note: Turtle sightings are dependent on the animals' breeding patterns and cannot be guaranteed.
Day 5To Wahiba Sands
Drive from Sur to Wahiba Sands, visiting Wadi Beni Khalid en route, a journey time of approximately 3 hours (depending on length of stop).1000 Nights Campsite (B, D)
Please note: This is a 'dry' camp and does not serve alcohol.
Day 6To Nizwa
Drive from Wahiba Sands to Nizwa, a distance of 198 miles and a journey of approximately five hours, including stops.The View - 2 Nights (B, D)
Leave Wahiba Sands and, en route, visit Sinaw Market, one of the busiest in eastern Oman. Then proceed to the checkpoint at Wadi Al Madeen, from where a 22 mile stretch of winding road leads to Jebel Akhdar, some 6,560 feet above sea level. This green jewel of the Al Hajar mountain range is a unique spot in the Arabian peninsula, with its cool climate, remote villages, ancient rock carvings, fruit orchards and natural springs combining to afford spectacular views. Continue the journey to Nizwa for a late afternoon arrival.
This morning, enjoy a tour of the Nizwa Souk and Fort. Nizwa Souk is fascinating and home to many silver-jewellery makers. You will almost certainly get better prices here for jewellery than in Muttrah. You will also see the spotlessly clean fruit and vegetable markets and, on a Friday, a unique goat and cattle auction is held.The View (B, D)
Next, visit Nizwa fort, built by Sultan Ibn Saif in 1641, who was the first Imam of the Al Ya'ribi dynasty. For the next 300 years, it was the primary seat of the Imamate, serving as a seat of government, palace and prison. You will see the many intriguing methods of defence, such as the holes above all doorways and gates through which hot oil and honey would be poured to fend off attackers. Visit the beautiful quarters of the imam, and the wide circular turret from where you will get a wonderful view of the huge golden dome of Nizwa. Look out for the escape routes from one room to another underneath the floorboards.
You will then drive past the date plantations village in Al Hamra and visit Bait Al Safah, more than 500 years old and the most outstanding site in the Willayat. It is built on three floors, with the ground floor used solely for storage of dates and date honey. Here, you will enjoy the essence of Omani traditional life by watching some handcrafts and customs.
After lunch, drive to Bahla, where the making of mud vessels can be seen at the Bahla pottery. From here, continue to Jebel Shams, the highest peak in the Gulf of Oman (9,842 feet altitude), where you will drive up to an altitude of 6,560 feet to view Oman's deepest canyon. After some time to relax amid the mountain scenery, head back to Nizwa, stopping en route at the farming village of Wadi Ghul and Wadi Nakher, located in the depths of the canyon, where you will walk through wadi and visit a local family who will demonstrate rug making. Return to Nizwa.
Day 8To Muscat
Drive from Nizwa to Muscat, a distance of approximately 125 miles and a journey time of 2.5 hours.Al Falaj Hotel (B)
On the way to Muscat, visit the Bahla fort, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You are not permitted to enter the fort, so viewing is of the exterior only. Continue to Muscat and pass through the Sumail gap. Guarded by watch towers, it forms a natural break between the eastern and western Hajar mountain ranges.
Day 9Depart Muscat
Enjoy the morning at leisure.
You will be collected at your hotel and taken to the airport.(B)