Oman and It's History

Oman and It's History (8 days / 7 nights)


DAY 01: ARRIVAL TO MUSCAT AND TRANSFER TO THE HOTEL **SALON CAR / MINIVAN**

Arrival in MCT International Airport. Meet and greet on arrival.
Private transfer to the hotel and check in Overnight at Muscat Holiday Hotel, 4* city hotel, Standard room incl. BB


DAY 02: FULL DAY MUSCAT CITY TOUR **SALON CAR / MINIVAN**

Breakfast at the hotel
08:00 am - pick up from the hotel


THE SULTAN QABOOS GRAND MOSQUE

Not to be missed whilst in Muscat, the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is a breathtaking and thoroughly original example of modern Islamic architecture. For many the muted shades and understated elegance of its exterior, which hide the sheer scale and opulence, found within make it the most beautiful mosque in the world. Opened by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said in May 2001, the mosque can hold over 20,000 worshippers in its prayer halls, courtyards and passageways.

Feast your eyes on the treasures within - the enormous hand-woven carpet lying in the main prayer hall and the magnificent Swarovski chandelier that hangs from the central dome bathing the room in an exquisite light - both of which are amongst the largest in the world. Make some time to visit the fascinating library and look at the intricate mosaic designs in the outer corridors, which are equally charming. At night the mosque is tastefully lit against the dark sky and is a treat to behold.


EXPLORE THE NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM

Browse the fossils and study the rock samples in this wonderful small museum, a great morning out for nature lovers, amateur geologists and those who would love to learn more about the flora, fauna and topography of Oman. You won't miss the vast whale skeleton welcoming you to the famous sea life exhibit where you can learn so much about Oman's precious ocean environment.


CELEBRATE THE ROYAL OPERA HOUSE MUSCAT WITH LUNCH

Considered to be one of the world's finest acoustic spaces, the serene beauty of the Royal Opera House Muscat stands proud in the center of the Capital Area. Already a national icon the Opera House is the center for performing arts in the country and every season it invites only the very best international companies and performers to grace its stage. If you are not able to see one of their world-class performances, the building is open to the public in the mornings so arrange a visit to marvel at the magnificent external architecture and spectacular interior decoration.


AMOUAGE - THE GIFT OF KINGS

Fancy the chance to see the workings behind one of the most luxurious perfume brands in the world? A knowledgeable guide will walk you around the Visitors Centre and talk you through the history, raw ingredients and various production stages of the Amouage range. You will smell fantastic for the rest of the day after being given a rare opportunity to sample these world famous fragrances.

Estimate arrival time is approx. 15:00 - 15:30
Overnight at Muscat Holiday Hotel, 4* city hotel, Standard room incl. BB


DAY 03: MUSCAT - BARKA FISH MARKET - NAKHL - RUSTAQ - AL WAKKAN VILLAGE **4WD**

Breakfast at the hotel and check out 08:00 am - pick up from the hotel

You will be picked up from your hotel at the morning and driven to Barka to see the Fish Souq in full swing. Cherish the date palm plantations on the road to Nakhl where you will enjoy the warm waters of the Thowara Spring, see the impressive falaj system and wander around the highest fort in Oman. After a picnic or lunch in a local restaurant, you will head through a break in the Jebel and into Wadi Bani Auf. Enjoy the scenery and the thrilling drive as you venture further into the wadi until you reach the charming, tranquil village of Bilad Sayt where you can enjoy a gentle walk around the beautiful houses and terraces.


BARKA FISH SOUQ

Little more than a large canopy standing virtually on the beach, an early morning visit to Barka's fabulous fish market is a great way to start a trip to Al Batinah region. Openevery morning, the market teems with fishermen trading their early morning catch; tuna, hamour, mullet, sardines, squid and, if you're in the right season, Omani lobsters and prawns. Auctioneers command the crowd from a dedicated area selling the bigger fish and around the market fruit and vegetable sellers set up stalls to tempt the passing custom. Make sure you get up early to see this delightful place and experience a slice of Oman unchanged.


NAKHL: THE FORT AND THE TEMPTING WARM WATER SPRING

Nakhl means 'date palm' and as soon as you ascend to any height you will see why; the old town sits amid vast swathes of rich green date plantation. The finest Omani dates come from here farmed using very long, sophisticated irrigation systems which ensure the water is distributed throughout the town. Dip your feet into the warm waters of the famous Thowara Spring and see the water source itself and the locals swimming in the shady pools. Make your way back through the old part of the town to the imposing Nakhl Fort, the highest fort in Oman. This is a charming old building to explore and there are some glorious views from the higher ramparts.


RUSTAQ: THE FORT AND THE HEALING HOT WATERS

Rustaq is a sprawling town famous for its ancient fort, the exceptional honey made nearby and healing hot waters. The Al Kisfr Hot Springs run at 45°C are known for their healing properties particularly beneficial for rheumatism and skin problems. After a look at the springs wind your way through the town's old quarter, noting the henna treesgrowing there, to see the commanding edifice of Rustaq Fort.

The fort as we now know it was built in the 17th century on the site of the 13th century fort Qalat Al Kisra and it was a prominent site for religious learning in Oman for many years. The newly renovated building is an imposing one, constructed over three levels and watched over by four towers.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT OR PICNIC LUNCH BOX


WADI MISTAL AND THE HEIGHTS OF WAKAN VILLAGE

Very different from the narrow gorges of some, Wadi Mistal is a broad gravelly plain ringed by soaring peaks in all directions. Mistal is another of the vast wadi systems, which carry the traveler from the low lying plains of the Al Batinah region up into the peaks of the Hajar Mountains. Follow the road that runs along the wadi bed and then head up along a winding, dizzying graded road until you reach the village of Wakan perched on the face of the mountain.

At the entrance to the village there is a viewpoint that gives you a breathtaking view of Wadi Mistal and the surrounding peaks. Wind your way around the edge of Wakan village to find yourself amongst fruit trees, terraces and wooden bowers supporting vines. A multitude of butterflies will accompany if you choose to keep walking up the stone steps, which follow the falaj system for approximately half an hour to the water source in the mountainside.

Estimate arrival time is approx. 16:00 - 16:30
Overnight at Golden Tulip Nizwa hotel, 4* city hotel, Standard room incl. BB


DAY 04: NIZWA - AL HAMRA - BAIT AL SAFAH - BAHLA - JABREEN - NIZWA FORT AND SOUQ **4WD**

Breakfast at the hotel
08:00 am - pick up from the hotel


AL HAMRA AND BAIT AL SAFAH

Driving into the well-preserved mountain town of Al Hamra is like stepping into a time warp. Traditional mud brick houses line winding, stony alleyways making it a great place to wander imagining how much, or how little, life must have changed. Whilst you're there pay a visit to Bait as Safah the traditional house which has been beautifully restored and turned into a living museum. Local ladies will show you the age-old methods of grinding coffee and flour, making bread and pressing oil.


BAHLA: THE FORT AND ITS POTTERS

It is rumored that the potters of Bahla have magic in their fingers and, whether this is true or not, this small town just 40km from Nizwa is well worth a visit. It is home to one of Oman's biggest and most elaborate forts and the only one inscribed to the UNESCO World Heritage List. The site is believed to have accommodated a fort since pre-Islamic times but the present-day structure was built in the 13th century and extensively rebuilt in the 1600s. It was then closed for extensive renovation and reopened at the end of 2012.

It is an enormous structure, which could occupy you for several hours if you wish to explore its rooms, towers, Mosques and wells in detail. Outside the Fort walls take a leisurely stroll amongst some of the fine old houses keeping your eyes peeled for sections of the ancient city walls. And then to those magic craftsmen, Bahla's potters dominate the lovely old Souq where the distinctive earthenware pottery and the tiny workshops that produce it can be found at every turn.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT


JABREEN CASTLE: OMAN'S MOST SPLENDID

Standing alone on an empty plain, stark against the Jebel Akhdar mountain range in the background, Jabreen Castle will creep into your imagination as soon as you lay eyes on it. Widely regarded as Oman's most splendid castle, it was built during a period of of peace, and its simple majesty reflects that. It is less fortified than other castles in the country and gives one the sense of calm, contemplation and of being a home recently abandoned.

In reality it was only inhabited for a couple of decades before being deserted and sinking into disrepair until recent years. It is not a 'museum-style' place, full of artifacts and trinkets to look at but this is more than made up for by its exquisite design features unmatched in Oman and something a little bit magical which is hard to put your finger on.


NIZWA: THE FORT AND SOUQ

Rising from the lush greenery and dates palms fed by the longest falaj system in the country, Nizwa city is a great place to spend the morning. You cannot miss Nizwa Fort, an impressive piece of 17th century architecture whose 40m central tower soars above the rest of the building. Clamber up to the top for glorious views of the city and mountains beyond.

Pay a visit to Nizwa Souq, which remains central to the life of the city providing locals with their daily needs and the souvenir-hunting visitor with Omani silver, halwa and excellent Khanjars. Although it is open every day, if you can manage it head to Nizwa Souq on a Friday morning when you will see the wonderful commotion of the goat and cattle auctions, a truly authentic experience.

Estimate arrival time is approx. 16:00 - 16:30
Overnight at Golden Tulip Nizwa hotel, 4* city hotel, Standard room incl. BB


DAY 05: NIZWA - JABEL AKHDAR - BIRAKAT AL MAUZ - WAHIBA SANDS **4WD**

Breakfast at the hotel and check out
08:00 am - pick up from the hotel


JEBEL AKHDAR: THE GREEN MOUNTAIN

The personality of Jebel Akhdar is singular. Its wadis, plateaus, peaks and terraced hillside all enjoy cooler temperatures and higher rainfall than elsewhere in Oman, which give this mountain region a gentler face than others.

You will start your uphill journey in the village of Birkat al Mawz that was named after its extensive banana cultivation and the pools of mountain water which collect here. There are some attractive old houses here and a 17th century Mosque. The village is the gateway into Wadi Madaeen, which carves its way through the mountainside. Follow the blacktop road for 36km up onto Saiq Plateau, a vast upland expanse lying at 2,000m above sea level. The Plateau has been inhabited and cultivated for many years but, until the blacktop road was completed in recent years, it remained virtually inaccessible to visitors.

There are many interesting sights up here - walk down the steps into wonderful Wadi Bani Habib with its crumbling abandoned houses and cultivated wadi bed where garlic is grown in the clay soil in the middle and pomegranate trees cling to the side near the rocks; pay a visit to Al Ayn village where you can walk through traditional houses stacked on the mountainside; find the magnificent views of the villages of Al Ayn and Al Aqr hanging on the mountainsides; drive up to the highest point of the Jebel Akhdar to absorb the scenes beneath you; seek out the famed Jebel roses growing near the peak or simply walk around in the cooler air enjoying the pockets of green fecundity and growth in this unforgiving rocky terrain.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT OR PICNIC LUNCH BOX


BE MESMORISED BY THE WAHIBA SANDS

A trip into the Wahiba (or Sharqiya) Sands is the perfect way to get taste of storybook Arabian desert. The rosy, windswept, ever moving dunes of the Sands are everything you imagine they will be. Bedu families still exist here eking out a traditional nomadic existence raising livestock with little but an exceptional understanding of the harsh environment in which they live. Living an incredible life far removed from that of most Omanis, the Bedu women are bold, brightly dressed and often to be seen behind the wheel of an ancient pick up hurtling up and down dunes.

Whilst in the Sands with us you will get a glimpse of this lifestyle when you share coffee and dates with a Bedu family, look at some of the handicrafts made by the family and maybe have some henna painting done. You can also choose to so some 'Dune Bashing' - hurtling around the dunes in a 4WD handled by an experienced desert driver. If you wish to overnight in one of the well-equipped desert camps, you will see the desert at its most glorious as the sun sets and get the chance to go for a camel ride.

Estimate arrival time is approx. 16:00 - 16:30
Overnight at Arabian Oryx Camp, Desert Camp, Tent room incl. HB


DAY 06: WAHIBA SANDS - THE INLAND TOWNS - WADI BANI KHALID - RAS AL HADD **4WD**

Breakfast at the camp and check out
08:00 am - pick up from the camp


THE INLAND TOWNS

Echoes of the prosperity and significance of Ibra strategically situated on the old trade route between Muscat and Sur and onward to East Africa and India can still be felt in the old quarter through the remains of its stately mud brick mansions, numerous mosques and watchtowers. There is an ancient mosque which has two Qibla (directions in which to pray) - one towards Mecca and one towards Jerusalem. This is testament to Oman's early adoption of Islam as it was during the Prophet Mohammed's lifetime that prayer was redirected from Jerusalem to Mecca.

The old town of Al Kamil sits, surrounded by trees, on the Muscat to Sur highway where it forks east to Sur and south to Al Ashkara. An attractive place with crumbling watchtowers and a nice souq, the recent addition of the Castle Museum to Al Kamil makes a welcome break in your journey. This restored grand old family house is an eccentric but fascinating place packed full of objects collected by the family over the years. Travel further down highway to experience the authentic appeal of Jalan Bani Bu Hassan. Here you will find a simple mosque topped with no less than 52 domes.


WADI BANI KHALID

Water flows all year round in this very beautiful and popular natural retreat. A zigzag drive up the mountainside will get you to the entrance of this long river bed populated with villages and fertile plantations. The water flowing from several springs collects in deep, clear pools that are made easily accessible by a series of paths and bridges.

You may swim but remain respectful to the local people by staying well covered. As long as the water levels are not too high you can explore further into the undeveloped parts of the wadi and, not for the faint hearted, take some sturdy walking shoes and a torch and seek out the Moqal Cave.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT OR PICNIC LUNCH BOX


RA'AS AL HADD - HOME OF THE TURTLES

The stunning beaches of Ra'as al Hadd are not only appealing to Oman's human visitors. Many turtles visit the most easterly point of the Sultanate to lay their precious eggs every year. To see these massive aquatic animals lumbering onto the shore to lay their eggs and to see the hundreds of tiny hatchlings scuttling down to the sea are rare sights indeed.

Oman takes its responsibility seriously with regard to regulation and management of this phenomena and visitors are asked to respect the strict rules regarding photography of and interference with the turtles. You will stay in a nearby hotel and will then be driven to one of the nesting sites in the early morning to get your best chance of seeing the turtles in action.

Estimate arrival time is approx. 16:00 - 16:30
Overnight at Turtle Beach resort, 3* beach resort Hamoor non sea view room incl. HB


DAY 07: RAS AL HADD - SUR - WADI TIWI - BIMAKH SINKHOLE - WADI DAYQAH - QURIYAT - MUSCAT **4WD**

Breakfast at the hotel and check out
08:00 am - pick up from the hotel


THE SUR DHOW FACTORY

The old town of Sur faces out to the sea from whence its fortunes came. As the capital of the Sharqiya region, it has an illustrious past as one of the most important ports in the region, a key point of trade with East Africa and India. The forts and watchtowers, which circle the town, give a hint at its past significance.

Head to the harbor to find its main attraction, the traditional dhow building yard that still manufactures wooden boats as it has for hundreds of years. Oman is immensely proud of its maritime heritage and, although demand has decreased, Sur still makes boats for customers all over the world, which are proof of the quality of their workmanship. The yard is a laid back place which you may wander around at your leisure.


WADI TIWI

Similar in form to Wadi Shab this wadi has the advantage of being discoverable by vehicle. You can wind your way through the, sometimes narrow, wadi enjoying the plantations and the pools from the comfort of your car. As in Wadi Shab, birds and butterflies abound and you will be given some fantastic photo opportunities.


THE BIMMAH SINKHOLE

Recently mooted as the most beautiful sinkhole in the world, the cerulean waters of Bimmah Sinkhole attract thousands of visitors every year. It was created by the collapse of a soft limestone ceiling in an underground cavern which is rather less poetic than the Arabic name of 'Meteor Fall Park' suggests. The sinkhole is a beautiful natural phenomenon and a great place to stop for photos or a quick swim.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT OR PICNIC LUNCH BOX


QURIYAT AND WADI DAYQAH

'Quriyat' is the plural of Quriya meaning village, so called because, although a modestly sized town, it is a collective of around 30 distinct communities. It sits on the coast 80km from Muscat, an old fishing port that boasts a pretty seafront and harbour and an attractive 200-year-old fort - another one that has recently reopened after substantial renovation.

Not far from the town is the impressive Wadi Dayqah Dam, which was completed in 2012 in a bid to assist with the management of the limited water resources in the Sultanate. In Oman's predominantly arid landscape it is a wonder to see such an enormous body of clear blue water. After Quriyat you will get onto the coast road and drive back to Muscat.

Estimate arrival time is approx. 15:00 - 15:30
Overnight at Muscat Holiday Hotel, 4* city hotel, Standard room incl. BB


DAY 08: DEPARTURE TRANSFER **SALON CAR / MINIVAN**

Breakfast at the hotel
TBA - check out from the hotel (standard check out time is before 12:00 noon)
TBA - pick up from the hotel and private departure transfer to Muscat Int'l APT to fly home.