The Magnificent Wadis & Infinite Desert of Oman

The Magnificent Wadis & Infinite Desert of Oman (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 **VIP standard check in time is 14:00 HRS**.
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.


MAKE A SPLASH AT WADI AL KHOUD

A world away from city life, get the chance to settle under some shade near the village to relax and watch the colorful birds, have a cooling dip in the pools and streams which are plentiful in the winter months or take a thrilling drive deeper into the Wadi splashing and sliding through the water. The delightful village of Al Khoud is just 20 minutes from Muscat International Airport and is the perfect place to experience a bit of rural Oman without venturing too far from the city. The Wadi, or river bed, is a huge valley which stretches for many kilometers but you can choose to explore as little or as much as you wish.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT


MUTRAH - A SLICE OF OMANI LIFE

This old centre of Oman's trade boasts an enchanting mix of old and new: in busy Port Sultan Qaboos you will see rickety old fishing dhows tied up alongside cruise liners and vast cargo ships gleaming in the sunshine; in the souq you will find stalls selling the finest Omani incense and ornate silver khanjars amongst many other treasures. The main drag of the souq retains the hustle, the bustle, the smells and the sounds of the old market but also seek out the rambling streets and dusty shops which spread out behind the souq and use your bartering skills to pick up some spices, nuts, jewelry, scarves or souvenirs to take home. With its magnificent mountain backdrop the corniche curving around the natural sea harbor is a great place to take a leisurely stroll or relax with a fruit juice absorbing the Mutrah life and the buzz of daily life. There are winding alleyways to explore and the intricate Lawati Mosque and old Portuguese merchants' houses to photograph. Early risers should also arrange a visit to the fish market where between 6 and 10am you can see local fishermen selling their daily catch. The market operates as it has for centuries with an ever changing array of seafood spread out on concrete slabs by swarthy old fishermen who then bundle it into bags for customers to take home. Drive the old road behind Riyam park to get some great views or take a two hour hike along the ancient pathway in the Ophiolite hills. Seek out the history museum at Bait al Baranda at one end of the corniche and Ghalaya's Museum of Modern Art at the other.


A CULTURAL EXPERIENCE AT BAIT AL ZUBAIR MUSEUM

A collection of marvelous treasures, which paint a picture of Oman long ago. Located in old Muscat this beautiful old townhouse was converted into a museum by the Zubair family in 1998. Since then it grown into a network of rooms and galleries exhibiting all manner of wonderful things. It houses a wealth of old coins, weaponry, jewelry, pottery, furniture and clothing which give a alluring glimpse into the Omani past. Outside in the courtyard you can see an example of an old village with a functioning falaj system - critical to cultivation in days gone by and still used by farmers in the interior today. In addition to its collection of artifacts, Bait al Zubair has also become a leading center.


MUSCAT OLD TOWN

Its harbor still guarded by the ancient twin forts of Jalali and Mirani, old Muscat is the small administrative center of the Sultanate where, until as recently as 1970, the city gates would lock the walled city at nightfall. See the old city gates and parts of the wall which have been restored, wander up the promenade towards the striking architecture of Al Alam Palace, one of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said's official residences and visit the old harbor with its centuries old stone sentinels. Those in search of some historical facts and figures will find several museums: as well as Bait al Zubair, there is the Omani- Franco museum and the Muscat Gate Museum and, opening in late 2014, the much anticipated National Museum.

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


DAY 03: MUSCAT - QURIYAT - WADI DAYQAH - WADI ARBAEEN - BIMAKH SINKHOLE **4WD**

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


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 harbor 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.


WADI ARBAEEN

An untouched haven of water and mountains, Wadi Arbaeen owes much of its undisturbed beauty to the fact that it lies off the main drag and therefore its visitors are limited. After a short bumpy ride through pools and over boulders you will find yourself in the midst of tranquil nature with little but birdsong and the splash of tiny waterfalls to disturb you. Relax and enjoy the clear refreshing pools or take a walk deeper into the wadi to find yourself even further from humanity.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT OR PICNIC LUNCH BOX


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.

Estimate arrival time is approx. 15:00 - 15:30
Overnight at Wadi Shab Beach resort, 3* beach resort, Deluxe room incl. HB


DAY 04: WADI SHAB - FINNS BEACH - WADI TIWI - SUR - RAS AL HADD **4WD**

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


WADI SHAB

Cutting a narrow, deep slice through the mountain Wadi Shab offers visitors a charming walk through the village past impossibly blue pools of water, date and banana plantations, terraced fields and an inventive falaj system. For those who are a little braver, keep going over boulders and along narrow paths, past abandoned villages and deeper pools until you find yourself at the water source.


WHITE SANDS BEACH

A beautiful small stretch of beach with gleaming white sand and sapphire waters interrupts the rocky coastline not far from Wadis Shab and Tiwi. If you wish to venture into the water, the snorkeling is great but if you would simply like to stretch your legs this is a wonderful place for beachcombing.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT OR PICNIC LUNCH BOX


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 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 harbour 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.


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 05: RAS ALL HADD - THE INLAND TOWNS - WADI BANI KHALID - WAHIBA SANDS **4WD**

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


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


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 - NIZWA FORT AND SOUQ - BIRKAT AL MAUZ - JABEL AKHDAR **4WD**

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


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 can not 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.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT


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.

Estimate arrival time is approx. 16:00 - 16:30
Overnight at Alila hotel, 5* mountain resort, Mountain view room incl. HB


DAY 07: JABEL AKHDAR - WADI BANI AUF - NAKHL - RUSTAQ - MUSCAT **4WD**

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


WADI BANI AUF AND THE VILLAGE OF BILAD SAYT

Wadi Bani Auf is a 26km long, dramatic gorge, which you can follow high up into the Hajar Mountains. It is the home to the Al Aufi tribe who populate lovely old villages growing fruits and vegetables in the fertile land and keeping bees to make the honey the region is famous for. Further into the wadi, inaccessible by vehicle, there is the formidable 'Snake Canyon' that offers brave visitors a challenging hike through pools, down slippery slopes and over large boulders. Continue higher - a drive that is not for the faint hearted - and you will reach the enchanting mountain hamlet of Bilad Sayt where you can walk through the labyrinthine passageways between traditional stone and mud houses and enjoy the rich green patchwork of terraced fields which surround this rural village.

LUNCH AT LOCAL RESTAURANT OR PICNIC LUNCH BOX


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 trees growing 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.

Estimate arrival time is approx. 16:00 - 16:30
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