- 8 October
- 17 March next year
- 6 October.
Oman’s evocative landscapes and its overwhelming hospitality make it an absolute delight to explore. Our short trip starts in the capital, Muscat, a lively city with an interesting old town and a good place to get to grips with modern Oman. From here we travel into the mountains through dramatic scenery, stopping en route to visit a traditional village before heading to Nizwa, with its historic fort. But it is the next part of the journey that is perhaps the most exciting, as we travel into the vast sands of the Arabian Desert, camping overnight next to towering dunes and meeting Bedouin nomads – a journey to satisfy any latent desert fantasies that you may hold! Finally we drive to the Indian Ocean coast, looking for turtles and spending nights under the stars. This is a journey to the heart of ancient Arabia, where age old traditions still hold sway amid a timeless land.
Day 1: Muscat. Arrive in Muscat and transfer to your hotel. Depending on your time of arrival, there may be time to explore the city. Overnight Golden Tulip Hotel or similar.
Muscat: Strategically situated at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Muscat has been an important trading town on the crossroads between east and west for at least two millennial. During the 16th and 17th centuries it changed hands between Portuguese and Turkish invaders several time before returning to local control. The discovery of oil in the 1960's saw Muscat grow from a small harbor town into a large and modern city, fueling a vibrant economy and a multi-ethnic society as workers from countries such as India arrive in search of work.
Muscat originally consisted only of the area known as Old Muscat, a walled town on a natural harbor which houses excellent examples of traditional Omani architecture and a couple of Portuguese built forts dating back to the 16th century.
Day 2: Hajar mountains - Nizwa. After breakfast, we visit the impressive Qaboos Mosque before departing with our 4WD cars and heading to the Hajar Mountains. The road winds up to a 2,000 meter pass through coloured mountains with fantastic views of far away valleys and deep gorges. We will stop for a picnic lunch before completing our crossing of the mountains and reaching of village of Al Hamra. The old quarter of Al Hamra, close to gardens with thousands of palm trees, has narrow streets that wind through buildings of clay. We then continue the short distance to the town of Nizwa. Overnight Falaj Daris Hotel or similar. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Nizwa: The town of Nizwa has historically been a very important oasis offering respite from the often harsh landscape surrounding it, and is a key centre for growing dates. However it is far better known for its splendid fort, built in the 17th century and painstakingly restored in 1990. The fort is vast and contains many different sections, including a Koranic school, a mosque, a prison and living quarters. Once the capital of Oman, Nizwa became an important center for trade and education, profiting from its strategic position between Muscat and Dhofar. The town has been extensively modernized under Sultan Qaboos bin Said, but retains its flavor, especially in the back streets of the old souq.
Day 3: Nizwa – Ibra - Wahiba Sands Desert. The first part of the morning will be spent visiting the souk and the old Fort, from the top of which we will have a splendid view of the surrounding area, with palm trees and mountains. A late morning departure will take us east towards the town of Al Minitirib and the Wahiba Sands, where we have dinner and camp amidst spectacular desert scenery. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Wahiba Sands: The Wahiba Sands are characterized by enormous rolling dunes, some as high as 150 meters, stretching as far as the eye can see – a quintessential desert landscape that is as beautiful as it is austere. Named after the Wahiba tribe, the region is home to Bedouin who manage to eke out an existence around the few oases, and is also home to a surprising amount of wildlife. Immortalized by the travels of Wilfred Thesiger, a journey into the sands offers a superb opportunity to experience desert wilderness.
Day 4: Wahiba Sands desert. After breakfast we will set out across the Wahiba Sands desert where the dunes will become higher and higher. We will find some much needed shade for our picnic lunch before ending the day in time to set our overnight desert camp. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 5: Wahiba Sands - Al Khaluf Gulf. We head towards the ocean and as we draw close to it we will come across a few settlements of the Wahiba nomads where women wear black mask “burqas”. Once we reach the coast we travel alongside an enormous salt lagoon, until we reach the beach. From there, we will continue our drive just meters from the ocean waves, before arriving at Al Khaluf Gulf where white dunes flow to the water. Dinner and overnight camp in the dunes. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
The Bedouin: Bedouin is a collective name given to a variety of desert dwelling tribes, spread out from the Arabian peninsula to north Africa. Traditionally the Bedouin were largely nomadic, taking their large goat hair tents and moving to find pasture for their flocks throughout the arid desert wastes. Although different tribes were united, typically the Bedu would live separately in their family groups – a necessity so as not to put excess pressure on the meagre resources of the landscape.
Nowadays modernity has taken its toll on traditional Bedouin life, as many have settled in towns and cities in search of a more secure existence, but many nomadic families still exist. The recent imposition of national borders on the homelands of the Bedouin has also acted to circumscribe traditional patterns of migration. The Bedouin are famed for their culture of hospitality which dictates that they treat visitors as honored guests.
Day 6: Al Khaluf – Wahiba Coast. Heading north along the beach, we pass small fishing villages where we can stop to observe the fishermen at work. We drive along the coast on the white beach, with the Wahiba Desert on our left hand side. This day is a mixture of beach and desert and there will be stops so we can swim in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, as well as climbing amazing sand dunes. Dinner and overnight camp in the dunes. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 7: Wahiba coast - Ras El Hadd. We reach one of the main attractions of our expedition; enormous dunes that seem to roll into the ocean. To continue north we must drive over this sea of sand with its constant, magnificent views of the ocean. We follow the beach and the landscape is ever-changing: dunes, sandstone cliffs, rocky promontories, fishing villages and thousand of birds that fly off as the cars pass by.
At the village of Al Askharah we leave the beach for the paved road to Ras El Hadd. We spend the night at a lovely little hotel on a quiet bay. After dinner, a visit to the National Park a few kilometers from the hotel to watch the Green Turtles as they crawl up the beach from the ocean to lay their eggs in the sand. The best season for this is from August to November, but it is still possible to witness this extraordinary event during other months of the year. Overnight Turtle Beach Resort Hotel. Includes: (B), (L), (D).
Day 8: Ras El Hadd - Sur – Muscat. A lovely mountain track will take us to Sur, an attractive town located around a beautiful bay. We will take in a visit to its dhow shipyard before following the road north where we will stop for a brief visit to the Qalhat Ruins, an ancient 2nd century city which is known to have been visited by Marco Polo. Further on we come to Tiwi, a small fishing village with a lush green canyon and white sand beaches where we can go for a swim and have a picnic. Afternoon arrival in Muscat, with time to see the Sultan’s Palace and the interesting souk before the tour ends. Includes: (B), (L).
Also see tour packages in:
Middle East Oman Local Culture Cultural Journey