The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight and ferry schedules. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. Meals included in the tour price and are indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch (several will be picnics) and D=evening meal.
Khasab, Musandam - 2 nights
Day 1: Thursday 11 October, Dubai – Khasab
- Check-in and Welcome Meeting
- Dhow cruise to the fjords of Musandam
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive at Dubai Airport in the early morning. After clearing Passport Control and Customs we shall make the four-hour journey to the northern tip of the Arabian Peninsula to Khasab on the Strait of Hormuz, just opposite Iran, and surrounded by the United Arab Emirates. Our journey takes us along the coast past Sharjah, Ajman and Ras Al Khaimah.
Should you have arranged your own air travel, you are asked to meet the group at a designated area at Dubai airport.
Following hotel check-in and some time at leisure, our program commences with an introductory/welcome meeting. We shall then transfer to Khasab harbour where we board a dhow for a cruise through the western inlet, Khaw ash Shamm, to view the spectacular fjords of Musandam, with its villages clinging to the sides of the majestic Hajar Mountains, and the famous telegraphic island. Until recently the Musandam Peninsula was largely cut off from the rest of Arabia; apart from the remains of a small Sasanian settlement on an island just to its north and of a Portuguese fort at Khasab, few traces of foreign contact remain from earlier times. It wasn’t until the British explorer Bertram Thomas described Musandam after a brief visit in the 1920s that it became known to the outside world. During the cruise there will be an option to swim and snorkel (snorkelling equipment will be provided). Lunch will be provided on board. This evening we dine together at our hotel. (Overnight Khasab) LD
Day 2: Friday 12 October, Musandam Peninsula
- Qayadh Prehistoric Rock Art, Wadi Tawi
- 4WD drive to Khor Najid, Birkhat Khalididya Park & Jebel Harim
This morning we depart by 4WD to the prehistoric rock engravings at Wadi Tawi depicting, amongst other animals, several fine camels. Next we drive to Khor Najid with its stunning sea views and then to Birkhat Khalididya Park, a natural park with a multitude of acacia trees and an ancient water catchment system that is still in use. Later we drive to Jebel Harim, the highest mountain in Musandam (2087m) which presents an unsurpassed panorama of the surrounding landscape. Note: the upper area of this mountain is a Military Camp and not accessible to visitors. (Overnight Khasab) BLD
Muscat - 3 nights
Day 3: Saturday 13 October, Khasab – Muscat
- Khasab Fort
- High-Speed ferry Khasab-Muscat (1200-1800hrs)
This morning we visit the Khasab Fort, built by the Portuguese in the 16th century. At midday we depart Al Khasab by high-speed ferry for Muscat. Khasab’s connections to the rest of Oman have greatly improved since 2008 with the launch of the world’s fastest passenger ferry service that operates between Muscat and Musandam. The diesel-powered vessels built by Australian-based Austal, have top operating speeds of nearly 56 knots and make the 420km journey in just over 5 hours. Our voyage takes us past the rugged Omani coastline through turquoise blue waters and enables us to see Muscat and other coastal villages through the eyes of ancient seafarers who plied this route for centuries with their rich merchandise. (Overnight Muscat) BLD
Day 4: Sunday 14 October, Muscat
- The National Museum of Oman
- Al Alam Palace and Forts of Mirani and Jalali (exterior only)
- Time at leisure
- Muttrah Souq
We spend the morning visiting the National Museum of Oman, housed in a magnificent new building and dedicated to preserving and displaying the treasures of Oman’s Cultural Heritage. Opened in July 2016, the museum includes 15 display halls – The Land and the People Gallery, Maritime History Gallery, Arms and Armour Gallery, Civilisation in the Making Gallery, A Falaj Gallery, Currency Gallery, Splendours of Islam Gallery, Oman and the World Gallery, Renaissance Gallery, and the Intangible Heritage Gallery among others.
After lunch we take a short tour of Muscat by coach. Although Muscat was used as an anchorage from at least the 1st century AD, the city did not become an important trading port until the medieval period and by the 15th century had emerged as one of the busiest harbours in the East, an entrepôt that traded with Asia and East Africa. Its natural harbour is enclosed within a bowl of igneous rock hills and is framed by the great forts of Mirani and Jalali that were constructed by the Portuguese during the 16th century to guard the entrance; by this time it had become Portugal’s main naval base in the region. Until recently, these forts served as prisons, whose shackled inmates could be seen climbing their steep stairs! We shall also view (exterior only) the magnificent Al Alam Palace, the official residence of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said, the ruler of Oman. The palace, constructed in 1972, is an architectural masterpiece and sits in a historic location, framed by the aforementioned forts. We then return to our hotel for some time to relax and enjoy the hotel’s excellent facilities.
In the early evening we visit the Muttrah souq, one of the most popular souqs in the Middle East. We shall walk through its labyrinthine alleyways which display a bewildering array of merchandise, from imported fabrics to exotic Oriental spices, perfumes, wood carvings and richly handcrafted jewellery. In this regard it is worth recalling that the Omanis were considered amongst the finest silversmiths within the Arab world. A visit to this frenetic, pulsating hub of Muscat’s old quarter is a must, giving a vivid sense of the vitality of trade that has always sustained Oman’s economy. (Overnight Muscat) BLD
Day 5: Monday 15 October, Muscat
- Grand Mosque
- Oman Botanic Garden
- Opera Performance (pending confirmation in 2018)
Our first visit will be to the Grand Mosque, the major place of worship in the Sultanate that is distinguished by lavish and opulent architecture reflecting the rich artistic heritage of Islam. This extraordinarily beautiful modern mosque, with five minarets, was gifted by Sultan Qaboos to the Omani people. (Men: shorts and sleeveless shirts should not be worn in the mosque. Ladies must cover their bodies so that only face, hands and feet are visible – please bring a headscarf; abayas (robes) can be provided).
This afternoon we visit the new Oman Botanic Garden, a groundbreaking project developed by the Diwan of the Royal Court in Oman. Situated on 425 hectares, the garden is designed to cultivate, study and conserve Oman’s rich native flora. It includes large-scale (indoor and outdoor) native habitat displays ranging from dry desert to rich monsoon cloud forests. Currently still under development, the garden will also showcase the traditionally cultivated crops and the many ways that people use plants in Oman. When completed, this ambitious project will be the largest botanic garden in the Gulf region.
We shall return to the hotel in time to shower, change and relax before attending a performance at Oman’s Royal Opera House. Opened in 2011, the opera house hosts classical music and ballet. (Overnight Muscat) BLD
Ras al Jinz - 2 nights
Day 6: Tuesday 16 October, Muscat – Wadi Tiwi – Sur – Ras Al Jinz
- Bimmah Sinkhole
- Wadi Tiwi
- Dhow Building Yard & the Maritime Museum’s historic Fath al Khair, Sur
- Evening visit to the Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
This morning we rise early and board our 4WD vehicles to drive along the rugged and scenic coastal route to Ras Al Jinz. The journey along the coastline offers breathtaking glimpses of the blue waters of the Gulf of Oman offset by pristine beaches. You may also see elegant gazelles sprinting across the landscape. As we continue south the road hugs the coast, passing many gravel beaches and tidal pools.
Our first stop will be at the picturesque Bimmah Sinkhole, set on the first of several ‘wave-cut terraces’, created by changes in sea level at the base of a mountain. If you wish you may take a dip in the vibrant emerald-tinted waters of its 20-metre-deep pool. The ground beneath sinkholes normally consists of easily dissolved rocks such as limestone, carbonates and salt beds. When groundwater flows through these rocks, it eats them away, leaving behind subterranean holes and caverns. When the roof of one of these caverns collapses, the land above it falls in too, leaving giant holes such as this impressive example.
We continue our journey along the coastal highway to Wadi Tiwi, a spectacularly deep and narrow gorge carved out of the mountains, running between towering cliffs right down to the sea. The traditional villages within it are surrounded by lush plantations of date and banana, criss-crossed with a network of gurgling flaj. We shall walk though the date trees and dense banana plantations and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Next, we continue along the Omani coast to the port of Sur where we shall visit its boatyards, whose ships sailed to distant ports in Asia and East Africa and where skilled craftsmen still make these craft. Sur was one of the greatest medieval ports in the Middle East. After the decline of Qalhat (one of the key ports in Arabia) in the 16th century, Sur became the regional marine trading town of the region. Its strategic location enabled ships to make use of the north-east monsoon to reach East Africa. Ships would leave Sur and other Omani ports in November and reach Zanzibar, the main port-of-call around mid-February. The return voyage, before the south-west monsoon, would see them back in Oman by early May. Until the 19th century, Sur remained an extremely important shipyard, responsible for the construction of the great wooden ghanjahs and baghalas that plied the oceans from Arabia to India and back. The Belitung ship (carrying porcelain from China, on the sea-route to Arabia) – now on display at Sentosa island, Singapore – is thought to have been built at Sur.
In the shipyards we watch skilled craftsmen building traditional dhows and fishing boats as they have done for centuries. After this practical demonstration we view displays of traditional dhows, and at the nearby yard of the Maritime Museum, we view the historic Fath al Khair, a solid and beautiful timber ship that embodies the glorious past of the Wilayat of Sur, both craftsmen and sailors. In its voyages, Fath al Khair carried cargoes to and from Oman, including dates, salted and dried fish, dry lemon and salt. It also imported Iraqi and Iranian dates, saffron, Yemeni coffee, and timber and spices from the East Africa.
In the late afternoon we continue our journey to the Ras Al Jinz Reserve, an important nesting site for the endangered Green Turtle. Every year thousands of female turtles arrive at Oman’s coastline to lay their eggs. As female turtles only come ashore to nest after dark, there are two tours conducted each day – at dawn and at dusk. After an early evening dinner, we make an excursion to the reserve to watch the Green Turtles as they come ashore to nest. (Overnight Ras Al Jinz) BLD
Safari Desert Camp, Wahiba Sands - 1 night
Day 7: Wednesday 17 October, Ras Al Jinz – Jalan Bani Bu Ali – Al Kamil – Wahiba Sands
- Optional dawn turtle-watching, Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
- Ras al Jinz Visitor Center
- Triliths, Dhofar’s Standing Stones
- Ruined Fort & Mosque of Rashid bin Hamouda, Jalan Bani Bu Ali
- Private Fort of Al Kamil
This morning there will be an optional dawn excursion to view the turtles as they push themselves back down to the sea as the day breaks.
After breakfast we visit the small museum that provides information on the Green Turtles and their relationship with early human settlement. Ras Al Jinz is the easternmost point on the Arabian Peninsula. Here, excavations by the British Museum uncovered sherds with Harappan writing and jewellery beads, along with bitumen from Mesopotamia, linking Oman with the Indus Valley in Pakistan and Akkad in Iraq, giving clear evidence of contacts with Asia more than five millennia ago. Museum exhibits include stone and seashell jewellery, early fishing equipment, examples of copper smelting and metal working, and the earliest dated Omani frankincense burner (2200 BC).
From Ras Al Jinz we travel by 4WD through the Jalan region. En route we stop briefly to view an example of Dhofar’s standing stones, known as triliths, due to their construction from three stones. Standing in groups of three to fifteen, each one consists of three stone slabs approximately 2 feet high, standing on end and leaning against each other with their base forming a triangle. Dated to between 400 BC and 300 AD, these archaeological structures are widespread across the southern and eastern areas of Arabia; their purpose is still unclear.
Our next stop is to view the ruins of the huge mud-brick Fort and Mosque of Rashid bin Hamouda located in the town of Jalan Bani Bu Ali. During the early 19th century, following repeated Saudi incursions into Oman, the local Bani Bu Ali tribe converted to the Wahhabi form of Islam practised in Saudi Arabia. It was the only tribe in the country ever to do so, and subsequently repudiated the rule of the sultan – who responded by dispatching a large armed force to crush the fledgling rebellion. Today the town retains a decidedly old-fashioned atmosphere and comprises a conglomeration of watchtowers, old fortified houses, forts and ancient plantation walls, all of which lie crumbling in various states of dereliction. Elaborately painted metal doors and traditional carved wooden gates sported by the town’s residences are a feature of the region.
Next we continue to Al Kamil, one of the few towns in the country surrounded by trees. The low-lying acacia and ghaf woodland is a special feature of the area, much prized by the Bedouin who use the wood for shade, as props for their tents and firewood. Their camels nibble the nutritious new shoots and livestock lick the moisture from the small leaves in the early morning. Here we visit the family fort of the Hashami Sheikhs of Al Kamil where we shall have lunch and view a private collection of ceramics, coins and various documents.
Continuing north from Al Kamil for about 60 kilometres we arrive at our Bedouin style camp located in the remote, quiet desert landscape of the Wahiba Sands. Traversed by the great British explorer Wilfred Thesiger in 1949, the Sands are a vast sea of undulating red and white sand with dunes rising up to two hundred metres. They support a wide variety of flora and fauna. The ever-changing patterns of the dunes are a photographer’s delight. The Wahiba Sands are also home to the powerful Wahiba Bedu tribe (regarded by Thesiger as ‘aristocratic’) who are known for their hospitality and their knowledge of the desert. (Overnight Safari Desert Camp, Wahiba Sands) BLD
Nizwa - 3 nights
Day 8: Thursday 18 October, Wahiba Sands – Sinaw – Lizq – Manah – Birkat al Mawz – Nizwa
- Sinaw’s Souq and Thursday Goat Auction
- Early Iron Age Settlement, Lizq
- Manah & Fortress of Fiqain
- Mud Settlement & Date Gardens of Birkat al Mawz
After an early breakfast we continue our journey by 4WD to Sinaw’s Thursday market, one of the oldest Bedouin markets in Oman. Filled with local people in their colourful costumes, the souq is divided into various sections including a bazaar for household goods and textiles, a section for fresh fish and meat, and an area where domestic animals like camels, cows, goats and sheep are displayed for auction.
Continuing a further 40 kilometres north, we reach the oasis town of Lizq where an impressive Early Iron Age stone staircase (the only one of its kind yet found in Oman), leads to a citadel on the summit of an escarpment. Rising some 80 metres above the surrounding plain, the mountain fort at Lizq is one of Oman’s most impressive prehistoric sites anywhere.
While in Lizq we also learn about the traditional falaj system. A falaj in Oman refers to an underground channel that carry water. The plural of the word ‘falaj’ used in Oman is ‘aflaj’, which denotes a system of irrigation. This unique water system gave boosted agriculture in Oman, which represents, alongside fishing, enabled Omanis to establish a sustainable civilisation throughout centuries providing sustenance for generations who survived in harsh climatic and environmental conditions.
Aflaj rise within mountains, flowing down in channels like waterfalls and passing through hills and plains to bring abundant life to land. They date back more than 2000 years, during which Omanis developed special tools and techniques that enabled them to maintain these aflaj and create new ones to meet the burgeoning development of agriculture. In 2006 the World Heritage Committee, under UNESCO, adopted the inscription of five Omani aflaj in the World Heritage List.
From Lizq we continue to the ancient, abandoned mud-brick village of Manah, dominated by the Fiqain fortress with its massive defensive walls. Manah’s history dates to the 6th century when it was controlled by the Sasanians of Persia. With the introduction of the falaj, the village, which produced mainly sugar cane throve until the second half of the 20th century when inhabitants moved to more modern residences.
Just outside of Manah is the oasis town of Birkat al Mawz (‘Pool of Bananas’). Here we view the old mud brick settlement, a UNESCO-listed falaj system built between 1624 and 1741, and a well kept date oasis that extends for just under 2 kilometres.
In the late afternoon we continue to Nizwa, the chief town of the interior and Oman’s capital for many centuries. (Overnight Nizwa) BLD
Day 9: Friday 19 October, Nizwa – Al Hoota Caves – Al Hamra – Jebel Shams – Nizwa
- Nizwa Fort & Friday Souq
- Al Hoota Caves
- Village of Al Hamra
- The Grand Canyon of Oman: Balcony Walk, Jebel Shams
Today we continue our exploration of the Al-Dakhiliyah Region. This dramatic, mountainous area has spectacular scenery, including Jebel Shams (Oman’s highest mountain).
We start the day by visiting Nizwa’s great 17th-century fort, one of the most impressive in all of Oman. Constructed on a solid base of rock, the huge crenellated tower was designed to withstand the vibrations of its 24 cannons; it remained Oman’s seat of government for some 300 years. Nizwa Fort was designed with various ingenious devices used to repel invaders. Among these were ‘murder holes’, slots through which defenders could pour boiling date syrup on the heads of attackers as they climbed its stairs. From the top of the tower there is a superb panoramic view of the city and the surrounding plains with their extensive stands of deep green palm date trees. Nizwa is still an important centre for Omani date farming – some 40 varieties of dates are cultivated.
Mid-morning, we spend some time exploring the Nizwa souq, which is renowned for its intricately hand-carved khanjars (Omani silver daggers) and ornately designed silver jewellery.
From Nizwa we travel to the Al Hamra region, where at the foot of Jebel Shams lies the Al Hoota Cave. Estimated to be over 2 million years old, this cave is approximately 4.5 kilometres long (only 500m publicly accessible) and contains a rich ecosystem that includes four lakes. The central lake, which we visit, is estimated to hold 30,000 cubic metres of water and is 800 metres long and 10 metres wide. It is here that we may see the rare blind fish Garra Barreimiae, commonly known as Bu Naseh. Following a period of extensive renovations the caves reopened to the public in August 2016.
Nearby we visit the mud town of Al Hamra, set below Jebel Shams and overlooking an extensive date oasis. It is interesting for its wonderfully well-preserved row of two- and three-storey mud-brick houses built in the Yemeni style. There are many abandoned houses in the upper parts of the village but it’s easy to gain an idea of traditional life that has only altered in the past three decades.
In the afternoon we ascend Jebel Shams for a one-kilometre walk along the ‘The Balcony'; a trail offering spectacular views down into the great chasm of Wadi Nakhr, popularly known as the ‘Grand Canyon’ of Oman. The scenery here is some of the most dramatic anywhere in Oman: a huge natural amphitheatre, with kilometre-high cliffs, looking down on the tiny village of Nakhr way below in the canyon’s shadowy depths. Birds of prey – such as the Egyptian vulture, with its distinctive black-and-white-striped wings – hover silently on the thermals overhead. In Jebel Jams you may purchase hand-woven carpets and rugs directly from the weavers. These stunning creations, dyed in shades of black, bright red and brown, represent the best of traditional textiles. (Overnight Nizwa) BLD
Day 10: Saturday 20 October, Nizwa – Bahla – Jabrin – Bat – Nizwa
- Bahla Fort, souq and pottery workshop
- Jabrin Fort
- Beehive tombs of Bat, Al Ayn
This morning we drive to Bahla village, which is surrounded by a 12-kilometre adobe wall, originally punctured by seven grand gates. Bahla was once known as a centre for magic and sorcerers; today it is well known for its skilled potters. Just to the south of the village and rising above the vast sea of palm groves is the Bahla Fort, a World Heritage site. Qalat Bahla (Bahla Citadel) is one of four historic fortresses situated at the foot of the Jebel Akdar highlands. Dated back to the pre-Islamic era, it was rebuilt in the 13th and 14th centuries, when the oasis of Bahla prospered under the control of the Banu Nebhan tribe, and largely rebuilt in the 17th century. The fort’s ruined adobe walls and towers rise some 165 feet above its sandstone foundations. Closed for many years, the fort underwent extensive restoration and was re-opened in 2012. While in Bahla we also visit the recently restored souq which sells homemade ropes, fadl (large metal platters for feeding a whole family), daggers, copper artefacts, pottery and Omani sweets (Halwa).
Nearby we visit Jabrin Fort. Rising from the surrounding plain, Oman’s most impressive fort has been sensitively restored and features magnificent plasterwork, wood carvings and elaborate painted ceilings with original floral motifs. Built in 1675, Jabrin Fort was an important centre of learning for astrology, medicine and Islamic Law.
Our next stop is the village of Al Ayn; in the distance rises Jebal Misht (‘Comb Mountain’) one of Oman’s most majestic landmarks with its south-west wall rising over 1000 metres. On a ridge with Jebal Misht as its dramatic backdrop, are a series of beautifully preserved stone ‘beehive’ tombs which are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The settlement and necropolises of Bat form the most complete and best-known site of the 3rd millennium BC. They reflect the increasing sophistication of settled life during the Bronze Age when copper mining in Magan (the ancient name for Oman) was an important source of revenue. (Overnight Nizwa) BLD
Jebel Akhdar - 1 night
Day 11: Sunday 21 October, Nizwa – Al Ayn – Wadi Bani Habib – Jebel Akhdar
- Village of Al Ayn (including 1km walk)
- Wadi Bani Habib
- Time at leisure at the 5-star Anantara Jabal Akhdar Resort
This morning we drive up the Wadi Muaydin to spectacular Jebel Akhdar. This region is dominated by the great Saiq Plateau, 2000 metres above sea level. It is corroded by of a labyrinth of wadis and terraces where the cooler mountain air and greater rainfall supports the region’s famed market gardens and orchards of pomegranates, apricots and other fruit.
We take an extended walk through the terraces and villages from Al Aqr, which is famous for its roses, to Al Ayn and Al Shurayjah perched on cliffs that afford spectacular views of the wadi below. As we walk we will see the falaj that bring water to these luxuriantly fertile fields.
Following lunch at the home of our local guide, we visit the secluded valley of Wadi Bani Habib (the children of Habib’s valley). Two abandoned villages here overlook walnut trees and pomegranate bushes.
From Wani Bani Habib we continue to the Anantara Jabal Akhdar Resort for the night. We arrive mid-afternoon, in time to enjoy the facilities of this 5-star resort, and to enjoy the spectacular views of the ‘Grand Canyon’ at sunset. (Overnight Jebal Akhdar) BLD
Salalah, Dhofar - 4 nights
Day 12: Monday 22 October, Jebel Akhdar – Muscat – Salalah
- Wadi Bani Awf
- Wadi Al Sahtan: traditional beekeepers
- Evening flight from Muscat to Salalah
Today we return to Muscat, travelling via two of the most beautiful valleys of the Western Hajar. Our first visit is to one of the most impressive wadis, Wadi Bani Awf, flanked by mountains, has waterfalls, crop terraces, date palm oases and houses built into a steep hill. Our route through a narrow winding canyon of limestone culminates at Bilad Sayt, probably Oman’s most picturesque mountain village. From Wadi Bani Awf we continue through the vast natural Sahtan Bowl, where many of the villages are known for their traditional beekeepers who use date-log hives and produce dark-brown Acacia honey.
On arrival at Muscat International Airport we take an evening flight to Salalah, a tropical paradise, justifiably considered the ‘garden city’ of the south. (Overnight Salalah) BLD
Day 13: Tuesday 23 October, Salalah – Taqah – Sumhuram – Mirbat – Wadi Darbat – Salalah
- Taqah Fort & Fishing Village
- Ruined city of Sumhuram
- Mirbat, ancient capital of Dhofar & Tomb of Mohammad Bin Ali
- Wadi Darbat
This morning we begin by visiting Taqah, an old fishing village with a white-washed 19th-century castle surrounded by watchtowers and stone houses. It is well known as the source of much of the stone utilised in buildings in Salalah and even Muscat.
We then drive to the ruins at Khor Rawri. Known as Sumhuram, it was one of the great entrepôts of the trade in frankincense, spices, textiles, and other precious items, which flourished between India, Arabia Felix and the Mediterranean some 2000 years ago. Excavations, most recently by an Italian team, have produced evidence of an ancient city with trade links as far afield as India and further east and Iberia in the west.
In the afternoon we continue to the coastal town of Mirbat. The ancient capital of Dhofar and of the Minjawis (a community of Persian merchants), Mirbat was an important town as early as the 9th century. It was known for its trade in frankincense, horses and slaves. We shall see some of its old houses, famous for their beautifully carved wooden doors and windows. If we are fortunate we shall also witness boatloads of fish arriving into the harbour. We shall also visit Dhofar’s best-known historic monuments, the tomb of Mohammad bin Ali al Alawi, who died in 1135 AD. This twin-domed mosque and tomb complex is a fine example of the region’s medieval architecture and recalls similar tombs in the great Wadi Hadramat, further south in Yemen.
We return to Salalah along the coastal highway, making a detour to Wadi Darbat. Some 7 kilometres beyond Taqah we view the dramatic cliffs which are covered by a spectacular waterfall during the khareef (June-August southeastern monsoon), spouting cascades of water amid a tangle of lush greenery. This cliff marks the entrance to Wadi Darbat, whose waters feed Khor Rawri below. Wadi Darbat is a national park with majestic views of waterfalls, lakes, mountains, caves (once used to shelter shepherds), wildlife and lush green vegetation. (Overnight Salalah) BLD
Day 14: Wednesday 24 October, Salalah – Al Mugsayl Beach – Al Qamar Mountains – Salalah
- Mughsayl Blowholes
- Frankincense Plantations & Sea-Cliff walk
This morning we drive southwest from Salalah along the coastline towards Mughsayl and the Yemeni border. En route we shall enjoy spectacular views of plains, mountain landscape and green pastureland. As we progress further west, the views towards the border become more and more breathtaking. The stark shapes of leafless frankincense trees (Boswellia Sacra) dot the landscape. Once traded as a commodity more precious than gold, and purchased in prodigious quantities by the Romans and Egyptians for their rituals, frankincense harvested in Dhofar is rated the best in the world. We continue to the 100-metre-high sea cliffs, where a gentle walk takes us through wooded countryside. (Overnight Salalah) BLD
Day 15: Thursday 25 October, Salalah – Al Balid – Salalah
- Frankincense Land Museum & Al Balid Archaeological Park, Dhofar UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Prophet Job Memorial
- Al Balid Haffah Souq
Al Balid is the site of ancient Salalah, known as Zafar, from which the province of Dhofar gets its name. The city was visited by Ibn Battuta (the Arab geographer) and Marco Polo, who described it as “a great and noble and fine city”. The ruins, which date from the 10th to the 15th centuries when the city was settled as a port for exporting frankincense and Arab horses, include the remains of the ruler’s citadel, Great Mosque, madrasa, cemetery and a large enclosing wall with towers.
Within the site we visit the Frankincense Land Museum which contains two main halls. The History Hall traces the historical geography of the ancient Frankincense trail and the historical background of the Sultanate through a number of archaeological discoveries. The Marine Hall features an extensive history of Oman’s maritime trade and shipbuilding industry. Meticulously crafted replicas of the ancient boats and ships of the Omani maritime trade are displayed.
We also visit to the memorial of the Biblical Prophet Job (‘Nabi Ayoub’), perched high up in the mountains. The story of Job is recounted in both the Bible and Qu’ran.
In the afternoon we visit the Haffah Souq, Salalah’s traditional market famous for the sale of high quality frankincense and numerous other Dhofari traditional items. We also walk along Haffah Beach to see the Al Husn Palace, residence of Sultan Saidand, which stands at one end of the promenade. (Overnight Salalah) BLD
Day 16: Friday 26 October, Salalah – Dubai (Tour ends in Dubai)
- Day at leisure
- Evening departure for Dubai
Today is at leisure in Salalah, affording well-deserved opportunities to relax and rest by the splendid beach. Alternatively, one might indulge in some ‘last-minute’ shopping in Salalah or simply spend time in one of the hotel’s sumptuous lounges.
In the early evening, participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight with Emirates will be transferred to the airport for their flight back to Australia (via Dubai). BL