AIA Tours: land

Oman: Crossroads of the Indian Ocean & Arabian Gulf

Tour Dates: October 6-20, 2022 (15 days)

Tour Leader(s): Trevor Marchand ,

Oman’s Bronze Age, Iron Age, pre-Islamic, and Islamic sites are spectacular. This custom-designed itinerary with seasoned study leader Trevor Marchand delves into the historical monuments and cultural history of Oman, while also sampling the country’s great geographical diversity, from spectacular deserts and wadis to pristine coastlines, including a reserve for the endangered green sea turtle. On this program, maximize your time in-country with group flights between Muscat in the far north and Salalah in the far south.
Oman was historically the link between Arabia, Africa, and south Asia. For centuries, Oman dominated the Indian Ocean’s commerce, governing Gwadar (on the coast of modern-day Pakistan) and Zanzibar. Indeed, Oman dominated the trade routes from Moorish Spain to Canton (modern-day Guangzhou, China); her ships and seafarers sailed into harbors worldwide, and her merchants traded in the commodities of civilization, such as frankincense, myrrh, silk, gold, spices, and coffee. Today, the country takes pride in sharing its rich history with visitors, as demonstrated in its world-class museums.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Visits to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: Oman’s aflaj irrigation systems; the protohistoric archaeological complex of Bat and Al-Ayn; the immense fort at the oasis of Bahla; the coastal, medieval trade city of Qalhat; and the Land of Frankincense
  • Four nights in Oman’s capital city of Muscat, including a tour of its recently-opened Oman National Museum
  • Hasat bin Sult (a.k.a. Coleman’s Rock), site of Oman’s most significant rock art
  • Lunch at a local home in Al Hamra
  • Three nights in the ancient oasis town of Nizwa
  • A visit with a Bedouin family and an overnight at a lovely desert camp in Wahiba Sands, a 6,000-square-mile desert
  • Sur, where many of the trading fleets of Omani ships were built
  • Three nights in Salalah, including excursions to Sumhuram Archaeological Park, once an important conduit for the international frankincense trade network, and the 5,000-year-old fortress of Ubar
  • Opportunities to wander through lively souks in Muscat and Nizwa
  • Limited to just twelve travelers, plus a dedicated local guide/tour manager and Professor Marchand

Tour Prices per person (12 nights)

Double Occupancy (10-12 participants) $9,795
Single Supplement $1,895

Single room supplement will be charged when requested or required (limited availability). With fewer than 10 participants a small group surcharge may be applied.

To reserve your space using the online form, click here.

For reservations or questions, please email us at aia@studytours.org (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884).

Itinerary


Thursday, October 6, 2022: Depart home
Friday, October 7: Arrive Muscat, Oman
Saturday, October 8: Muscat city tour: Bait Al Zubair Museum, Oman National Museum, Mutrah Souk | Welcome dinner
Sunday, October 9: Fly to Salalah | Salalah: Al Husn Palace, Al Hafa Fort Souq | Al-Baleed Archaeological Park & Museum | Museum of the Frankincense Land | Mughsayl Beach & Blowholes | Salalah
Monday, October 10: Taqah | Sumhuram Archaeological Park | Tomb of Mohamed bin Ali | Wadi Darbat | Salalah
Tuesday, October 11: Tomb of the Prophet Job | Wadi Dawkah | Hanun | Ubar | Empty Quarter (Rub’ Al Khali Desert) | Salalah
Wednesday, October 12: Fly to Muscat | Wadi Bani Awf | Balad Sayt | Al Hamra
Thursday, October 13: Hasat bin Sult | Misfat Al Abriyeen | Al Hamra: Bait Al Safah | Bat & Al-Ayn | Nizwa
Friday, October 14: Nizwa walking tour: Friday market, souk, Nizwa Fort, Al Aqr quarter | Samail Hosn | Manal | Nizwa
Saturday, October 15: Bahla Fort and Friday Mosque | Castle of Jabrin | Salut Fort | Nizwa
Sunday, October 16: Birkat Al Mawz | Samad Al Shan | Ibra | Bedouin family visit | Wahiba Sands
Monday, October 17: Dune driving | Wadi Bani Khalid | Sur | Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
Tuesday, October 18: Sur fish market | Qalhat | Muscat
Wednesday, October 19: Muscat: Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Royal Opera House, PM at leisure | Farewell dinner
Thursday, October 20: Fly home

 

View Detailed Itinerary

OMAN: Crossroads of the Indian Ocean & Arabian Gulf

October 6-20, 2022 (15 days | 12 guests) with anthropologist & architectural historian Trevor Marchand

 

ITINERARY

B= Breakfast • L= Lunch • D= Dinner

 

Thursday, October 6, 2022: Depart home
Depart home on overnight flights to Oman.

Friday, October 7: Arrive Muscat, Oman
Upon arrival at Muscat International Airport (MCT) there will be a group transfer (time TBA) to our hotel. Dinner is at leisure. Overnight at the 5-star Hormuz Grand Muscat, a Radisson Collection Hotel for two nights.

Saturday, October 8: Muscat city tour: Bait Al Zubair Museum, Oman National Museum, Mutrah Souk | Welcome dinner
Join your study leader and fellow travelers this morning for an orientation meeting. Then set out to explore the city of Muscat, capital of Oman, which has retained much of its traditional architecture and beauty while making great strides toward modernization. Visit the private Bait Al Zubair Museum to see its collection of traditional Omani artifacts before viewing Al Alam Palace, ceremonial palace of Sultan Qaboos of Oman, and the 16th-century Al Mirani Fort, which guards Muscat Bay and played a pivotal role in the fall of the Portuguese. (Please note that the Palace and Fort may be viewed from the outside only.) After lunch at a local restaurant, we visit the recently-opened Oman National Museum for a private tour of its highlights by a senior staff member (pending availability). Its permanent collection comprises about 12,500 artifacts from Oman dating back to the prehistoric era, and more than 5,000 objects on display across 14 permanent galleries are brought to life by giant screens and high-tech devices. End our day at the Mutrah Souk, which has some good antique shops and an entire area that specializes in gold. Return to our hotel to freshen up and gather for a welcome dinner. (B,L,D)

Sunday, October 9: Fly to Salalah | Salalah: Al Husn Palace, Al Hafa Fort Souq | Al-Baleed Archaeological Park & Museum | Museum of the Frankincense Land | Mughsayl Beach & Blowholes | Salalah
This morning we transfer to the airport for a short flight to the city of Salalah. Salalah is not only Oman’s second largest municipality but also a royal stronghold for Oman’s past Sultans and birthplace of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, who passed away in 2020. Begin with a visit to Al Husn Palace, the summer residence of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, which stands at one end of the promenade. After a local lunch, visit Al Hafa Fort Souq, where there are frankincense crystals of Dhofar, typical Dhofari frankincense burners, cattle, colorful cotton headdresses, and local jewelry for sale. Also visit Al-Baleed Archaeological Park, the Dhofar region’s main settlement from the 8th to 16th centuries, where we will use golf carts to explore the site. This region is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Land of Frankincense.” After a visit to the Al-Baleed Museum we visit the Museum of the Frankincense Land, which chronicles human settlement in the area since 2000 B.C. with an emphasis on maritime trade and traditions. Head west to the Mughsayl Beach and Blowholes, then drive to our hotel and gather for dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Hilton Salalah Resort for three nights. (B,L,D)

Monday, October 10: Taqah | Sumhuram Archaeological Park | Tomb of Mohamed bin Ali | Wadi Darbat | Salalah
Get an early start this morning to explore the fishing village of Taqah and its castle, behind whose giant timber doors are reception rooms, sleeping quarters, shady courtyards, and even a tiny prison. Continue on to Sumhuram Archaeological Park, site of what was once one of the major ports of southern Arabia and an important conduit for the international frankincense trade network. Also visit the nearby museum, before enjoying lunch in nearby Mirbat. Continue on to the twin-domed, 12th-century Tomb of Mohamed bin Ali, a fine example of medieval Omani architecture. End the day at Wadi Darbat, with its thick botanical cover, natural springs, and caves. Return to our hotel in Salalah and enjoy dinner on your own. (B,L)

Tuesday, October 11: Tomb of the Prophet Job | Wadi Dawkah | Hanun | Ubar | Empty Quarter (Rub’ Al Khali Desert) | Salalah
After an early breakfast we drive north to the Tomb of the Prophet Job (Nabi Ayoub), nestled among green mountains. According to the Old Testament, Job is also a Prophet of Islam. His tomb is simple and modest, yet awe-inspiring. Continue on to Wadi Dawkah (part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Land of Frankincense”), a typical frankincense-growing area where about 5,000 trees are currently being cultivated and, when transplanted, will help restore natural balance to areas of the wadi that have suffered environmental damage. Nearby is Hanun, a depot along the frankincense routes, and 5th-century B.C. triliths (groups of three stones perched together to form a steep pyramid). Drive farther north to the ruins of the fabled “lost city” of Ubar, a 5,000-year-old fortress city that was once at the center of the frankincense trade and is now the focus of exciting archaeological excavations. Before returning to Salalah, experience the tranquility of the Empty Quarter (the Rub’ Al Khali Desert), the largest continuous sand sea in the world. The surface of the desert is covered by reddish-orange colored sand dunes, which reach around 820 feet high, and several lake beds. Dinner is at our hotel this evening. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, October 12: Fly to Muscat | Wadi Bani Awf | Balad Sayt |
Al Hamra
Drive to the airport this morning for a flight from Salalah back to Muscat. Upon arrival, and with freshly prepared boxed lunches, we drive toward Wadi Bani Awf, one of Oman’s most spectacular wadis (valleys, or dry riverbeds). Transfer to 4×4 vehicles to enjoy a spectacular drive along the Wadi to the picturesque village of Balad Sayt and then to onward our hotel in Al Hamra, one of Oman’s oldest villages, where we have dinner this evening. Overnight at the 4-star The View hotel (Superior room). (B,L,D)

Thursday, October 13: Hasat bin Sult | Misfat Al Abriyeen | Al Hamra: Bait Al Safah | Bat & Al-Ayn | Nizwa
Set out early today for a drive to the site of Hasat bin Sult, the most important rock art in Oman. Often referred to as Coleman’s Rock, named after geologist Robert Coleman, it is the only rock art in all of southeastern Arabia that is sculpted in low relief. Continue driving to the fortress village of Misfat Al Abriyeen, in the mountains of Akhdar, where fruit trees grow (irrigated by an intriguing canal system). Return to Al Hamra and visit Bait Al Safah, a living history museum in a restored mudbrick house, where old Omani traditions such as weaving are demonstrated. After lunch, walk through the narrow streets to admire the town’s well-preserved two- and three-story mud-brick houses built in the traditional style. Continue on to the protohistoric archaeological complex of Bat and Al-Ayn, which represents one of the world’s most complete and well-preserved ensembles of settlements and necropolises from the 3rd millennium B.C. They were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. Drive the final stretch to Nizwa, an ancient oasis town that was once the medieval capital of Oman, and check-in to our hotel. Gather for dinner this evening. Overnight at the 4-star Golden Tulip Nizwa Hotel for three nights. (B,L,D)

Friday, October 14: Nizwa walking tour: Friday market, souk, Nizwa Fort, Al Aqr quarter | Samail Hosn | Manal | Nizwa
This morning we rise early to experience the Nizwa Friday market, whose animal souk is an opportunity to witness Oman’s traditional manner of selling livestock. Potential buyers either sit on the circular centerpiece or form a huge circle where, in a counter-clockwise motion, sellers parade or carry their offerings, shouting out the latest bid or asking price. From here we visit Nizwa’s souk, which specializes in finely-crafted metalwork, and then visit the 17th-century Nizwa Fort, which for 300 years was the primary seat of the Imamate, serving as a combination palace, seat of government, and prison. Take a 15-minute walk to the Al Aqr quarter, where we will see (from the outside only) two of Nizwa’s historic mosques, the Shawadhna Grand Mosque and the Grand Mosque of Sa’al, each with distinguishing features. After lunch at a local restaurant, we drive to Samail village, which was home to Mazin bin Ghaduba, companion of the Prophet Muhammad and the first Omani to embrace Islam. He built the town’s first mosque in the 7th century and, as a result, there are now around 300 mosques in the valley. Located on a hill just next to the main road is the massive Samail Hosn (Castle of Samail), with high walls; heavy, dark, wooden doors; and inner buildings made from traditional mud bricks. Visit the nearby Tomb of Mazin bin Ghaduba, an open-air tomb with mosaic tiles in traditional Islamic colors, and then drive to Nizwa by way of the village of Manal, where we stop to view the exterior of the Ibadi Mosque. Return to our hotel and gather for dinner. (B,L,D)

Saturday, October 15: Bahla Fort and Friday Mosque | Castle of Jabrin | Salut Fort | Nizwa
Take a morning drive to the oasis of Bahla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an immense fort that was recently restored and opened to visitors. Its oldest parts were built as early as 500 B.C. A short drive away is the 17th-century Castle of Jabrin. The Omani have done an excellent job of restoring this site, and it provides a good sense of medieval Oman, with displays inside of various household items and furnishings, plus spectacular, hand-painted ceilings and beautifully-executed woodcarvings. After lunch at a local restaurant we drive to Salut Fort, considered one of Oman’s oldest forts. Since 2004, archaeological excavations have identified key Bronze and Iron Age sites in the area surrounding Salut. Schedule permitting, also visit the new Salut Museum. Return to our hotel in Nizwa and gather for dinner. (B,L,D)

Sunday, October 16: Birkat Al Mawz | Samad Al Shan | Ibra | Bedouin family visit | Wahiba Sands
After an early breakfast we set out from Nizwa for a series of interesting stops along the way to our camp in the Wahiba Sands. First visit the lovely village of Birkat Al Mawz, which provides a superb example of the falaj traditional irrigation system (part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site “Aflaj Irrigation Systems of Oman”). Walk through date and banana plantations and admire the mud-brick homes, many of which are being abandoned as people move into concrete structures outside of the village. Continue driving to the fort at Samad Al Shan, set amidst date palm groves dotted with fruit orchards. Drive onward to Ibra, one of the oldest cities in Oman and once a center of trade, religion, education, and art. After lunch in Ibra we continue driving to the Wahiba Sands, a 6,000-square-mile desert where the ever-changing patterns of the dunes are a photographer’s delight. We will be welcomed for a memorable visit with a Bedouin family. Check-in to our camp and then gather for dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Desert Nights Camp (B,L,D)

Monday, October 17: Dune driving | Wadi Bani Khalid | Sur | Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve
After breakfast at the camp you will have the option to experience the thrill of dune driving in the desert. Those who participate will return to camp so that everyone sets out together for Wadi Bani Khalid, a beautiful oasis comprised of small, pretty villages among the mountains. After lunch at a local restaurant we drive to Sur and learn about the town’s shipbuilding traditions. Many of the trading fleets of Omani ships were built at Sur, whose boatyards are still active today. We will have the opportunity to see them at work, using traditional methods: without plans and with only simple tools (adze, bow drill, saw, and hammer). Also view from the outside the historic wooden fishing vessel (dhow) Fatah Al Khair, built in 1951, which has been carefully restored and is part of a dry land open-air museum, together with other, smaller, traditional vessels.

Drive onward to Ras Al Jinz, a fishing village on the eastern shore of the Arabian Peninsula. Ras Al Jinz Beach is world renowned as a nesting place for the endangered green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), and this is the only official place where the public can watch the nesting process of these amazing sea giants. The Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve, an eco-tourism project, was established in 2008 to help conserve the fascinating and amazing nesting processes of these giants of the marine turtle world. In 2017 a renovated museum was opened, and its displays document some of the surrounding archaeological sites that date back 6,000 years. Excavations have uncovered the remains of some of Oman’s ancient wooden boats and, in 1982, the discovery of a Bronze Age potsherd from northwestern India. After dinner, a guide will take us to try to see female turtles return to their beach to lay eggs. (Please note that the main nesting season is June through August and, at other times of the year, there may not be turtles every night.) Overnight at the 3-star Ras Al Jinz Turtle Reserve (B,L,D)

Tuesday, October 18: Sur fish market | Qalhat | Muscat
Set out today for our return drive to Muscat, stopping along the way for another visit to Sur to visit the bustling fish market and see the catch of the day. Continue driving to the ancient city of Qalhat, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a coastal, medieval trade city that was destroyed by an earthquake, where we visit (permission pending) the Mausoleum of Bibi Maryam. Drive along Wadi Tiwi, enjoying lunch at a local restaurant along the way, and then onward for two more hours to arrive in Muscat. Check-in to our hotel, get settled, and gather for dinner. Overnight at the 5-star Hormuz Grand Muscat, a Radisson Collection Hotel for two nights. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, October 19: Muscat: Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Royal Opera House, PM at leisure | Farewell dinner
Start the day with an early visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, a superb example of contemporary Islamic architecture that can accommodate more than 20,000 worshippers and was formally opened in May 2001. Drive to the Royal Opera House Muscat, which opened in 2011 and was designed by the same architects as the Grand Mosque. Enjoy a short tour of the opera house and view its very fine collection of rare instruments. After lunch at the Opera House’s Al Angham Restaurant, the afternoon is at leisure. Gather this evening for a festive farewell dinner. (B,L,D)

Thursday, October 20: Fly home
Transfer this morning to Muscat International Airport (MCT) for flights homeward. (B)

 

 


For reservations or questions, please email us at aia@studytours.org (and include your full name) or call us toll-free at (800) 748-6262 (toll: 603-756-2884). To reserve your space using the online form, click here.

support Us

The AIA is North America's largest and oldest nonprofit organization dedicated to archaeology. The Institute advances awareness, education, fieldwork, preservation, publication, and research of archaeological sites and cultural heritage throughout the world. Your contribution makes a difference.