The yin to the United Arab Emirate’s yang, the mysterious and slow-paced sultanate of Oman is “old” Arabia, harking back to the days before the distorting lens of gaudy wealth turned much of the Arabian Peninsula into glitz and glamor. Utterly photogenic, Oman has everything fabulous that the Arabian Peninsula has to offer: Traditional and affable Arab and Bedouin cultures… colorful carpet-filled souks teeming with frankincense and spices… glittering gold markets… old Arabic and Portuguese forts… and abundant natural beauty, from rugged mountains and verdant wadis to vast expanses of sand perfect for camel safaris. Plus, Oman is safe!
We’ll visit when Oman’s wonderful winter climate is at its most perfect. Plus, we’ll stay at some of the region’s top hotels, including a luxury desert camp amid the dunes! Join renowned travel journalist and National Geographic photographer Christopher P. Baker on this memorable one-of-a-kind photo tour, and…
◾Explore Muscat, the atmospheric capital city, with its spectacular mosque and souk, and where every building must feature a dome or arabesque window.
◾Photograph a traditional camel and cattle auction in Nizwah
◾Roam fertile wadis and rugged mountains
◾Visit the Arabian gulf’s only remaining traditional dhow shipyard
◾Enjoy an optional camel ride across the Sharqiya Sands
◾Plus, end with two optional days in Dubai, where we’ll be guided by one of the region’s top award-winning photographers.
Day 1 (Feb. 6): Everyone will arrive and settle into our hotel in Muscat. In the evening, we’ll meet with Christopher for orientation, a set-the-scene slide show, then a welcome dinner. Overnight in Muscat.
Day 2 (Feb. 7): We begin by visiting the Mutrah fish market, where the day’s catch is delivered at sunrise. Then we’ll explore the famous and ūber-photogenic Mutrah souk—full of stalls selling frankincense, intricately embroidered hats, and antique khajars (curved daggers). In the afternoon we’ll head to nearby “Old Muscat,” set in a scalloped bay protected by old city walls and the Al-Jalali and Al-Mirani fortresses. At night we photograph the iconic Corniche waterfront, with its floodlit mosque and traditional dhows framed by jagged mountains at sunset. Overnight in Muscat.
Day 3 (Feb. 8): Depart Muscat and follow the Qurayat-Sur coast highway, along the scenic base of the Hajar Mountains, via Wadi Shab, a palm oasis with pools and ancient aqueducts. Arriving at the ancient fishing village of Al-Ayjah, we’ll explore the old town (where houses feature elaborately carved doors and lotus-pillar porches) and neighboring Sur, with its fascinating Maritime Museum (recalling Sur’s once-mighty prowess as a maritime port). Our photographic highlight here will be witnessing boat-builders at work in the dhow shipyard—the only one of its kind still remaining in Oman. Overnight: Sur.
Day 4 (Feb. 9): This morning drive west to the gorgeous mountain oasis of Wadi Bani Khalid—a chance for a refreshing plunge in natural freshwater pools. Then continue to the legendary Sharqiya Sands (formerly Wahiba Sands) Driving into the sands proper, we’ll thrill to two nights camping atop the dunes in a luxury barrasti (tented camp) like something straight out of 1,001 Arabian Nights. We’ll photograph a Bedu and his camels at sunset. Overnight: Bidiya.
Day 5 (Feb. 10): Rise early to photograph the desert sunrise. Then, after breakfast, ride to a Bedu camp, where we’ll lunch with a Bedouin family—a chance to interact closely with the women, dressed in exotic abeyas (robes), and beaked half-face burqas (many adorned with glittering jewels). After relaxing mid-day at our camp, we’ll venture out in the late afternoon to a nearby Bedu village for sunset photography. We hope to perhaps also watch a camel race in the desert. Overnight: Bidiya.
Day 6 (Feb. 11): Up early today to catch the camel market in the town of Sinaw. Here we’ll explore the exotic souk, where colorfully adorned Bedu (bedouins) trade goats and other livestock. Sinaw souk is also famous for its craftsmen skilled at making classic khajar curved daggers. After lunch, continue to Nizwah, where we’ll check into our hotel in mid-afternoon then photograph the spectacular new Sultan Qaboos Mosque at sunset and the blue hour. The nighttime photography in Nizwa is sensational as we explore its dusty backstreets, souq, and 17th-century fort. Overnight in Nizwa.
Day 7 (Feb. 12): Up with the dawn this morning to visit the Friday-only livestock market, where goats, cattle, and other beasts of burden are sold off amid boisterous bargaining by bearded old men in colorful turbans and jalabas. We’ll also explore Nizwah’s colorful souq. In the afternoon we’ll head to Bahla to photograph the massive 800-year-old fort; and the Aladawi pottery potteries, tucked in the narrow backstreets and where terra-cotta vases and other earthenware are hand-crafted in the traditional manner. Overnight in Nizwa.
Day 8 (Feb. 13): In the morning, we’ll visit Bait Al-Safah, a “living history museum” in Al-Hamrah, one of Oman’s oldest mudbrick oasis villages—superbly photogenic for its semi-decrepitude. Here we’ve arranged for a private photo-op with Omanis in traditional costume. We’ll also spend time photographing in Misfat, a picturesque mountain village of terraced stone houses surrounded by date palm groves. Then, ascending via a spectacularly sinuous highway, we’ll arrive at the Anantara Al-Jalal Al Akhdar, a luxury hotel atop the Saiq Plateau. Its spectacular cliff-top location offers sensational sunset views from Diana’s Viewpoint. Overnight: Anantara Al-Jalal Al Akhdar.
Day 9 (Feb. 14): This morning we’ll hike to Wadi Bani Habib, a palm-lined canyon with groves of apricots and pomegranates and abandoned hillside mud-walled hamlets. Returning to our hotel, spend the afternoon enjoying spa treatments, swimming in the cliffside pool, or partaking of optional activities. Overnight: Anantara Al-Jalal Al Akhdar.
Day 10 (Feb. 15): Today we return to Muscat, stopping en-route to photograph Sultan Qaboose Mosque, with its stunning contemporary architecture, breathtakingly rich prayer hall, and the world’s second-largest hand-woven rug. We’ll also visit the boutique Enfleurage frankincense distillery, with its old copper stills. The balance of the afternoon will be at leisure to relax, perhaps by the hotel pool with its superb views over Qurm Beach or for further photography in Mutrah souq and the Corniche. Overnight in Muscat.
Day 11 (Feb. 16): Those not joining the Dubai extension will be transported to the airport to catch their flights home.
Or… Optional Extension to Dubai
Ext. Day 1 (Feb 16): Fly from Oman to Dubai this morning. After lunch, we’ll take a fascinating half-day guided tour of modern Dubai, with sunset and the blue hour spent photographing at the Marina. We’ll dine at the Pure Sky Lounge, with its sensational cityscape vistas. Overnight in Dubai.
Ext. Day 2 (Feb 17): This morning is free to explore Dubai at leisure, perhaps taking in the world’s largest aquarium and Dubai Mall. In the late afternoon, we’ll be accompanied by a beautiful Arab lady in traditional costume, guaranteeing fantastic portraiture and situational photos among the spice and fabric souks of Deita and bustling wharves of the old trading port. We’ll then take a quick and light dinner before being joined by local award-winning photographer Anique Ahmad, who’ll guide us to his favorite places to photograph the cityscape and contemporary architecture at sunset, during the “blue hour,” and into the night from atop several of Dubai’s preeminent skyscrapers. Overnight in Dubai.
Ext. Day 3 (Feb 18): This morning we’ll head west to Abu Dhabi to photograph the Sheik Zhayed Grand Mosque, considered the world’s most beautiful (as well as its largest) mosque. We’ll also visit the Louvre, Abu Dhabi’s magnificent contemporary art museum. Return to Dubai in the afternoon. This evening we’ll dine in style at a magnificent buffet beneath the Burj Khalifa—the world’s tallest building. This will be a sensational and memorable experience as we photograph the fantastic sound and light show! Overnight in Dubai.
Day 4 (Feb. 19): Today all will be transported to the airport to catch flights back home.