Overview

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 market and and traditional khanjar dagger shops at Sinaw
  • Experience a cattle and goat auction in Nizwah
  • Visit the Arabian gulf’s only remaining traditional dhow shipyard
  • Capture the beauty of the Bedu with their camels at sunrise on the Sharqiya Sands
  • Journey by dhow through the fjords of Musandam as dolphins leap in the bow waves.

Itinerary

Day 1:
Participants arrive and settle into our hotel in Muscat. Meet with Christopher in the evening for orientation, plus a set-the-scene slide show, then a welcome dinner. Overnight in Muscat.

Day 2:
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). After resting the midday hours at our hotel, we’ll roam the backstreets of Mutrah, Muscat’s oldest area, and photograph from atop Mutrah Fort before spending the “blue hour” shooting along the iconic Corniche waterfront, with its floodlit mosque. Dine on the Corniche. Overnight in Muscat.

Day 3:
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 neighouring 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 in Sur.

Day 4:
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 in Wahiba.

Day 5:
Rise early to photograph the desert sunrise with camels! Then, after breakfast, ride to a Bedu camp, where we’ll engage 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 late afternoon to a nearby Bedu village for sunset photography. We hope to perhaps also watch a camel race in the desert. Overnight in Wahiba.

Day 6:
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 Nizwah.

Day 7:
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 traditional manner. Overnight in Nizwah.

Day 8:
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 in Anantara Al Jalal Al Akhdar.

Day 9:
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. After lunch at our hotel, we’ll 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. The balance of the day is at leisure to enjoy the hotel swimming pool or partaking of optional activities. Overnight in Muscat.

Day 10:
Today we’ll take a short flight to Musandam, an Omani enclave (totally surrounded by the United Araba Emirates) at the northeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula, jutting into the Straits of Hormuz. We’ll have the afternoon free to roam the streets of the small and uber-photogenic port town Khasab. In past years, the city folk—male and female—have proven extremely welcoming and open to our cameras. In late afternoon, we’ll venture to the nearby fishing village of Qadah. Overnight in Musandam.

Day 11:
This morning we’ll join a local family aboard a traditional dhow for a relaxing half-day cruise through the “fjords” of the Musandam coastline. The rest of the day is free in Khasab. Overnight in Musandam.

Day 12:
We fly back to Muscat today. En-route to our hotel, we’ll 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 13:
Guests are transported to the airport to catch their flights home.

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