Day 1: Depart for Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Day 2: Arrive Dubai Upon arrival in the UAE’s most populous city late this evening, we transfer directly to our hotel.
Day 3: Dubai We meet our Odysseys Unlimited Tour Director and fellow travelers at this morning’s briefing then set out on a full-day tour of this cosmopolitan city on the edge of a vast desert. We begin with a scenic drive along Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai’s “little Manhattan” with its sleek skyscrapers including Emirates Towers, the twin buildings that symbolize Dubai. We see Jumeirah mosque, a stunning example of modern Islamic architecture. On a monorail ride we glimpse the massive new Dubai Marina, the world’s largest waterfront project; and we pay a visit to the Palm Islands, the two artificial landforms currently being created in the shape of palm trees. Then a true highlight as we visit the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building at 2,722 feet. We ride one of the 57 elevators up to the View Deck, where we can enjoy breathtaking views from the world’s highest outdoor observation deck. Next: a visit to the dazzling gold souk (market), followed by lunch on our own. Then we tour the Al Fahidi Fort housing the Dubai Museum, with life-sized dioramas depicting life here before the discovery of oil. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner and cruise. B,D
Day 4: Dubai/Abu Dhabi Today we journey to the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi, where we visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Constructed of marble and stone, and accented with gold, semi-precious stones, and crystals, the mosque stands as a masterpiece of Islamic architecture. The massive complex, which opened in 2007, covers some 30 acres; the mosque itself can hold more than 40,000 worshippers under its 82 domes. Following our tour here and lunch together, we visit the Miraj Islamic Centre, housing an extensive collection of Islamic art from around the world. Dinner tonight is on our own in this most modern of cities. B,L
Day 5: Dubai/Muscat, Oman We transfer to the airport this morning for the 1¼-hour flight to Muscat, capital of the Sultanate of Oman on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. As we’ll see for ourselves, Oman has held fast to its traditional culture yet has a foot firmly planted in today’s world. Tonight we enjoy a small group highlight as we dine with an Omani family. B,D
Day 6: Muscat Our first stop today is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the city’s showpiece that is grand yet serene, traditional yet modern. Next we visit the private Bait Al Zubair Museum, housing the Al Zubair family’s fine collection of traditional Omani jewelry, coins, stamps, books, weaponry, and household goods spanning centuries and traditions. After lunch together at a local restaurant, we drive along the waterfront corniche to the Muttrah district, site of the Muttrah souk, the oldest marketplace in the Arab world. Here we wander amidst the exotic labyrinth of alleyways lined with shops selling everything from frankincense to shoes, perfume oils to pots – and countless other goods. B,L
Day 7: Muscat This morning we visit the Seeb vegetable and spice market then walk to the souk to see the Amouge perfumery. Mid-afternoon we transfer to the marina where we board a traditional dhow (fisherman’s boat) for a leisurely afternoon cruise along the coast. We sail past quiet villages and medieval fortresses in the wake of ancient seafarers who plied these waters for centuries; in the 18th century Muscat’s seafaring prowess extended its reach as far as East Africa and Zanzibar. B,D
Day 8: Muscat/Wahiba Sands Leaving Muscat this morning, we travel by four-wheel-drive vehicles to our desert camp. En route we visit Wadi Arabayeen, with its deep pools of turquoise water set amidst the date palms. Traveling on, we stop next for photos at the stunning White Beach in the village of Fins, then in Sur, once Oman’s most important East African port and where locals still craft dhows in the traditional manner. After lunch together at a beach hotel we continue on to Mintrib and take our first off-road adventure over the roller coaster-like dunes of the Wahiba Sands, their red and white hues shimmering under the desert sun. During our desert excursion we may have the opportunity to visit with a nomadic Bedouin family. Late afternoon we reach our luxury tented camp in the heart of the Omani desert in time to watch the sun set behind the undulating dunes. B,L,D
Day 9: Wahiba Sands/Nizwa We bid farewell to our desert camp this morning and begin the journey eastward to Niza. Along the way we visit with Bedouins (literally, “desert dwellers” in Arabic) in the wilderness; stop in the walled city of Izki, known as the oldest settlement in Oman; and visit the lively souk in the desert outpost of Sinaw. We enjoy a late lunch together at our hotel in Nizwa, set on a wide plain surrounded by mountains and an oasis of desert palms. Dinner tonight is on our own in this historic city that served as Oman’s capital in the 6th and 7th centuries. B,L
Day 10: Nizwa Today we encounter the “real” life of Oman’s farmers, whose work is a vital aspect of the country’s economy. Early this morning we walk to the lively outdoor market where owners place their cattle, sheep, and goats for sale. Then we take a brief walk to the city center to see Nizwa’s famed 17th-century fort known for its circular tower, followed by a drive to the village of Birkat Al Mauz, where we stroll through the lush date plantations. We continue on to Wadi Al Madeen, where we begin a 22-mile stretch of winding road to Jebel Akhdar, at a mile above sea level, the “green jewel” of the Al Hajjar mountain range. We take time to enjoy the cool mountain air and admire the breathtaking scenery of dramatic peaks, deep gorges, and hillsides dotted with small villages and terraced fruit orchards. After lunch at a local restaurant we begin the return journey to Nizwa, arriving late this afternoon and dining together tonight. B,L,D
Day 11: Nizwa/Jabrin/Muscat Returning to Muscat today, we stop first in Jabrin to see the 17th-century castle whose decorated ceilings represent the pinnacle of Omani ceiling painting. Next we see the ruins of the Bahla Fort, a UNESCO site dating to the 13th century constructed of unbaked mud bricks (adobe) on a stone foundation; indeed, adobe walls surround the contemporary town of Bahla today. Here we pay a visit to artisans who craft pottery from the local clay and have an opportunity to try our hand at pottery-making ourselves. We travel on to Al Hamra, one of Oman’s best-preserved old towns, where we tour Bait al Safah, a restored house showcasing traditional Omani artifacts and furnishings through the ages. After lunch at a local restaurant, we reach Muscat mid-afternoon. Tonight we celebrate our Arabian journey at a farewell dinner. B,L,D
Day 12: Depart for U.S. Early this morning we depart for the airport and our return flight to the U.S., where we connect with our flights home.
B = Breakfast included L = Lunch included D = Dinner included