Arabian nights under a blanket of stars. Soaring sand dunes and labyrinthine cities. It’s time to live out your Lawrence of Arabia fantasies.
Less than 100 years ago, the Empty Quarter had not been mapped let alone crossed by western man. Now it is your chance to embrace the hypnotising landscapes and cultural traditions of this Arabian jewel. Arid landscapes and rolling dunes. Encounter camel trains and the Bedu’s who escort them, mingle with the Bedouins who have lived in these harsh conditions for centuries. Few travellers will get to experience such a remote, untouched yet sparsely beautiful region of our planet.
Welcome to Muscat! Upon arrival, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Be greeted by the warm air, turquoise sea and lush city. Take some time to freshen up before heading to Sidab Village, a traditional village, not far from the city. Here you will be cooking with local women as you learn of their culture and traditional cooking practices. Once you have prepared your dishes, enjoy savouring them with your new local friends. Return to your hotel. (D)
2 nights Shangri La Resort or similar
Fill up on a delicious breakfast before departing to explore Muscat city. Your morning begins by exploring the Bait Al Zubair Museum and a photo stop by Qasr Al Alam (His Majesty’s Palace). Visit the Grande Mosque, the largest mosque in Oman. It is also home to the biggest carpet in the world. (All visitors must be fully covered to wrists and ankles; ladies must wear a scarf covering hair and neck for a visit to the Grand Mosque.) (Grand Mosque is open only from Saturday to Thursday and Friday is closed). You will then return to your hotel, where the remainder of the day is yours at leisure. (B,L)
Following breakfast at your hotel, it is time to set off and leave the city behind you. Visit Barka fish market, a traditional local Omani fish market where you will see many varieties of fish – tuna, prawns, kingfish and many more, being sold in traditional Omani environs. Visit the village of Nakhal, which is surrounded by countless date palms and is known for its hot springs. Stop for a photo at the beautifully restored Nakhal fort, built in the 16th century on a huge rock by an Imam of the Bani Kharous dynasty. Start the off-road crossing of Wadi Bani Awf (3 hours), a spectacular mountain road. You will see small villages on the way. Stop to admire the panoramic view of Snake Canyon. Continue to Bilad Sayt, a fairytale-like village typical of the Arabian settlements of the past and one of the most picturesque villages in Oman. Visit of the village of Al Hamra, one of the best-preserved old towns in the country and the home of the Bait Al Safa living museum. Stroll in between the old abandoned buildings and mud houses. Visit the museum and learn about Omani traditions with men and women demonstrating ancient practices. Stop at the old village of Ghul to see the abandoned Persian ruins. Arrival at Jebel Shams, Oman’s highest point at 3,009m. It is truly an amazing sight at all times of the day. Enjoy the spectacular view of the “Grand Canyon”. (B,L,D)
2 nights Jebel Shams Resort or similar
This morning you will depart after breakfast and stop at Wadi Nakhar, one of the most beautiful valleys in Oman. It is a very deep valley and consists of several branches. The valley is also a beautiful destination for mountaineering and hiking. Next, is Misfat Al Abriyeen. The village boasts amazing agricultural terraces, beautiful alleys, and old houses built on top of solid rocks. The old houses in Misfat Al Abriyeen are traditional mud houses with palm frond roofs and are unique in that they are built on solid rock foundations. Here you will also see traditional Omani irrigation channels (falaj system), where water is channelled from underground sources to support agriculture and domestic use. Visit Jibrin castle, a large rectangular building consisting of five floors and containing 55 rooms.
This castle is distinguished by the inscriptions and frescoes that adorn its rooms. The castle’s ceilings are decorated with paintings and Islamic inscriptions, and its doors are beautifully carved. A falaj runs through the middle of the castle. Continuing on to the massive Bahla fort (UNESCO site). It was built in the third millennium BC. The length of its south facade is about 112 metres, while its eastern facade is about 114 metres. (B,L,D)
This morning you will visit the livestock market in Nizwa. Every Friday, farmers from around the country flock to the city, bringing with them their cattle, goats and camels. In the bustling souq nearby you will find local products such as Omani daggers (khanjar), copper, silver jewellery, livestock, fish, vegetables and handicrafts for sale. Continue with a visit of Nizwa, the former capital of Oman. Explore the 17th-century Nizwa fort with its vast tower and superb views of the oasis. Visit Al Manzifat, a village in ruins. The narrow alleys enhance the traditional architecture of the village where it was necessary to protect itself against the raids and the tribal wars during the Middle Ages. Lunch today is in a local Omani house where will join a family as you taste authentic home cooked Omani dishes. Following lunch, your last stop is the magnificent golden Wahiba Desert. Drive through the rolling sand dunes as you make your way to your camp. Your luxury camp in the middle of nowhere and it is beautiful here. Be sure to climb the sand dunes to a spectacular sunset – a great way to end the day. (B,L,D)
Overnight at Arabian Oryx Camp or similar
After breakfast, it is time to begin crossing the dunes as you drive to the Sugar Dunes (approx. 4 hrs). Experience the exhilarating ride through the vast sand dunes during the four-hour crossing. Visit the Sugar Dunes (also known as Al Khaluf Dunes), a see-it-to-believe-it phenomenon. Located near the fishing village of Al Khaluf, 400km south of Muscat, the pristine sand dunes and secluded beaches make it an unforgettable destination. What makes this area special is its isolation. Since it is so far from Muscat, the area is a hidden nice place for an ideal escape. In the waters on the beach, local fishermen are hard at work and the bays vibrant bird population means eagles soar above whilst flamingos balance precariously in the shallow waters. (B,L,D)
2 nights Desert Camping
Why not rise early to take in the stunning sunrise. Following breakfast, you will have some free time if you wish to explore a little on foot. You then continue driving onwards to the desert of Rub Al Khali, known as the ‘Empty Quarter’, the home of the Bedouins in the region of Oman straddling the border with Saudi Arabia and the Yemen. Here the extreme temperatures and arid conditions mean that it is mostly uninhabited, although its fringes are home to the proud, resourceful and hardy Bedu, which have survived here for centuries. This is home to the highest sand dunes in the world. The surface of the desert is covered by reddish-orange coloured sand reaching around 250m high. Your expert tour guide dunes his way manoeuvring the vehicles to reach your camp site for an unforgettable night under the stars. (B,L,D)
Today you head further south towards Salalah. Be guided through a landscape of colossal golden and red sand dunes, vast salt flats and oases. Experience the sensation of being surrounded by deafening silence and sand. Enjoy supreme tranquillity in one of the most stunning environments on earth. Very few people have the opportunity to explore the vastness of the Empty Quarter. Be sure to make the most of it. Examine geodes, prehistoric small solid or hollow rocks lined with crystals, or perhaps meet up with and chat to Bedus taking camel trains across the desert. Visit “The Museum of the Frankincense Land”, a UNESCO heritage site located in Salalah, the Frankincense Land Museum is the latest addition to Oman’s heritage and cultural scene. It houses two main halls, namely the History Hall and The Marine Hall. Visit the impressive Sultan Qaboos Mosque in central Salalah – the largest mosque in Salalah is opened for non-Muslim visitors from Saturdays to Thursdays from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. View the Official Palace of His Majesty the Sultan (Al Husn Palace) & stroll through the old Haffah souk, famous for the sale of high-quality Frankincense & numerous other Dhofari traditional souvenirs. (Please note that both male & female guests must wear long clothes during the city tour.) (B,L)
2 nights Salalah Garden Residences or similar
Today you will visit the old fishing village of Taqa. Visit the century old Taqa Castle, the former official residence of the “Wali‟ (Governor) of the region and have a glimpse into the rich history of the region. Continue onto the ancient ruins of the once famous city of Sumharam (Khor Rohri). Khor Rori was an important port on the coast of Dhofar, and one of the major trading cities with frankincense, believed to have been the hub and harbour for the shipping of Frankincense (UNESCO World Heritage site). A picturesque drive then leads you to Mirbat, the ancient capital of Dhofar and the beginning of the Frankincense trail. Stroll through the streets lined with old Omani houses and visit the “twin-domed Bin Ali’s Tomb‟ as a photo stop. This is a classic example of medieval architecture. On the way back, explore the natural springs of “Ayn Razat” before you return to the hotel. (B)
This morning your tour ends after breakfast. You will be transferred to the airport for your onwards flight. (B)
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**Please note that this tour can be organised on request for private departures.
* Pricing is subject to change at anytime until full payment has been received.
* A minimum of 4 adults is required to guarantee this departure.
A non-refundable deposit of $1000 AUD per person is required to secure your place. Final payment is due no later than 60 days prior to departure. Travel insurance is mandatory for travelling with Crooked Compass. For full terms and conditions, please click here.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.