It’s always a pleasure to travel leading a small group tour. Zegrahm Expeditions, acclaimed for their exceptional programs, have included a guided small group tour to Oman & Jordan with me in their new tour program.
The size of the group enables us to organise experiences that may not be available for an individual traveller. However, a small group usually does allow flexibility to alter an itinerary taking advantage of unexpected and exciting events, to linger longer at an especially fascinating place or with a stimulating individual. I am delighted to be able to return to Oman and Jordan with Zegrahm to lead this exploration of these 2 magical monarchies.
On your independent arrival into Oman, you will be met and escorted from the airport to The Chedi hotel. I look forward to welcoming you there either on your arrival or, if more appropriate, on Monday 4th morning.
The Chedi hotel is a superb location to arrive into for this program. With an extensive beachfront and what is often called a Zen-like ambience, its one of Oman’s classic hotels. At the Chedi, where we initially stay for 2 nights, we have the first of what I hope will be many memorable dinners. There is a full program during this guided tour of Oman, from which I’ve selected some highlights below.
Monday will be our full day in Muscat. This will be a superb introduction to Oman; we will visit three of the city’s most iconic centres. The superlative Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque is the principal mosque within the Ibadhi practice of Islam. The quality of work is astounding, and the creation of the mosque made use of both traditional skills and modern techniques. The Royal Opera House is less conventional in Islamic and Omani culture; the architecture is what I have called Omanesque which is popular in Oman today, a mix of simple Omani styling together with more decorative styling especially for the interior. The National Museum, near the Sultan’s Al Alam Palace, allows us to delve deep into Oman’s history and culture. The museum houses stone tools dated up to 2million years ago and a scale model of the ‘Sultanah’, a ship that arrived into New York harbour in 1840 with Oman’s first ambassador to the USA.
Leaving Muscat in SUV vehicles, we will travel towards the great Al Hajar mountain range which bisects northern Oman. Stopping at the fortress in Nakhal whose origin is thought to be Persian making it at least 1400 years old, we will then travel through rugged canyons and tiny villages to ascend to a pass at 6500ft above our start at the Chedi. We overnight at 4,600ft, our location having unimpeded views down to the plains below, its appropriately called ‘The View’.
After breakfast we visit into a traditionally built 18thc mud-brick house with its cultural displays gives us a glimpse into the Oman that abruptly ended in 1970. From this mud-brick house we will journey to the massive mud-brick citadel which is one of Oman’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Bahla Fort, and onto the nearby Jabrin Castle.
Our hotel for two nights, the award-winning Alila Jabal Akhdar, is set overlooking a rugged canyon.
High in the Al Jabal Al Akhdar mountains, our day is a leisurely one as we enjoy a cooking class in the hotel’s kitchens, which may well turn out to become part of a meal for us if our skill is at the right level. Later we trek through ancient agricultural terraces and learn something about local life.
In the morning we leave the mountains for the Wihibah sand desert. As Friday is also market day in the town of Nizwa, we will stop en route and join the crowds of local shoppers there.
Camels await us in the ‘Desert Night Camp’ for short rides; the camp’s very comfortable accommodation is set between desert sand dunes.
After a desert night, our return route to Muscat is via Sur, one of Oman’s ports that traded with Zanzibar for centuries.
Heading north along the narrow coastal plain with its medieval town of Qalhat and mountains incised by deep narrow canyons that open onto the sea, we return to The Chedi will be where we spend our final night in northern Oman.
From Muscat we fly south, with possible views over the Empty Quarter and the Arabian Sea, into the coastal city of Salalah. We will overnight in the exceptional Al Baleed Anantara, set on a white sand beach which is lapped by the Arabian Sea. The reputed tomb of the Prophet Job that is set on the escarpment of the Jabal Qara Mountains overlooking Salalah will be out initial stop in this region. Later I hope we will be able to walk to Frankincense Trees, this regions most famous tree.
Following a buffet breakfast on our 2nd day in Oman’s deep south, we will visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Samharam, the 2400-year-old Frankincense trading port. Visiting the nearby fishing village of Taqah allows us to look at a castle which protected this community during the late 19th & early 20thc.
From Oman we will fly to Amman for two nights to start our guided tour of Jordan.
In Amman, we will visit the Roman theatre and nearby Roman ruins. North of Amman, both the Greco-Roman ruins at Jerash and medieval castle at Ajloun help provide insights into Jordan’s rich history. Our dinner tonight will be in will be in the InterContinental Hotel Amman, where we stay for 2 nights, and includes a hands-on cooking class; we should be in for a treat.
Travelling south after our stay in Amman we stop at Mount Nebo from which Moses is believed to have seen his Promised Land. Madaba with its Byzantine mosaics, including a map of the Holy Land, will be our halt before we take lunch overlooking the wadi below Dana Village.
Shobak Castle, set on a hill with wide panoramas, will be our final stop before we arrive at the Movenpick Petra for a 2-night stay; the hotel is in an ideal location for our visit as its located at the mouth of the Siq into Petra .
We will have a full day devoted to exploring Petra; the “Rose-Red City, Half as Old as Time”. This ancient trading city slightly extends the timeline of Samharam in Oman, though both are of a comparable period. With so much time devoted to this remarkable UNESCO site, we should be able to take in many of its well-known monuments.
The walk from our hotel through the Siq is about 1 ½ miles and will open directly onto Al Khazneh, The Treasury. Within the principal area, we can enjoy the Nabatean Theatre and Great Temple within the lower area of the city less than 1 ½ miles from Al Khazneh. I hope we will ascend to Al Deir, The Monastery, a steep walk of 600ft over a mile which will not only lead us to one of Petra’s most impressive monuments but also provide views over much of the area.
Leaving the Movenpick in the morning, we stop at Little Petra, a short 20m drive from the hotel. Smaller and as a result more intimate than the central valley, this also has well preserved Greco-Roman monuments. We will continue south to Wadi Rum allowing us to explore its dramatic mix of sand and naturally sculptured rock. Our overnight accomodation is in ‘SunCity Camp’ overlooking the desert.
Today we have the included opportunity to float over Wadi Rum in a Hot-Air ‘ship’ (baloon) and then ride the ‘ship’ of the desert, a Dromedary Camel. We continue this activity-filled day with guided trek, or mountain bike tour, near the Feynan Ecolodge before overnighting there.
Our morning includes learning how to make traditional Arabic Coffee (which is so different from Turkish or Italian Coffee). Our final afternoon in Jordan is spent by the Dead Sea, not only is it the lowest point on Earth but it gives an amazing lesson of the properties of high concentrations of salt in water. The Movenpick Resort Dead Sea is our overnight hotel and its directly on the shores.
Tuesday, November 19th will be the departure day. Your independent flight from Amman’s Queen Alia Airport will be made after a road transfer of around 1 hour.
To review the official program and to book this tour to Oman and Jordan, please look at Zegrahms website
I hope you will join me for this superb program.