This morning, you're welcomed to the nation of Oman, and its capital, Muscat, which has been an important port since the 1st century AD. Its history melds the influences of the indigenous Omani tribes as well as the Abassids, Portuguese, Ottomans, and Persians who once ruled Oman. Unlike the UAE capitals, which are all about glamour on a grand scale, Muscat is a gracious, whitewashed city wedged between the mountains and the sea, with few high rises. In fact, the Sultan Qaboos (Oman’s head since 1970) has forbidden the construction of anything over seven stories so as not to obscure the views. But that doesn’t mean Muscat lacks for impact, as you’ll see during this morning’s mystical explorations.
Your first stop: The Grand Mosque, a spectacular modern jewel of a gift that the Sultan Qaboos gave the nation to mark the 30th year of his reign. You'll tour Oman’s national mosque, which was completed in 2001, and explore its many marvels, including the giant prayer hall which can hold 6,500 worshippers (and is illuminated by the world’s largest chandelier). The stunning carpet on the main floor covers 46,750 square feet, weighs 21 tons, and boasts 28 colors in varying shades. Between the main prayer hall, additional chambers, and outdoor plazas, the Grand Mosque can hold some 20,000 worshippers.
We then ride west of Muscat to investigate some of Oman’s rural traditions, beginning in the fishermen’s village of Barkha. Set on the Arabian Sea along a broad, park-lined corniche, Barkha is a traditional fishing village where Omanis come to enjoy the wide beach promenade, and some of the freshest fish in the Arab world.
You’ll see where Omanis get their seafood at the Barkha Fish Market, set right on the ocean so fishermen can unload the daily catch right on the ground. Locals come to purchase red mullet crabs, squid, skate, swordfish, and more, often foregoing bags and just grabbing their fish by the tail and carting it off in their hands!
From here you’ll loop back southward to visit Nakhal village with its pre-Islamic Nakhal Fort, chiseled into a sheer rock. Nakhal Fort boasts imposing watchtowers and battlements, as well as the living quarters of the ruling wali, including many antique furnishings. Then, ride through date palm plantations watered by the Al Thowarah springs and an aflaj irrigation system. This ancient method uses gravity to channel water from underground — a system so ingenious, and so important to desert civilizations, that UNESCO has declared Oman’s aflaj a World Heritage Site.
You’ll take a break from your many discoveries to enjoy lunch at an award-winning spa resort, then it’s off to the Bait Al Ghasham Museum. This well-preserved residence often hosted royalty throughout its two hundred year history and provides an interesting insight into domestic life in Oman.
Following your full day of activity, you’ll return to the ship for dinner. But your cultural experiences don’t end there! After dinner, special guests come on board to engulf you in the culture of Oman. If you're wondering what it’s like to live here, you’ll hear about it firsthand from an Omani woman who will share her perspective on family life, native customs, and the changing role of women in contemporary Oman. Then, enjoy local Omani musicians and dancers who will come on board to provide some captivating folkloric entertainment.
- Half-day Mystical Muscat tour
- Visit the Grand Mosque
- Excursion to Al Thowarah hot springs and tour
- Visit Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque
- Visit a local fish market in Barkha
- Lecture by an Omani woman about life in contemporary Oman
- Evening onboard entertainment: Omani folk music and dance
Breakfast, lunch & dinner