Oman’s Castles, Forts and Batinah Coast 4x4 Tour YB01

13 Days From £0 (3,390 USD)

Join us as we explore Oman on a private 4x4 tour which takes in the culture and history of Oman’s Castles, Forts and Batinah Coast.

For full no obligation pricing options and operator contact details please enquire:

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Key Information

Travel Style: Private Tour
Start Location: Muscat, Oman
End Location: Muscat, Oman
Accommodation: Hotels
Period: All Year Round
Difficulty: Suitable for Most Travelers

About The Operator

Accreditations: Section coming soon
Years In Business: 1

The area of Oman historically known as the “Interior” refers to the region lying beyond the Hajar Mountains where, from fortified strongholds, the imams contested the authority of the sultan in Muscat. Hence the name “Muscat and Oman” to describe the country prior to 1970 – Muscat being the capital enclave and Oman what an Australian might call the “Outback.”

Locals continue to speak of “going into the interior,” more specifically meaning Al Jauf, a rugged central plateau extending from the western flank of Jebel Akhdar (Green Mountain) to the arid expanses of Al Wusta province abutting Saudi Arabia. Counting Nizwa, capital of the illustrious Imam Sultan bin Saif Malik Al Ya’ruba, and Bahla, whose giant fort is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Al Jauf is the kernel of traditional Oman. The new towns growing up along Highway 15 may create an illusion of the present but only a few steps off the road lay ancient villages.

The Batinah Coast north of Muscat is said to derive its name from an Arabic root meaning “to be hidden,” and from out at sea the tawny-colored Hajar Mountains glowering over the narrow coastal plain do indeed conceal it from sight. The Batinah, accessible by a dual highway extending 270km from Muscat to the UAE border, is completely different from the rollercoaster terrain between Muscat and Sur. Here the landscape is flat – an unbroken line of grey-sand beach is lapped by a gentle sea, and the plain, never more than a kilometer wide, is extensively cultivated. Date plantations, some hundreds of years old, line large stretches of the highway.

Modern buildings are springing up along the Batinah, but old-style barasti houses made from date palms are still seen in quiet villages, and the biblical shasha, a canoe made from palm fronds, is still used for fishing.

Description

A full day by day itinerary will be provided by the tour operator when you make an enquiry about this holiday.

Includes
-13 Day Program from arrival in Muscat to departure from Muscat
-Includes all transportation in air conditioned TOYOTA 4x4
-All 3-star or 4-star hotel accommodations
-Breakfast (B) and Dinner (D)
-Services of one English speaking guide for the ENTIRE tour
-Normal entrance fees
-Restaurant gratuities
-Airport transfers

NOTE: Except on free days, breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the in the cost of this tour package. However, if the clients wish they are not obligated to have meals when or where operator says that they must. The clients are free to go somewhere else if they choose, but there will be NO REFUND or REDEDUCTION to the price of the tour package should the clients choose to have their meals on their own and that are not supplied by operator.

Excludes
-Additional entrance fees: Not able to quote, depends on where you go. However, the average price is $6.50 USD to $15.50 USD PER PERSON.
-Lunches unless provided by operator: $13.00 USD to $26.00 PER PERSON. This is considered as free time for the clients to explore the towns and villages that we visit.
-Incidentals: such as soft drinks, alcohol, wine or beer with meals; personal purchases.
(NOTE: Alcohol is readily available ONLY in hotel lounges and bars or through approved Government outlet stores with a Government issued ALCOHOL PERMIT. You may NOT simply buy alcohol, of any type, in food stores, etc.)

Prices per person, based on 2 people traveling - please submit an enquiry to receive a personalized itinerary and costs.

Itinerary
Day 01. Arrival at Muscat International Airport. Welcome and assistance. You will be taken to your hotel where you may relax after your long flight. Your tour will begin in the morning.
Day 02. Muscat – Dhakiliya region and Nizwa (143 KM) Nizwa centers around the historical fort and souq. The fort is among the oldest in Oman, one of several built by Imam Sultan bin Saif bin Malik al Ya’arubi, who was famed for driving the Portuguese from Oman in 1650. Its strategic position guarded the route from the Sumail Gap through the interior of the country. The fort took many years to build and was completed in 1668. Like many Omani forts, it was subjected to a constant process of addition. For example, the main feature of the forts, its enormous tower, took over 12 years to build, its central core measures more than 150 feet in diameter, with a height of 150 feet. It is filled mostly with earth and stone and has a staircase, leading up to a platform, from where there is a wonderful view of the town and plantations. Nizwa Souq is clearly visible on the left as you enter the town, surrounded by a sturdy wall with beautiful large wooden doors opening on to the courtyards and shops. Built in traditional style with arches, alleyways, and wood fret worked windows, the buildings of the souq have been incorporated into the old walls with trees left in place to provide a happy mix of old and new. Here you will find locally crafted goods such as traditional silver jewelry, khanjars, copper and weaving. You will see people at work in small workshops. The newly constructed market was designed to meet the needs of the growing city. Livestock sales take place daily with a grand sale every Thursday and Friday mornings. It covers an area of 7,600 square meters and includes buildings for vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, dates, and handicrafts. It was built from the same gypsum material that was used for building the fort. Nizwas Mosque with its blue and gold domes lies close to the fort in the center of the city and is visible from the road. It was built in the second century of hijri by Abdulla bin Mohammed al Ibadi. It was here that Imam Warith bin Ka’ab first gave orders to teach students, recognizing the society’s need for scholars and intellectuals. The Imam’s Mosque, as it was known, was reconstructed in the 1970’s and is now called Jasjid Sultan Qaboos. It is an imposing structure although non-Muslims are not permitted to enter its confines.
Day 03. Around Nizwa. Coming out of Nizwa, the highway passes the first of two detours to the ruined town of Tanuf, the former capital of the jebali (mountain) warlord Suleiman bin Himyar. As well as being bombed, the town had it falaj (water channel system) cut as a reprisal for supporting the Imamate revolution of 1954-9. A second sign leads to the new town where a factory bottles the popular Tanuf mineral water. The town of Al Hamra, 17km from Nizwa, is considered one of the most elegant and unusual town in the interior. It has no defenses and, curiously for this rugged part of Oman, it has an almost Italianate fell, with terraced gardens and a piazza, from which a flight of steps leads to a street of grand three-and-four-storey houses with green wooden window shutters. The lower terrace by a gushing falaj makes a pleasant picnic spot beside the date plantations. The gravel road for Wadi Ghul is signposted from Al Hamra. The road is well traveled through a wide gorge with Jebal Akhdar on the right and Jebel Ghul on the left. The valley is know for maile weavers who make traditional red, black and brown mats on traditional horizontal looms. Beyond Wadi Ghul the road climbs a further 16km towards Jebel Shams (the Sun Mountain, 3009 meters). The summit is closed, but a track leads out onto the plateau which affords a spectacular view of what is known as the Grand Canyon, al almost vertical, 1000-meter drop to the wadi below. The trek around the edge of the canon takes about two hours. Misfah, accessible up a steep road from Al Hamra, is a pretty village where houses cling to the Cliffside. A tank filled by a falaj running off the jebel is a favorite spot for village boys, who delight in diving in and splashing visitors. Steps beside the tank lead down to a tiny mosque with a spectacular view.
Day 04. As Day 3
Day 05. Bahla to Ibri. Bahla, 40km west of Nizwa, is another town whose massive fortress fills the horizon. The Nabahina rulers of Oman from the 12th to the 17th centuries raised the fort on pre-Islamic foundations and also built the 12km of mud-brick surrounding walls. Covering a hilltop west of Bahla, the fort, pierced by seven gates, has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site following painstaking restoration. Bahla’s once-flourishing pottery industry is reduced to only two potters working in a dusty village beyond the souq, where a sign Pottery Made and Sold is tacked on a date palm. One of them still throws pots on a traditional kick-wheel operated by a Bangladeshi man. Its Omani owner welcomes visitors who are shown the clay pits and ovens and invited to have a glass of tea. The unglazed objects – incense burners and water jars – are mainly for local use. Another 10km west, and 4km off the highway, is Jabrin Castle, the finest example of residential architecture in Oman. Despite the imposing battlements, Jabrin was not a fort but a retreat for the Imams as well as a seat of learning for students of Islamic jurisprudence, medicine and astrology. Certainly its location, set back from the mountains on an open gravel plain, does not suggest that its builder, Imam Bil’arub bin Sultan Al Ya’ruba, felt under threat of attack. Built in 1671, the three-storey rectangular building has 4-meter thick stone walls with north-south towers. In the high-ceilinged rooms with Moghul-style arches are traces of what must have been a sumptuously decorated palace. Swirling Islamic inscriptions in the plaster wall are cut as delicately as hand-embroidered lace, rosettes cover the pine-carved ceilings while astrological designs in what is called the Sum and Moon Room have no parallel in Oman. In contrast to the splendor are the small plain cells used by students off the third-storey courtyard. You can go up a final flight of steps to the top of the castle for a view of the jebel quivering in the heat haze. A guide is essential if you want to see everything, including Imam Bil’arub’s tomb (he died in 1692) and the curious upstairs rooms for the Imam’s horse. An interesting exhibition records the castle’s impressive restoration. West of Jabrin, Route 21 continues to Ibri. The Bat tombs, off the highway between Ibri and Kubarah are best approached from Kubarah. Linked to the Umm an-Nar civilization (2500-2000 BC) of Abu Dhabi, the curious beehive tombs make an impressive sight perched on the stone rubble of an ancient village or necropolis (the ridge is climbed in 10 minutes from the river bed). Also here are round towers of the period, one of which is 20 meters high. Ibri 36km from Kuharab, is the heart of the Dhahira, the northwest shoulder of Oman between the Western Hajar and the Empty Quarter. Historically it was a buffer against Wahhabi nationalism although many disputes were started by imams joining forces with the Saudis, a root cause of the Imamate revolt of the 1950s.
Day 06. Ibri to Sohar via Mishkin, Wadi Hawasina, and Al-Khabourah. From Ibri we will continue on to the coast to Al-Khabourah. Al-Khabourah is built on the junction of one of several major passes through the Hajar Mountains to the Interior. The major part of the road is a track passing few villages and winding in and out of dusty wadi beds; however, a tarmac road runs from Ibri over the Western Hajar to Mishkin (126km). Mud-brick houses in Al-Khabourah (128km from Muscat) are dotted among the palm groves between the highway and the sea. The wives of local fishermen and date farmers make many of the hand-woven articles on sale in Muscat, in particular the distinctive black, brown, cream and red-patterned mats and wall hangings. The Batinah Coast is the food basket of Oman, and citrus fruit orchards, date plantations, fields of melons, aubergines, cabbages and other crops line the highway.On of the most famous products of the region is the small round loomi lime. The British writer, Ian Skeet, who spent two years in Oman during the 1960s, wrote in his book Muscat and Oman; the particular tang of the Muscati lime is the sina qua non of local rice spicing and equally a compulsory addition to a cup of tea. Iraq was historically a major importer of Oman’s limes and India and Pakistan remain important takers today – in fact in the 1970s the export of limes was second only to that of oil. The limes are dried before export, turning a black color; this does not impair the flavor in any way.
Day 07. Sohar. The approach to Sohar, the Batinah capital, is marked by a huge arch across the highway; a road to the right offe the ‘date palm roundabout’ cuts through a new, business district to the old center on the sea. Sohar is a pleasant town whose clean streets lined with white houses and tropical gardens indicate civic pride but there is nothing left to suggest it was once one of the most important trading centers on the Arabian Peninsula: Its traders and commerce cannot be enumerated. It is the most developed town in Oman, worte Ibn Hawqal in The Oriental Geography, a 10th-century manual of the region. Archaeological excavations date the city to the 3rd millennium BC when it was the capital of the Magan Empire and a major exporter of copper mined in Wadi Jizzi. The fabulous Emporium Persicum near the Straits of Hormuz mentioned in a 5th-century Byzatine text is almost certainly Sohar, and as some say, the home port of Sindbad the Sailor of the Thousand and One Nights; although the residents of Sur would strongly disagree, as they say that he originated from there. The city rose to prominence following the decline of the frankincense trade in Dhofar and the weakening power of the Caliphate in Baghdad, reaching its zenith in the 10th century, when it thrived on trade with Africa and Madagascar. The city was destroyed and most of its inhabitants slain by the Buyids of Baghdad in 971. Nonetheless, a description as late as the 12th century mentions 12,000 houses elaborately constructed of brick and teak and of traders from a dozen different countries rubbing shoulders in its sprawling souqs. The seaport was absorbed into the Persian Kingdom of Hormuz in the 14th century but following capture by Portugal in 1507 its fortunes began to ebb. For the next hundred years, Portugal maintained a trade blockade which slowly choked the commercial life out of Sohar. Even after the Portuguese left Oman in the mid-16th century, the city’s fate was sealed by internecine disputes. As a result, shipping from India and East Africa discharged in Sur and Aden and many local merchants and sea captains moved elsewhere. While Sohar may no longer be the great trading center it once was, the main occupations of agriculture, fishing and commerce still remain. The town is a convenient stop-over for travelers between Oman and the UAE. Local attractions are a Handicrafts Souq, signposted, between the old and new parts of Sohar, and a seaside souq selling fish and produce from the Battinah. The most dramaticsight is a whitewashed fort at the eastern end of the corniche is its main attraction. The original building, believed to date from the early 14th century and crucial to the defense of the Straits of Hormuz, is said to have been so large that it took 1000 men to defend it – though it surrendered to Albuquerque without a single cannon being fired. A Portuguese miniature shows the fort with six towers and surrounded by palm groves but today only a single tower rises from its courtyard. This has been converted into an interesting museum with exhibits on the geography and geology of the region including a section on the copper mining industry in nearby Wadi Jizzi which dates back more than 1000 years. Also on display are handsome, brass-studded chests and fading photographs of former rulers of Oman. Ask a guardian to point out the tomb of Sayyid Thuwaini bin Said bin Sultan Al bu Said, one of two sons of the great Sultan Said ben Sultan under whom Oman regained prominence in the 19th century. On the demise of Sultan Said, Thuwaini became ruler of Oman and a colony on the Makran Coast of what is not Pakistan, while his brother was awarded Zanzibar and Omini possessions in East Africa. Sultan Thuwaini ruled for only a decade. In 1866 he was shot by his son while asleep in the fort during preparations for a military expedition to recapture Buraimi Oasis.
Day 08. As Day 7
Day 09. Sohar to Rustaq. The reward for making the detour off the road from Sohar is the chance to see two of Oman’s finest forts, at Rustaq and Nakhl. A third smaller fort at Al-Hazm can also be visited, but the massive Qalat al-Kesra, dominating Rustaq, is alone worth the journey. Al-Hazm is basically a fort surrounded by a few houses to the left of Route 11 to the coastal highway. The three-story limestone and wood structure, 17 meters high with two cylimdrical towers, was built in 1708 by the Imam Sultan bin Saif II who moved here from Rustaq – an inscription on the right of two decorated wooden gates identifies him as the builder. The climb up to the bastions passes Protuguese cannons, bearing the crest of the Protuguese monarch, which were captured during sea battle in the 17th century and brought here by the Imam Azzan bin Qais. Sultan bin Saif II, who also built the fine falaj supplying Al-Hazm, is buried in the western tower of the fort. The fort at Rustaq has stood on the site for more than 1,000 years. It looms over the date palms only to disappear from view as the road from Nakhl dips around the mosque before climbing an incline into the town. It seems curious to lose track of such a huge edifice so suddenly, by turn left at the second set of traffic lights to find it planted defiantly in front of you again. In fact, this is the rear of the fort. For the entrance, follow the dirt lane around the walls, 10 meters in height and decorated with more than 2,000 triangular crenellations. Access is up a ramp to a gate with the usual holes above for pouring boiling date oil or honey onto intruders. The biggest fortification in Oman after Bahla, Rustaq is built over the site of a spring which gushes around its base – the stone structure to the left of the steps is an ablutions chamber. The ground floor rooms were used to store dates and ammunition while the first floor appears to have been the harem with metting rooms, a mosque, and a swimming pool supplied from the spring. The four huge towers – the Red Tower, Satan’s Tower, Al-Hadieth Tower and the Wind Tower – typify Omani defensive architecture. Rustaq Fort is thought to have been founded by the Persians in the pre-Islamic period. It became the first capital of the Ya’ruba Dynasty under the Imam Nassir bin Murshid (died 1649) and was rebuilt under Iman Saif bin Sultan (died 1711), who was responsible for a massive building program all over the interior. Saif bin Sultan also repaired the falaj and planted more than 30,000 date palms around Rustaq. He is buried in the western corner of the Wind Tower. The first Imam of the Al bu Said Dynasty, Ahmed bin Said (died 1783), also ruled from Rustqu, where he exercised control over the interior and coast. This broke down under his sons Said and Sultan, who split the Imamate, with Said based in Rustaq, and Sultan, the more powerful of the two brothers, ruling from Muscat. Crowning a spur at the wadi’s head Nakhl Fort is an awesome tribute to the skills of ancient Omani stone masons. Soaring to a height of 30 meters abouve ground level and covering an area of 3,400 square meters, it is built of limestone and wood covered with the terracotta-colored mud and cement cladding common to more than 100 forts, palaces, watchtowers and other defenses restored by Oman’s Ministry of National Heritage and Culture. The fort’s foundations are believed to pre-date Islam, though it was remodeled in the 9th, 16th, 19th, and 20th centuries. To enter the fort, climb the stone stairs and bear left through the huge carved door.
Day 10. As Day 9
Day 11. Rustaq to Muscat. On our return to Muscat, we will also stop at Barka Fort which dates from the early Ya’ruba period and restored in 1985, is 400 meters west of the main crossroads in town. The former wali’s quarters has a fine exhibition of imported china in the master bedroom, and a tower gives a panoramic view of the surroundings. Bait Nua’man, the restored house of a walthy merchant, is a 4.8km drive along the highway beyond the fort plus a further 1.9km left on a graded road. The house is an interesting example of old Gulf Coast architecture.
Day 12. Muscat. On this day in Muscat, we will visit the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the old and interesting Muttrah Souq and the old town of Muscat. The walls of the city of Muscat were its first line of defense in the fortification and protection of the city from attackers. A ditch of natural stone in place of a wall today encircles the city. The Omanis call this wall Al Hosn or the fortification. Other walls are still in existence around the city on two sides, the west, and the south. The one that was erected in 1625 AD has round towers built into it. On the northern and eastern side of the city are the natural defense boundaries of the Gulf of Muscat and the eastern mountains. The walls of Muscat have three principal access points or gates: Bab Al Matha'eeb, the Greater Gate and the Lesser Gate. The first of these is in the western corner below the Al Mirani Fort. The second is at the extremity of the western rib of the wall and this one is the point of egress to most of the roads leading to the suburbs of Muscat and to the city of Muttrah. The third or Lesser Gate is mid-way along the southern rib of the wall and despite its name is one of the principal entrances to the city. The Wilayat of Muscat runs along the Gulf of Oman across a long mountain range that stretches from Bandar Najih adjacent to the Wilayat of Muttrah on the northwestern side between the villages of Muttrah and Riam. Here the villages and mountains of Muscat extend as far as the village of Al Sifa at the borders of the Wilayat of Quriyat in the south east. Muscat has nine villages attached to it, these being Sidab, Haramel, Al Bustan, Al Jussa, Qantab, Yankat, Yiti, Al Khayran Al Sifa and Sifat Al Sheikh. The city of Muscat is counted one of the older cities in history having been built at the outset of the Arab migrations which preceded and followed the destruction of the Maarib Dam. We can safely say that its history predates the arrival of Islam by several centuries. Muscat is distinguished by the presence of citadels, forts, towers, walls, gates and historical houses. The municipality of Al Sifa is home to Al Sifa Fort which overlooks the sea from its coastal position and backs onto a valley.
Day 13. Departure from Muscat International Airport. Transfer to Muscat International Airport for your departure. End of services.