Sands of Time: Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar & Oman

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    Destinations: Middle East
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Tour Description

A popular itinerary, we are pleased to offer this Arabian Gulf expedition. Closed to Westerners for many years, the region is an intriguing juxtaposition of gleaming cities, ancient villages, soaring mountains, and undulating sand dunes. We visit the Sultanate of Oman, several city-states on a United Arab Emirates tour, and the countries of Bahrain and Qatar. From visiting Dubai’s souks and fish markets to searching for rare Arabian oryx on the island of Sir Bani Yas; from exploring futuristic Abu Dhabi to navigating the cliffs of the Musandam Peninsula, this is the best of Arabian Gulf adventure travel.

Arabian Gulf Expedition Highlights:

  • A visit to Salalah, an important stop in the ancient frankincense trade and an iconic Arabian Gulf tour destination, as well as Prophet Job’s sacred tomb.
  • A countryside excursion in Oman to the mud-brick fortress of Bahla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Meeting the famed Arabian horses, the oldest known breed of riding horse, at Qatar’s National Stables.
  • Accommodations aboard the 110-passenger Clipper Odyssey, enabling ravishing skyline views throughout this Arabian Gulf expedition.

What to Expect:

For most activities during this Arabian Gulf and United Arab Emirates tour, a relatively low level of exertion is required. We ask that you be able to walk moderate distances along beaches and sometimes on rough terrain. While visiting Muslim countries—as with any Arabian Gulf tour—women should be prepared to wear long sleeves and long pants or skirts. We will provide detailed information about the local dress and customs prior to your departure. With flexibility and a healthy spirit of adventure, this can be one of your most treasured adventure travel experiences.


Day 1

Depart USA

Depart USA in the evening on your independent flight to Dubai.

Day 2

Arrive Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Arrive in Dubai late this evening, transfer to our hotel for overnight.

Day 3

Dubai / Embark Clipper Odyssey

Dubai rises from the desert like a mirage. A gleaming 40-year-old, modern city steeped in 5,000 years’ worth of tribal heritage, Dubai is a veritable crossroads of past and future. After breakfast at our hotel we set out mid morning for the Palm Island complex and a cruise through the surrounding waters. Considered by sosme as the eighth wonder of the world, it is one of only a few man-made structures that can be seen from space. We continue with stops at the Mall of the Emirates and its indoor ski slope before arriving at the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, where we take in panoramic views from the 124th floor. We enjoy lunch at a local restaurant followed by a visit to the Dubai Museum. Embark the Clipper Odyssey this afternoon and be on deck for magnificent views of the illuminated skyline as the sun sets behind the city.

Day 4

Abu Dhabi

Oil revenues make Abu Dhabi, the capital of the seven sheikdoms comprising the UAE, the richest of them all. Our full-day visit includes a drive through this “Manhattan of the Gulf,” to visit the bustling fish market and a falcon rehabilitation center. We return to the Clipper Odyssey for lunch via the picturesque Corniche Road. This afternoon we have the opportunity to visit the Grand Mosque, then enjoy High Tea at the elegant Emirates Palace Hotel. This evening you have the option to dine on board the ship, or on your own at one of Abu Dhabi’s fine restaurants.

Day 5

Sir Bani Yas Island

A wonderful example of proactive conservation and re-foresting, this once-barren and desolate island has been transformed into a lush land-scape populated by gazelles, Arabian oryx (once on the brink of extinction), and more than 80 species of birds, including greater flamingos. After breakfast onboard, we go ashore (permission pending) by Zodiac to take nature walks and appreciate the visionary largesse of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Return to the ship for lunch and an afternoon of lectures on the region’s culture and history.

Day 6

Manama, Bahrain

The Kingdom of Bahrain is the only Arabian island-nation in the world. This morning we visit the Grand Mosque and National Museum for an introduction to Bahrain’s historic and cultural legacies. We then tour the former palace of Sheikh Isa Bin Ali, whose lengthy rule extended from 1869 to 1932. After lunch on board we visit a 14th-century Portuguese fort later used by the Omanis to invade Bahrain in 1800, and prehistoric royal burial mounds. From the causeway leading to the mainland, we are treated to a panoramic view of the island.

Day 7

Doha, Qatar

Qatar is the world’s smallest Arab community by population; only 400,000 Qataris inhabit this angular peninsula. We visit the National Stables to learn about the famed Arabian horses, the oldest known breed of riding horse. The busy camel and sheep markets present exceptional photographic opportunities, while the produce markets and souks offer a mélange of goods from dates to spices to gold. The Museum of Islamic Art houses a magnificent collection dating from the 7th to the 19th century. Alternately, set off in 4x4 vehicles to travel inland for an adventurous off-road safari into the desert’s golden sand dunes.

Day 8

Sharjah, UAE

Enjoy a morning at sea as our lecture series continues. Later we arrive in Sharjah, the UAE’s major heritage center known for its meticulous preservation of a unique Arabian lifestyle and Islamic culture. This is show-cased at the Museum of Islamic Civilizations where Islamic art and artifacts are housed in what was once the Souk al-Majarrah. The Al Naboodah House illustrates the life of a well-to-do pearl-trading family. We also browse the Al Markazi souk to view the UAE’s largest selection of carpets and handicrafts.

Day 9

Al Khasab / Musandam Peninsula, Oman

We anchor in the busy port town of Al Khasab to visit the 16th-century Portuguese fort and Old Town. We then board local dhows adorned with colorful Oriental carpets and cushions to explore the rugged fjords of the Musandam Peninsula. These winding waterways reveal towering limestone cliffs which drop vertically into the turquoise sea. We sail past Telegraph Island, the site of the Gulf’s first telegraphic station installed by the British in 1864, where we have the opportunity to swim off the side of the dhow.

Day 10

Fujairah, UAE

Fujairah separates two sections of Oman and is the only emirate located outside the Persian Gulf. After a photo stop at the dramatic fortress that presides majestically over the town, we continue inland over Masafi Pass in the Hajar Mountains to Bidiya Mosque, the oldest mosque in the UAE. We have time to browse the local market before descending to the coastal town of Dibba, a Mediterranean-flavored fishing village. After lunch at a local hotel enjoy a dip in the pool, or Arabian Sea, then return to the ship and set sail for Oman.

Day 11

Muscat, Oman / Nizwa

This morning we arrive in Muscat, Oman’s capital, and depart overland for Nizwa. In the ancient capital, a historic seat of Islamic learning, we explore the 17th-century Tower Fort, and climb up the impregnable tower for panoramic views. We visit the beautiful oasis of Bahla and its sprawling fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage Site whose walls and towers were constructed of unbaked brick. Nearby is the Bait Al Safah, a home built over 500 years ago now converted to a museum showcasing traditional Omani lifestyle. After lunch we stop at the lush green oasis of Birkat-Al-Mauz to view its two-tiered falaj—a traditional irrigation system. Return to the Clipper Odyssey for dinner, or choose to dine in town on your own.

Day 12

Muscat / Disembark

Today we explore Muscat, a fascinating blend of traditional architecture, elegant 18th-century colonial mansions, and modern, aesthetically-pleasing buildings. Drive past stately villas to photograph Sultan Qaboos Mosque, an exquisite example of Islamic architecture. Browse through traditional handicrafts at the bustling souk and continue to the Oil and Gas Exhibition Center and Planetarium. The facility describes the process of oil production from the formation of deposits to how they are located, extracted, processed, delivered, and ultimately used. After lunch at a local restaurant we view the magnificent Al Alam Palace of Sultan Qaboos, which is set between the twin 400-year-old turreted Portuguese forts of Jalalai and Mirani. Enjoy dinner on board, then transfer to the airport for your homeward flight.

Day 13

Arrive USA

Flights arrive home today.


Pricing Information

Clipper Odyssey

One of the finest adventure ships afloat, the Clipper Odyssey is a 110-passenger luxury expedition vessel, ideally suited for cruising in off-the-beaten-path locales. On all Clipper Odyssey expeditions, guests have access to a fleet of Zodiacs, which allows remote landings anywhere nature or curiosity dictates. All cabins on a Clipper Odyssey cruise have an ocean view, safe, minibar, individually controlled heat/air conditioner, in-room music system, and sitting area with sofa. Beds can be configured for twin or queen-size sleeping arrangements, and all cabins have an en suite bathroom complete with shower and small bathtub. In the comfort of their cabin, passengers can track the progress of their expedition on the Global Positioning System broadcast—a highlight of a Clipper Odyssey voyage for adventure-minded guests. Additional facilities include a gourmet kitchen featuring American and international cuisine, dining room, lounge, small library and gym, outdoor pool, and gift shop. An elevator services all passenger cabin decks. Ship registry: Bahamas.

All prices are in US dollars and do not include international airfare, unless otherwise noted.

Prices displayed are based on the lowest season base price and assume double occupancy. Prices are shown in U.S. dollars and may or may not include administrative fees, taxes, meals, airfare (where applicable) and Single Supplements. Cancellation penalties, blackout dates and other restrictions may apply.

Options and Extras

Tour Notes

Flights are not included in the cost of expeditions; however, Zegrahm Expeditions has a fully-staffed air department that can assist you with flight arrangements. Since many of our expeditions embark and disembark from remote destinations, the airports that serve these areas often have limited carriers and/or daily flights. As such, our air team is well-versed in planning complex routings for our travelers.