JOIN NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC AUTHOR & PHOTOGRAPHER CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER ON THIS SULTANATE OF OMAN PHOTO TOUR & WORKSHOP FOCUSED ON OLD-WORLD ARABIA 

Wisps of blue-gray frankincense smoke drifted in the air like Aladdin’s genie as I plunged through the labyrinthine passageways of Muscat’s Mutrah Souq.
            The alluringly musky scent of frankincense permeates Omani cities and culture. I was never far from the distinctive aroma wafting through hotel lobbies and traditional souqs.
            I felt like a Magi on a Christmas gift hunt, lured by the intoxicating, seductively sweet, heady miasma that curled up from frankincense smoldering in pots outside stores dripping with gold jewelry, silver thuribles, and old khanjar daggers. Tiny open-air shops teemed with exotic spices, mounds of myrrh, and great piles of dates. Women in black abayas thumbed colorful-as-Crayola silk fabrics, while men in white ankle-length dishdasha robes and beautifully embroidered kuma caps inspected heaps of pebble-sized frankincense nuggets resembling small semi-translucent stones of amber, caramel, purple, and cream.
            This was Muscat at its most magical, conjuring images from the Arabian Nights, the Koran, and the Bible." -- CHRISTOPHER P. BAKER, BBC TRAVEL

The yin to the United Arab Emirate’s yang, the mysterious and slow-paced sultanate of Oman is “old” Arabia, harking back to the days before the distorting lens of gaudy wealth turned much of the Arabian Peninsula into glitz and glamor. Utterly photogenic, Oman has everything fabulous that the Arabian Peninsula has to offer: Traditional and affable Arab and Bedouin cultures… colorful carpet-filled souks teeming with frankincense and spices… glittering gold markets… old Arabic and Portuguese forts… and abundant natural beauty, from rugged mountains and verdant wadis to vast expanses of sand perfect for camel safaris. Plus, Oman is safe!

We’ll visit when Oman’s wonderful winter climate is at its most perfect. Plus, we’ll stay at some of the region’s top hotels, including a luxury desert camp amid the dunes!

ITINERARY

Day 1: Saturday
Participants arrive and settle into our hotel in Muscat. Meet with Christopher in the evening for orientation, plus a set-the-scene slide show, then a welcome dinner.
Overnight: CROWNE PLAZA MUSCAT

Day 2: Sunday 
We begin by visiting the Mutrah fish market, where the day’s catch is delivered at sunrise. Then we’ll explore the famous and ūber-photogenic Mutrah souk—full of stalls selling frankincense, intricately embroidered hats, and antique khajars (curved daggers). After resting the midday hours at our hotel, we’ll roam the backstreets of Mutrah, Muscat’s oldest area, and photograph from atop Mutrah Fort before spending the “blue hour” shooting along the iconic Corniche waterfront, with its floodlit mosque. Dine on the Corniche.
Overnight: CROWNE PLAZA MUSCAT

Day 3: Monday 
Depart Muscat and follow the Qurayat-Sur coast highway, along the scenic base of the Hajar Mountains, via Wadi Shab, a palm oasis with pools and ancient aqueducts. Arriving at the ancient fishing village of Al-Ayjah, we’ll explore the old town (where houses feature elaborately carved doors and lotus-pillar porches) and neighouring Sur, with its fascinating Maritime Museum (recalling Sur’s once-mighty prowess as a maritime port). Our photographic highlight here will be witnessing boat-builders at work in the dhow shipyard—the only one of its kind still remaining in Oman.
Overnight: SUR PLAZA HOTEL, SUR

Day 4: Tuesday 
This morning drive west to the gorgeous mountain oasis of Wadi Bani Khalid—a chance for a refreshing plunge in natural freshwater pools. Then continue to the legendary Sharqiya Sands (formerly Wahiba Sands) Driving into the sands proper, we’ll thrill to two nights camping atop the dunes in a luxury barrasti (tented camp) like something straight out of 1,001 Arabian Nights. We’ll photograph a Bedu and his camels at sunset.
Overnight: ARABIAN ORYX CAMP (OR EQUIVALENT)

Day 5: Wednesday
Rise early to photograph the desert sunrise with camels! Then, after breakfast, ride to a Bedu camp, where we’ll engage with a Bedouin family—a chance to interact closely with the women, dressed in exotic abeyas (robes) and beaked half-face burqas (many adorned with glittering jewels). After relaxing mid-day at our camp, we’ll venture out in late afternoon to a nearby Bedu village for sunset photography. We hope to perhaps also watch a camel race in the desert.
Overnight: ARABIAN ORYX CAMP (OR EQUIVALENT)

Day 6: Thursday
Up early today to catch the camel market in the town of Sinaw. Here we’ll explore the exotic souk, where colorfully adorned Bedu (bedouins) trade goats and other livestock. Sinaw souk is also famous for its craftsmen skilled at making classic khajar curved daggers. After lunch, continue to Nizwah, where we’ll check into our hotel in mid-afternoon then photograph the spectacular new Sultan Qaboos Mosque at sunset and the blue hour. The nighttime photography in Nizwa is sensational as we explore its dusty backstreets, souq, and 17th-century fort.
Overnight: INTERCITY NIZWA

Day 7: Friday
Up with the dawn this morning to visit the Friday-only livestock market, where goats, cattle and other beasts of burden are sold off amid boisterous bargaining by bearded old men in colorful turbans and jalabas. We’ll also explore Nizwah’s colorful souq. In the afternoon we’ll head to Bahla to photograph the massive 800-year-old fort; and the Aladawi pottery potteries, tucked in the narrow backstreets and where terra-cotta vases and other earthenware are hand-crafted in traditional manner.
Overnight: INTERCITY NIZWA

Day 8: Saturday
In the morning, we’ll visit Bait Al-Safah, a “living history museum” in Al-Hamrah, one of Oman’s oldest mudbrick oasis villages—superbly photogenic for its semi-decrepitude. Here we’ve arranged for a private photo-op with Omanis in traditional costume. We’ll also spend time photographing in Misfat, a picturesque mountain village of terraced stone houses surrounded by date palm groves. Then, ascending via a spectacularly sinuous highway, we’ll arrive at the Anantara Al-Jalal Al Akhdar, a luxury hotel atop the Saiq Plateau. Its spectacular cliff-top location offers sensational sunset views from Diana’s Viewpoint.
Overnight: ANANTARA AL-JALAL AL AKHDAR

Day 9: Sunday
This morning we’ll hike to Wadi Bani Habib, a palm-lined canyon with groves of apricots and pomegranates and abandoned hillside mud-walled hamlets. After lunch at our hotel, we’ll return to Muscat, stopping en-route to photograph Sultan Qaboose Mosque, with its stunning contemporary architecture, breathtakingly rich prayer hall, and the world’s second-largest hand-woven rug. The balance of the day is at leisure to enjoy the hotel swimming pool or partaking of optional activities.
Overnight: CROWNE PLAZA MUSCAT

Day 10: Monday
This morning we take a short flight to Musandam, an Omani enclave (totally surrounded by the United Arab Emirates) at the northeast tip of the Arabian Peninsula, jutting into the Straits of Hormuz. We’ll have the afternoon free to roam the streets of the small and photogenic port town of Khasab. In past years, the city-folk—male and female—have proven extremely welcoming and open to our cameras. In late afternoon, we’ll venture to the nearby fishing village of Qadah for more serendipitous photography.
Overnight: ATANA MUSANDAM RESORT

Day 11: Tuesday
This morning we’ll join a local family aboard a traditional dhow for a relaxing half-day cruise through the “fjords” of the Musandam coastline. The rest of the day is free in Khasab.
Overnight: ATANA MUSANDAM RESORT

Day 12: Wednesday
We fly back to Muscat today. En route to our hotel, we’ll visit the boutique Enfleurage frankincense distillery, with its old copper stills. The balance of the afternoon will be at leisure to relax, perhaps by the hotel pool with its superb views over Qurm Beach or for further photography in Mutrah souq and the Corniche.
Overnight: CROWNE PLAZA MUSCAT

Day 13: Thursday
Depart Oman for home.

Trip Details
February 4-16, 2023
Trip cost: $7,575 
Limit: 10 participants
 
All participants are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid.
 
Trip Details
February 4-16, 2023
Trip cost: $7,575 
Limit: 10 participants
 
All participants are required to show proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid.
 

Highlights

  • Explore and photograph Muscat, the atmospheric capital city, with its spectacular mosque and souk, and where every building must by law feature a dome or arabesque window.
  • Photograph a traditional goat and cattle auction in Nizwah
  • Visit the Arabian gulf’s only remaining traditional dhow shipyard
  • Shoot the exotic camel market in Sinaw and spend two nights at a remote desert camp in the Shaqiya Sands
  • Thrill to a journey by traditional dhow sailing ship through the fjords of Musandam

Tour Leader

You’ll get to photograph with acclaimed National Geographic photographer, author, and expedition leader Christopher P. Baker, the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 ‘Travel Journalist of the Year.’ Christopher’s images and self-illustrated articles about Oman and other destinations worldwide have appeared in hundreds of magazines, from BBC, CNN and Newsweek  to National Geographic, National Wildlife and Penthouse; as well as scores of calendars, brochures, coffee-table books and travel guidebooks. His work for National Geographic, not least, includes photographing the National Geographic Traveler Colombia and National Geographic Traveler Costa Rica guidebooks on assignment. Chris’ profession as a full-time travel journalist informs his work, which is also represented by Getty Images. His rich archive of images and travel experiences spans the world, from India, Sudan and Nepal to Morocco, Micronesia and the Marquesas Islands. Plus, Chris led the 2020 Oman photo tour for for Jim Cline Photo Tours, as well as to Cuba and Colombia, plus more than 100 photo tours and other expeditions worldwide for Lindblad Expeditions, Lumaria Workshops, National Geographic Expeditions, Santa Fe Photo Workshops, and UnCruise Adventures, among others.

Testimonials

Thanks for the master class in photography. I learned so very much from you, particularly about context, ambiance and milieu to create a riveting picture.
SARAH S., JIM CINE PHOTO TOURS, CUBA 2020

Chris, you are a one of a kind. Really enjoyed you as a photographer, a guide, and of course as a fabulous story teller. You have so much Cuba knowledge and I loved your positive energy
ASA M., JIM CLINE PHOTO TOURS, CUBA 2020

Chris was the perfect trip leader. His knowledge of the country and its history is vast and he enthusiastically wanted to share it with us along with his years of experience as a photographer… He’s talented, interesting, accessible, and fun to travel with. Plus, he really did seem to care about each of us — if we were okay, getting good images, too tired, too hot, etc. I would certainly travel with him again. He certainly kept up the high standards of a Jim Cline Photo Tour.”
JUDY B., JIM CLINE PHOTO TOURS, COLOMBIA 2018

Molly Danner [Program Director & Director, Photography Trip Talent, National Geographic] came back with a rave review of your performance on our Eastern Cuba trip, along with the recommendation that I consider featuring you as NG photographer on future private jet trips—which I most definitely will do!
FORD COCHRAN, DIRECTOR OF PROGRAMMING, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC EXPEDITIONS