Example Itinerary

Traditions and Cultures of the Arabian Gulf

Duration
11 days / 10 nights
Per Person Per Day
Interests
Heritage
Destinations
Oman, UAE, Qatar

Discover the traditions and culture of the Arabian Gulf on this 11-day journey which takes you to Qatar, UAE, and Oman. With similar narratives as small states that depended on port trade and grew into modern day oil-rich independent countries, these three nations share much in common, though it’s the subtle differences that make up each country’s unique identity. In Qatar, see the endangered Arabian oryx at a sanctuary, admire the world’s largest collection of Islamic art, and visit the spot where Qatar local forces defended their homes from invading Ottoman forces. To the east in the UAE, discover Dubai’s colorful souks, Al Ain’s secret to a flourishing oasis in the desert, and Abu Dhabi’s falcon hospital and date market. Finally in Oman, go off-road to explore its hidden wadis, a coastal port town, and an ancient oasis settlement.  

This itinerary is an example. It’s designed to inspire you and provide you with thoughtfully curated ideas. You can choose to do this exact itinerary or completely personalize it. All trips are 100% bespoke.

Highlights

  • Arabian Wildlife: See the endangered Arabian oryx at a sanctuary where numbers are thriving, visit the camel races to see this tradition in action, and learn about the beloved falcons at the souq where they are sold as well as at a state-of-the-art hospital. 
  • UNESCO Landmarks: Visit the preserved ruins of a fishing village which gives a glimpse into the nation's past, see how an oasis flourished in the middle of a desert with ancient irrigation technology, and an ancient oasis settlement with remarkable technology that sustained habitation. Each of these remarkable UNESCO World Heritage Sites tell important tales of how these nations came to be.
  • Beautiful Landscapes: Golden dunes, palm oases, dramatic mountain ranges, turqouise ports and bays - the Arabian Gulf has it all. 

Day-by-Day

Day 1

Map

Doha »

Your journey across the Arabian Gulf begins in the small country of Qatar on the northeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Its sole land border is with Saudi Arabia to the south, and the rest of the peninsular country is surrounded by the Arabian gulf. Touch down in the capital city of Doha where you will be met at the airport and transferred via private vehicle to your hotel. Check in and unwind after your flight, and allow yourself to acclimate to the hot desert climes of the region. In the late afternoon and the heat of the day wanes, venture out to visit the Souq Waqif. A souq or souk is a traditional Arabian open-air street market. In operation for over 100 years, Souq Waqif maintains its traditional feel though it has evolved with the times to include more space for vendors. One special area of the souq not to be missed is the falcon souq, the premier place where locals come to purchase their birds. Falconry is a tradition in Qatar and across the Arabian gulf as a means of hunting for food, an integral part of the Bedouin lifestyle. Today, falconry is considered a national pastime. At the souq, you can speak to the vendors and see these beloved birds up close, some of which can fetch over half a million dollars. 

Hotel Options

Day 2

Map

Doha »

Head out of town today for a day-trip outside of Doha to learn about its history. As you leave the city, make a stop by the Barzan Towers, fortified watchtowers which served to keep an eye on pearl divers, look-out for approaching ships, and an observatory for keeping track of the moon. Though renovated and fitted with modern amenities, the traditional Qatari design and building methods were preserved. Continue to the very north of the peninsula where you will find the Al Jassasiya petroglyphs, a collection of more than 900 rock carvings found at a deserted quarry which are estimated to be at least a few centuries old. A short drive to the west coast brings you to Al Zubarah, a deserted and ruined town that flourished as a pearling and trading hub in the 1700s and 1800s. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a glimpse into life back in the days when Qatar was sustained by sea trade. It tells the story of how small independent states developed and flourished outside the control of the Ottoman, European, and Persian empires, eventually leading to the emergence of modern day Gulf States. Next, visit an oryx sanctuary where these endangered animals were brought back from the brink of extinction; the robust breeding program achieves around 75-100 calves each year. Explore the facility and observe these elegant creatures within their enclosures. Finally, on the way back to the city, make a stop at Al Wajba Fort. Built in 1182, it is one of the oldest forts in Qatar and holds significance as the location of an important battle when local forces defeated the invading Ottoman army in 1893. This battle was one of the most defining moments in the establishment of Qatar as a modern state. 

Doha

Day 3

Map

Doha »

This morning, begin with a stroll along the corniche, a waterfront promenade that stretches over 4 miles long and offers views of the city’s skyline. Stop to visit the Museum of Islamic Art which sits on its own island jutting out from the corniche. This museum houses the most comprehensive collection of Islamic Art in the world, which spans three continents from the 7th to the 19th century. Then, a short walk away takes you to the National Museum of Qatar. The impressive building, designed to resemble a desert rose, features a permanent exhibition that present the history of Qatar through artifacts, artworks, textiles, historical documents, and more. The next site on today’s cultural immersion journey is Katara Cultural Village. This complex of narrow, cobbled alleyways lined with pale yellow flat-topped buildings, reminiscent of an old souq, houses dozens of galleries and venues hosting the creations of local and international painters, sculptors, photographers, and other artists. The spacious complex also has an open amphitheatre, an opera house, cinema, beach, boutiques, and a souq. In the late afternoon, head to Al-Shahaniya camel racing track to learn about this fascinating sport that has been part of Arabian culture for generations, tracing back to the seventh century. Modern day has seen child jockeys replaced with robot jockeys, and you can watch the practice runs which happen every evening around 18:30. You can also visit the camel stables and admire some of the best groomed and some of the most expensive camels in the world. 

Day 4

Map

Abu Dhabi »

A short morning flight takes you to Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates located just east of Qatar. First, pay a visit to the falcon hospital, the world’s largest facility of its kind. Falconry is also popular in UAE and this state-of-the-art healthcare facility proves how adored the falcons are. Then, head to the Heritage Village to gain insight into the pre-oil era of the country. The walled complex houses recreations of traditional palm-leaf houses, ancient irrigation systems, and craftsmen at work showcasing leather tanning, pottery, sword smithing, and glass-blowing. Afterwards, take a cruise through the Eastern Mangroves on a traditional pearling boat. As you enjoy the scenery with traditional Arabian snacks, dates and strong coffee, learn about the pearling industry and watch a live pearling demonstration onboard. Then, swing by the dates market where you can learn about and sample some of the 400 types of dates, a local favorite snack which is commonly served to guests and given as gifts. Finally, arrive at the Grand Mosque in time to see its stunning white marble domes basking in the soft glow of the sunset. The Grand Mosque is the biggest and most opulent in the country. 

Hotel Options
Abu Dhabi

Day 5

Map

Al Maha »

Today, drive to Al Ain, an inland oasis city to the east which borders Oman. Al Ain Oasis is an UNESCO Heritage Site, a now lush space where the region’s inhabitants began taming the desert 4,000 years ago. Farmers tend to thousands of date palms and fruit trees, a delicate ecosystem that developed using traditional farming methods. The oasis is known for its use of an ancient falaj irrigation system which brings water to water farms and palm plantations. Take a leafy stroll through the plantations and visit the small museum. Nearby, see the lively camel market, the last of its kind in the UAE. Witness locals haggling over young Arabian camels that might grow up to become racers or entered into beauty pageants. Then visit Al Jahili Fort, located in the south of Al Ain city. Built in the late 1800s from mud bricks, the fort once protected the peace between the region’s tribes. A short drive into the desert brings you to your luxury desert oasis camp where you can spend the rest of the day at leisure. At this remote retreat, you can unwind and enjoy the tranquil desert landscape and vistas of sweeping plains from your tent or on a nature walk, camel trek, or horseback ride. You may also wish to join the resort’s signature desert safari, try your hand at archery, and enjoy sundowners in the dunes. 

Hotel Options

Day 6

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Dubai »

After a leisurely breakfast in the desert, return to the coast to get to your next destination, Dubai. Known best for its ultramodern architecture and luxury entertainment outlets, Dubai’s cultural gems are often overlooked. Today, get in touch with Dubai’s cultural roots and discover another side to this glitzy city. Stroll through the narrow alleyways of the Bastakiya Quarter, enjoying the eclectic mix of art galleries and cafes housed in former Persian merchant shophouses. Engage in enlightening discourse about Emirati culture with the locals before sharing a traditional meal at SMCCU (Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding). In the afternoon, head the the Dubai Museum to learn about life in the region before the discovery of oil, from pearl diving, shipbuilding, and the bedouin lifestyle. Then, as the locals do, take an abra (water taxi) across the creek to visit the gold, spice, textiles, and perfume souks. These traditional markets are still teeming with activity, just as they did throughout the centuries when goods traveling from India, Africa, and Asia along the Silk Route were traded in these  bustling districts. 

Hotel Options
Dubai

Day 7

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Dubai »

This morning, get engaged with Dubai’s Middle Eastern communities and culture through food on a breakfast walking food tour. Feast on lesser known dishes from Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, and Iran as you listen to stories about where the foods came from and about the vendors who brought them to the city. Learn coffee etiquette, how to detect grades of saffron, and where the old timers shop for pomegranate syrup and sweets. In the afternoon, be ready for an off-road adventure out in the desert. Take a ride on the sand dunes, weaving through the trackless sand and tackling high and low dunes. Then, get up close with falcons and experience the art of falconry for yourself. Finally, arrive at a Bedouin camp set up amongst the rolling dunes. Watch a bellydancing performance, indulge in aromatic shisha, and get authentic henna tattoos. Enjoy a multi-course traditional Arab dinner by the bonfire under the stars.

Day 8

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Muscat »

Depart Dubai for neighboring Oman, the third and final country on this journey. The Sultanate of Oman is located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula and is the oldest independent state in the Arab world. Explore the capital port town of Muscat, starting with the highly revered Grand Mosque, which takes on a distinctly classical Arab appearance despite being constructed as recently as 2001. From there, a driving tour takes you past the magnificent Al Alam Palace and the Royal Opera House. Stop at Bait Al Zubair Museum and admire its extensive collection of ancient weapons, household goods, and traditional costumes. Outside the museum is a full-scale Omani village and souk. Then, head to the marina and embark on a relaxed dhow cruise around Muscat’s coastline for dolphin spotting. Historically Oman’s strategic location made it the principal trading port of the Persian Gulf region, and amongst the most important trading ports of the Indian Ocean. Finally, wrap up the day with a drive along the corniche and a stroll in the shaded Mutrah souq.

Hotel Options
Muscat

Day 9

Map

Muscat »

In the morning, get into a 4x4 vehicle to drive off-road into the desert through the Hajar Mountains via Fanja and Sumail. Travel to the village of Bahla, where traditions of pottery-making, magic, and weaving are still alive and well. Visit Bahla Fort, a fortified oasis settlement that is a designated UNESCO Heritage Site for its water engineering skill and stone and mud brick technology demonstrated by early inhabitants. Before heading back to Muscat, stop by the historic city of Nizwa, a regional capital and the birthplace of Islam in the Sultanate of Oman. Visit Nizwa Fort, which was built in the 1650s and is one of the most visited attractions in Oman. Also stop by the Nizwa Souq, renowned for selling intricately hand-carved khanjars (daggers) and ornamental silver jewelry. If arriving on a Friday morning, you can also see the famed cattle and animal market.

Day 10

Map

Muscat »

Today, take another 4x4 excursion out of Muscat to Wadi Bani Khalid, a deep valley that cuts into the mountainside, leaving space for refreshing pools of clear blue water to form. A wadi is akin to an oasis. They are found throughout Oman and are popular with locals as destinations for leisure. Pass through a series of mountain villages before enjoying a private BBQ lunch in the wadi, replete with an Arabian tent, carpet, and cushions positioned next to the creek. Afterwards, continue along the coast to the pretty coastal town of Sur. As one of the oldest cities in the country, the ancient town has one of the oldest ports in the world and was an important shipbuilding center. Peek into a dhow factory and see how these vessels are put together. While in Sur, don’t miss the opportunity to try a tasty Omani fish dish called Mashuai. Enjoy this grilled ocean fish marinated in a savory lemon and spice blend with a view of the harbor. On the way back to Muscat, make a stop at the Bimmah Sinkhole, a spectacular limestone crater with turquoise water and local favorite swimming hole.

Muscat

Day 11

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Departure

Your journey across the Arabian Gulf comes to an end today. Enjoy one last cup of traditional spiced tea with your breakfast and relax until your private transfer to the airport. Time-permitting, we suggest a dip in the warm Arabian sea right in front of your beachfront hotel or a relaxing rose oil spa treatment before your long flight home. 

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With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.

With Remote Lands you'll travel with people who have made Asia the solitary focus of their own lifelong adventure. As our guest, in the continent that our north American founders Catherine and Jay have adored and explored for decades, you'll discover Asia on a journey that is completely, authentically your own, adapted from our own remarkable experiences and adventures over the years.

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