From Manama to Muscat and Beyond
Stretched in a crescent along the western and southern shores of the Persian Gulf, the Arab Gulf States include Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the UAE. These countries are renowned for their oil-derived wealth and stark desert landscapes – threads that unite them all. This 16-day private tour and journey goes beyond that veneer, diving deeper into the local culture and history to provide a more nuanced understanding of the region.
Start in Bahrain, a Shia majority state in a Sunni-dominated region. Persian influences can be felt throughout. Then head to Kuwait, a seldom visited state where you will learn more about the effects of the Gulf War and regrowth since. Qatar’s small geographic size belies its outsized geopolitical role and the fiercely independent path that it charts for itself. Oman, the next destination, is a great place to see how traditions and heritage can be preserved and showcased in the face of great wealth. The final stop is the UAE, famed for glitz and glamor, but with roots that go much deeper. This journey covers all seven of the emirates in the UAE, from Abu Dhabi to Umm al Quwain.
Days 1-3: Manama (Bahrain)
Start the journey in Manama, Bahrain’s capital. Built across several islands, the city offers glimpses into two very different yet deeply intertwined worlds. The low-slung, traditional architecture and markets of Muharraq contrast with the gleaming, petrodollar-fueled skyscrapers of downtown.
- Learn how Bahrain entered the modern era with a visit to the first oil well in the kingdom, located in the desert just outside the capital
- Savor Bahraini culinary traditions with a visit to the iconic Haji’s Cafe and follow-on cooking class at a local home
- Explore the markets and old town atmosphere of Muharraq
Days 3-5: Kuwait City (Kuwait)
Then head by air to nearby Kuwait City, and ancient seaport known for centuries as a cosmopolitan trading hub. The iconic Kuwait Towers dominate the cityscape, with oil tankers, cargo ships, and traditional dhows filling in the offshore views.
- Marvel at the countless mirrors adorning the glimmering Mirror House in Kuwait City – a labor of love that took the home’s owners (artists by trade) decades to complete
- Get acquainted with Kuwait City’s heritage as a cosmopolitan trading port as you wander the atmospheric stalls and stores of Souq al Mubarakiya
- Explore Kuwait’s history and culture through the ethnographic and historical exhibits at the Bait al Othman Museum
Days 5-7: Doha (Qatar)
Your journey continues in Doha, capital of the peninsular state of Qatar. Skyscrapers dominate the city, but Qatar offers much more – from world class museums to a a UNESCO-listed fort in the rural north of the country.
- Explore Qatar off-the-beaten-path, away from Doha, as you venture around the north of the peninsula, including a fishing town and the UNESCO-listed Zubarah Fort
- Admire the camels at Doha’s Shahaniyah Camel Racetrack – a top spot for this unique Arabian pastime
- Be astounded by both the architecture and the exhibits at Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art and the nearby National Museum of Qatar
Days 8-10: Muscat (Oman)
Fly from Doha to Muscat, capital of Oman and one of the Middle East’s most atmospheric cities. Here tradition often takes precedence over modernity, resulting in architecturally unique and eye-catching city. Muscat’s location amidst the craggy mountains and hills just inland from the Gulf of Oman’s azure waters only enhances the beauty.
- See Muscat’s iconic cityscape from the perspective of sailors throughout history, on an evening sunset cruise and a morning dolphin-watching cruise
- Visit the Mutrah Souq and the nearby corniche, one of the most beautiful and atmospheric areas of the city, ideal for people-watching and shopping alike
- Learn about the importance of oil and gas to the economy of Oman at the Oman Oil and Gas Exhibition Center
Days 11-12: Abu Dhabi (UAE), Al Ain
After a few days in Muscat you’ll take one final internal flight to Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE. Explore there and in the oasis town of Al Ain, just a couple of hours away by car, across the dunes and deserts of the UAE’s interior.
- Compare and contrast the modern and traditional in Abu Dhabi with visits to the manmade Yas Island complex and the Heritage Village where pre-oil culture and traditions are showcased
- Visit a vibrant camel market outside of Al Ain, a remote oasis town filled with palaces and date palm groves
- Delve deep into Emirati history as you explore several opulent palaces and forts in Al Ain connected with the early life of the UAE’s first ruler and founding father
Days 13-16: Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Umm al Quwain, Ras al Khaimah, and Ajman
The final few days of the journey are spent exploring more of the UAE, starting in the modern and futuristic economic hub of Dubai. You’ll then venture across the mountains to Fujairah and the country’s coastline along the Gulf of Oman. Your final full day will be spent driving back to Dubai, stopping off in all of the remaining emirates in the UAE.
- Learn more about Emirati culture during a shared meal at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in Dubai
- Head up 124 stories to an observation deck atop the Burj Khalifah in Dubai, the world’s tallest skyscraper
- Visit all seven of the emirates in the UAE: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Fujairah, Umm al Quwain, Ras al Khaimah, and Ajman
Dates & Prices
- Private trip prices vary by season and are subject to hotel availability for your travel dates.
- A Sunday start day is recommended.
- Listed prices below are based on double occupancy and a 2 traveler minimum.
- Hotel upgrades, additional nights, and solo traveler prices are available on request.
Land tour price, per person, starting from:
Available: January - May, September - DecemberTour, double occupancy$8,295Plus internal airfare$1,000Single supplement$1,895
- Shared accommodations as noted in the itinerary. Contact MIR for hotel upgrade prices.
- Meals, as noted in the itinerary: 15 breakfast, 6 lunches, and 2 dinners, per the itinerary.
- One arrival and one departure transfer. Additional arrival and departure transfers available at additional cost.) MIR will arrange for travelers to be met upon arrival and seen off on departure, whether or not we make your air arrangements.
- Ground transportation throughout itinerary by private vehicle (type of vehicle depends on number of travelers in your group).
- Guided sightseeing tours and entrance fees, as outlined in the itinerary.
- Services of experienced, English-speaking local guides, drivers, and other staff, as noted in the itinerary.
- Complete pre-departure electronic document that includes detailed packing suggestions, reading list links, country-specific information, maps, travel tips, and more.
- Assistance booking your custom flight arrangements, on request. (Please note that international airfare is not included in the land tour cost.)
- Electronic final update bulletin with any late news, updates, and important information.
- International airfare and taxes/fuel surcharges.
- Internal flights are priced and quoted separately.
- Meals and drinks not specified as included in the itinerary.
- Single supplement if requested or required.
- Baggage handling.
- Items of a personal nature such as phone calls, email, laundry, and alcohol.
- Gratuities to local guides, drivers, porters, and other service personnel.
- Visa fees, excess-baggage charges, airport departure taxes, vaccinations, and other medical costs.
- Expenses incurred as a result of delay, modification, or extension of a tour due to causes beyond MIR’s control.
- Travel-related insurance including cancellation, medical, and evacuation insurance.
- Optional pre- or post-tour extensions.
Level 2: Moderate, but Customizable
This ‘Essential’ itinerary designed for private travel features long days walking and standing, some long days of overland travel, some stair climbing, unpaved sidewalks and streets, uneven surfaces and steps, absent handrails, and lack of elevators. While some of these challenges are inherent in the destinations and sites, as one of our Essential Series programs this trip can be modified as needed for those travelers who are looking for a less challenging (or more challenging) program.
There is a significant amount of touring on foot, and those travelers planning to take the program as written should be able to walk one to two miles a day comfortably. Footing can be an issue and travelers should be able to negotiate streets of packed dirt, cobblestones, uneven surfaces (possibly steep and/or wet), and deal with situations without handrails or ramps. Some attractions are only accessible via steep staircases. Museums may not have elevators.
Past travelers have also encountered challenges with plumbing, bureaucratic service, variety of locally available foods, and availability and quality of public restrooms.
Accommodations in the basic program are generally four-star hotels. Upgrades are available, please call for details.
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