One of the first things you may notice while sailing around the Middle East is how diverse the landscape is. Oman is highly regarded for its extraordinary natural beauty, and wherever you venture to, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views. As you arrive into the cruise port in Muscat, situated in Northern Oman, you can gaze in awe over the Hajar Mountains, and catch a rare chance to view the majestic Mountain Gazelle.
During your stay in Oman, why not take an excursion to the barren desert plains of the Empty Quarter or visit the sandy dunes of Central Oman. No matter what you decide to do with your time in Oman, it’s difficult to find anywhere in the country that isn’t naturally vibrant and incredible.
On the other side of the landscape scale are the many areas of the Middle East that are becoming major tourist attractions - those that are building bigger and better man-made buildings, sculptures, and structures to rival places such as New York and Las Vegas for example.
In fact, Dubai is the Middle East’s answer to the exciting, cosmopolitan, and futuristic cities of the west. The Burj Khalifa is currently the tallest building in the world, while the Dubai Fountain holds the world record for the largest dancing fountains, by far overtaking the famous fountains that line Las Vegas’ luxurious Bellagio Resort.
In a part of the world that is generally known for its history and tradition, its old treasures and hidden cities, these modern and contemporary offerings are somewhat unbelievable. Historically speaking, some parts of the Middle East are not only some of the most important places in the world, but also some of the best preserved examples of long forgotten cultures and civilisations. The lost city of Petra, for example, gives a real insight into the extent and grandeur of the Roman settlers and their architecture. The gigantic Roman theatre, the Royal tombs, and the places of worship are some of the best preserved ruins in Petra, and are truly incredible to see in person. Of course, it’s not just history and geography buffs who enjoy a visit to Petra - movie lovers are also known to visit the site, marvelling at the landmarks featured in Indiana Jones!
The waters of the Red Sea are famed the world over as a diver’s delight. The temperature of the sea remains between 21 and 28 degrees Celsius all year round, making it the perfect temperature for taking a dip, and the dive sites are both challenging and interesting. The Egyptian coastlines are also considered some of the best places to dive, with the seemingly magical caves of Ras Nasrani, the wonderful eel garden at the White Knight location, and the mysterious deep canyons of the Tower dive site near Sharm El Sheikh.
Not into water sports? No problem. Back on dry land you can treat yourself to a few trinkets and souvenirs whilst shopping in cool, modern, air-conditioned complexes or you can choose a more authentic Middle Eastern experience with a visit to one of the various spice-scented bazaars and souks. Gold, incense sticks, perfumes, and rugs are some of the most popular buys for tourists to the Middle East.
A Middle East cruise showcases the delightful riches of colourful and ancient civilisations as well as boasting a melting pot of Arabic, African, Asian, and European cultures, showing the staggering diversity the Middle East has to offer. More and more cruise lines are incorporating Middle Eastern itineraries into their schedules, and the ports are constantly being renovated and rejuvenated to attract more cruise passengers. There has never been a better time to cruise around the Middle East!
Salalah is a wonderful port of call to visit to see a fantastically diverse city of great interest. Salalah boasts a fabulous opportunity to enjoy the modern resort experience whilst also combining this with timeless Arabic traditions and influences. Here passengers have the chance to roam ancient ruins and purchase frankincense as well as marvel at the outstanding mountainous backdrop of the city, an amazing sight for a once in a lifetime photograph. The beaches here are truly beautiful settings and perfect for soaking up the warm climate sunshine of this incredible part of the world. Alternatively if you would prefer to be more active and explore the sights then take in the palace of the Queen of Sheba and the lost city of Samhuran. The city boasts an incredible array of antiquity.
Here natural beauty combines elegantly with resort creations and ancient tradition. For natural beauty experiences be sure to opt for a desert tour and enjoy the fascinating scenery and cultures away from the city. Amazingly this port of call also combines this with the chance to wander delightful lush countryside regions and the chance to see the springs of Ain Sahnot and the incredible heights of Jabal al Qar. Salalah is a wonderful port of call with a captivating vibe and intriguing atmosphere. The many excursion opportunities are excellent but if you prefer to sit back and relax then this is also an ideal place for you.
Muscat presents a fabulous array of scenery and exquisite aesthetic beauty from the moment you arrive. It almost has a magical feel about it this port of call with its visually stunning beach settings ideal for lazing the day away under the blissful sunshine or opt for something a little more active and the chance to soak up the desert lifestyle and the awe inspiring mountains that create an amazing back drop upon arrival. Passengers visiting here will also love the vibrant metropolis of Muscat and the intriguing blend of culture. Muscat is the meeting point of many civilisations such as Asia, Africa and Arabic heightening the already alluring ambience. Sightseeing here is sensational, the Sultan’s Main Palace is situated at the old port area and still remains a great place to take a stroll and soak up the rich cultural heritage. Guests can also marvel at the entrance to the port area as it is protected by two Portuguese forts known as Al Jalali and Mirani designed to guard the city.
uscat excursions are excellent and for those wishing to head into the city you are in for a treat. We recommend a city tour, which, depending on the cruise line you are travelling with, will usually come in different formats. The city’s architecture throughout is interesting in itself and there are many sightseeing wonders to see. The Grand Mosque is spectacular covering 1 million square feet and accommodating 20,000 worshippers at a time. Be sure to also see the Bait Al Zubair Museum notorious for its presentation and exhibitions into the history of the people. Here guests will also find a fascinating array of jewellery, weapons and handcrafted artefacts. Shopping enthusiasts will adore the Muscat experience especially with a visit to the muttrah souk for a wonderful selection of exotic spices and traditional omani purchases to be made; ideal for a special souvenir to take home. Cruise passengers looking for an adventure will love a trip into the heart of the desert and the chance to meet the Bedouin people. Take a camel ride through the Wahiba Desert and explore the dramatic scenery. This tour is usually via a four wheel drive experience and will often take you towards the stunning Hajar Mountains for the chance to escape the city. Here there’s also the opportunity to experience the incredible dune drive where you will be whisked across rolling sand dunes. This tour may also include a desert lunch but this will again depend on the cruise line you are travelling with as excursions do vary. Sticking to the theme of getting away from it all, Muscat is also a fantastic port of call for Dolphin spotting and many cruise lines do run excursion opportunities to take you to the best spots for doing so. Off the coast you will discover these intelligent creatures enjoying the warm waters in their own playful style, it’s a great chance to get up close and see them in their natural territory.
As mentioned before, Muscat is also a fabulous place for enjoying the sunshine on a beautiful beach and many cruise lines will provide beach transfers for passengers to simply spend the day relaxing under the glistening rays. The Oman Dive Centre Beach is usually the most common location used and it’s not hard to see why considering its superb beauty.
Located in the Gulf of Aqaba, in the south of the country, Aqaba is Jordan’s only port. As a notable and historic port, Aqaba has served much importance to the country of Jordan for over 5’000 years. Today, the popularity of this port is flourishing, with monumental efforts underway to transform the destination into one of the most popular upscale resorts in the Red Sea. As developments continue, Aqaba remains a popular port of call on many Middle Eastern cruise itineraries, thanks in part to its ideal proximity to the ancient lost city of Petra. Carved out of Mount Hor’s rose-coloured rock face by Nabataeans in 3rd century BC, Petra is truly breathtaking and thoroughly deserving of its title as one of the 7 new wonders of the world. Visit at sunrise or sunset for a magical sight as the sun turns the stone the most spectacular ruby shade.
As well as serving as a base for explorations of Petra, Aqaba is also famous for its world-renowned diving. Beautifully preserved coral reefs and startling marine life have led to Aqaba’s waters being considered the best in the Red Sea when it comes to diving, and you will find endless species making their homes amongst reefs and wrecks just off the coast. There are dozens of dive sites along the coastline and a huge choice of dive centres accommodating all abilities, from snorkelling beginners to advanced deep divers. Aqaba attracts thousands fewer divers than nearby destinations including Sharm El Sheikh and dive schools are dedicated to preserving the quality of the reefs and marine life that call it home. If you would rather keep your feet dry, opt for a glass-bottomed boat trip. You’ll get an insight into the underwater world below, whilst at the same time taking in some fantastic panoramic views of the port approach and desert landscapes.Nearby Wadi Rum was made famous by T.E. Lawrence, with him describing the flat, otherworldly desert area as “vast, echoing and God-like”. The landscapes of this desert valley certainly stir the senses and it is easy to see why the area was chosen as the backdrop for scenes in ‘Lawrence of Arabia’. Like Petra, Wadi Rum is within close proximity to Aqaba and excursions run regularly. While the parched scenery is largely uninterrupted, visitors will find a handful of restaurants and vendors offering traditional Bedouin jewellery. Traditional wares can also be found at the bustling Jerusalem Bazaar, where locals gather amidst a cacophony of noise and colours. If you’re looking for souvenirs unlike the usual magnets and shot glasses, you will certainly happen across something here, with Bedouin jewellery, rugs, soap and spices on offer at prices waiting to be haggled. Break up time spent shopping with plates of mezze and pots of thick black coffee. Aqaba is a city steeped in history and you will come across centuries-old architecture at every turn. Plan a visit to the 14th century Aqaba Fort and be sure to look out for excavations taking place around the city; recent archaeological digs east of Istikal Street unearthed what is thought to be the world’s oldest church, dating back to the late 3rd century.