Gold, Frankincense and Trade

New itinerary – in Oman & Jordan with Jon Baines Tours
Tour dates: November 4 – 17, 2014

Follow the Frankincense Trail through two ancient countries where historical and architectural treasures blend with layers of culture, dramatic mountains, coastline and desert, all enriched with ancient ruins, timeless tradition and biblical history.

Frankincense was the oil of the ancient world and worth its weight in gold. Given to Jesus by the three magi and, reportedly, by the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon, the fragrant resin was once the ultimate symbol of wealth and status.

Journalist and author Jonathan Fryer leads this tour explaining the importance of frankincense on worlds both ancient and modern. His talks bring to life the history of the region through a thousand years of trade, antiquity and culture.

The tour starts in Oman in the coastal city of Muscat with its Grand Mosque and Sultan’s Palace. A visit to Al- Jalali fort, built to guard the harbour, is followed by a sunset dhow cruise.

Set out to Sur along Oman’s scenic coast road the following morning, stopping at the fishing village of Quriyat. Continue to the beautiful spring of Wadi Shab, visit Qalhat, once a stopping point for Marco Polo on his journey to China, and arrive in Sur, an attractive beachside town to see how dhows, once used to transport frankincense, are still traditionally made.

Early next day, leave the coast and drive into the mountains towards Nizwa, one of Oman’s oldest cities. Here is classical Omani sand-coloured architecture, nestled within an oasis of date palms on a plain surrounded by mountains. Visit the Nizwa Fort, and its 40m high round tower providing wonderful views of the plains below, then browse the souk, famed for its exquisite local silverwork, before setting out through the mountains to Jebel Al Akhdar.

Wake up in a spectacular mountain setting and spend the day exploring the great Jebel Akbar rose terraces of Saiq Plateau. Drive to Wadi Bani Habib, a tranquil spot where the village, perched at the top of the Wadi, is the perfect example of traditional life in the mountains.

In the morning, drive back to Muscat for a flight to the subtropical city of Salalah where you’ll visit the museum of the Frankincense Land, which traces the ancient history of the Frankincense Trail. Afterwards, drive through coconut, papaya and banana plantations to the old town of Salalah and visit the Al Husn souq, fragrant with frankincense.

Depart the next day in 4×4 vehicles and drive to the vast desert known as the Empty Quarter, stopping at the small Bedouin town of Thumrait. Continue into the desert towards the site of Ubar, one of the great lost cities of Arabia, once famed for its golden pillars. Its excavation is an important archaeological project revealing much of life in the desert’s ancient centre of trade.

Return to Salalah in the afternoon driving via the UNESCO Heritage-listed Wadi Dawkah, known as the ‘Frankincense Wadi’, which boasts the biggest frankincense tree grove in the area.

Fly back to Muscat where the afternoon is your own to enjoy. The next day, take the early afternoon flight to Amman to start your journey in Jordan.

Next morning, drive to the stunning Roman ruins of Jerash, amongst the best preserved outside of Italy. After lunch, return to Amman and spend the afternoon exploring the city, both ancient and modern.

Drive to Petra via Bethany located on the edge of the Dead Sea, where John the Baptist baptised Christ, before heading to the historic village of Madaba. Superb Byzantine mosaics once lay hidden beneath many houses here and the finest is in the Greek Orthodox Church, a huge 6th century work comprising a map of the Holy Land. Continue along the Kings Road and visit Mt Nebo, from where Moses first saw the Promised Land. Then it’s on to Petra, driving through stunning wadis on the way.

The unchallenged queen of Jordan is the rose city of Petra. This awe inspiring city is hewn from a towering rock wall of colours ranging from honey gold to rich red. Learn how the ancient trade route of frankincense, silk and spices made the Nebateans a rich and powerful people.

The tour ends in the magnificent desert landscape of Wadi Rum on an exhilarating jeep safari. Return to Amman for the late evening flight back to London.

The cost of the tour including flights from London is £3,550

Tour Leader Jonathan Fryer is a freelance British writer, lecturer and broadcaster who has reported from around the world for a variety of magazines, radio and television stations (notably for the BBC’s programme “From Our Own Correspondent”) since he started his journalism career covering the Vietnam War. He is the author of more than a dozen non-fiction books – mainly history and biography – and teaches a course in Humanities at London University’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Full details of the tour can be found here:

Jon Baines Tours:

Jon Baines runs specialist cultural tours and medical study tours, tailor made tours, and corporate and golf tours. Each tour gives you privileged access to a country with a tour leader that knows more than just where the hotel is and how to order a drink. All their tour leaders are experts in both the country you are visiting and the focused theme of the tour.