Explore the desert and beyond.

Oman presents a unique opportunity to explore themes like religion, environmental protection, and economics, and how elements like these interact. During a program, we seek to build a better comprehension of the faith of Islam, its contributions to world history and civilizations, the issues that affect the development of contemporary Muslim society, and the factors that shape and determine international politics and relations. Through a mixture of workshops, guided tours, observations, and interactions, we develop fact-based perspectives on this faith, practiced by over one fifth of the world.

The Basic Law of Oman considers the protection of the environment and prevention of pollution a social principle and responsibility of the State. We consider the means and methods by which this constitutional principle is carried out throughout the country, and the degree to which the nation is succeeding at preserving biodiversity, natural reserves, and ecosystems.

In the once-bleak desert, the discovery and exploitation of oil reserves has transformed the region into an area with per capita income among the highest in the world. While consumerism has become a way of life for some, the level of societal development has been highly unequal, creating major concerns around labor practices and environmental impact. We delve into the human geography of the region, looking to understand why and how people live in the Middle East

Potential Project Themes

Understanding the Islamic World
Environmenral Protection
From Desert to Dynamo

Potential Itinerary

We depart on an overnight flight into Dubai, where we transfer on a short flight to the enchanting city of Muscat.

After a thorough health, safety, and security briefing, we take an early “exploratory walk” in the area, noting how our senses are heightened by the new environment.

We visit Old Muscat, site of the Sultan’s palace, and compare it with our government institutions back home. We return to our accommodations and begin our discussion of the programmatic lenses of inquiry, collaborating to build a set of guiding questions and make meaning together.

We familiarize ourselves with the city, starting with a visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, where we meet with members of the Mosque community to learn about how conservative Ibadism upholds both austerity and peace, as well as how traditional practices have been maintained during the waves of modernization of infrastructure and services.

After a stop at the Bait Al Zubair Museum, we continue on to walk the spectacular panoramic promenade of the Mutrah Corniche, passing along the network of shops, mosques, and homes to reach the famous Muttrah Souq.

Known by locals as the “Market of Darkness” for the sunlight-blocking density of stores within the tiny alleys of the souk, the Muttrah Souq provides an effective context for students to push their comfort zones and divide into smaller groups to facilitate better interactions. We close the day with a reflection on the tourist-local dynamic around shopping, and how the experience of the souk is both authentic and contrived.

We drive for one hour to visit the Ras Al-Jinz Scientific Center located on the eastern shores of the Arabian peninsula in the Ras Al Hadd Turtle Reserve. Developed to enhance the research, build information-sharing capacity, and enhance environmental awareness among people in Oman and protect the future of turtles. The area is probably the most important nesting concentration of nesting endangered green turtles the Indian Ocean. We take in the fascinating spectacle of sea turtles nesting in a completely natural environment, learning about their life-cycle, threats, and responses.

In the evening, we take a sailing cruise in an authentic dhow.

We travel through the eastern region of Oman. reaching the spectacular landscape of Sharqiya Sands, home to the Bedu (Bedouin) and their camels. The coppercoloured sands stretch from north to south, with high rolling dunes stretching as far as the eye can see. We spend a night camping in the desert, taking in the unique stillness and beauty of our surroundings.

After a morning spent learning the traditions of the desert, we board our bus for the lengthy drive back to Muscat, arriving in the early evening.

Nizwa is an ancient city in the Ad Dakhiliyah region of northern Oman and is one of the oldest cities in Oman. It was once a center of trade, religion, education, and art. Set amid a verdant spread of date palms, it is strategically located at the crossroads of routes linking the interior with Muscat and the lower reaches of Dhofar thus serving as the link for a large part of the country. Today, Nizwa is a diverse prosperous place with numerous agricultural, historical and recreational aspects.

The town serves as a wonderful base for our explorations into the surrounding mountains, specifically the Western Hajar and key sites within the region. We spend the afternoon of our eighth day exploring Jebel Shams, the highest mountain in Oman, right in the heart of the Western Hajar Mountain chain in Al Dakhiliyah region. Based on student interest, we will do a short hike to one of the summits for a view. On our return, we will also visit the Bahia Fort where we’ll have a student-lead reflection on the program thus far winding down into our final days.

From there, we return to Nizwa and enjoy a dinner in the town before getting a good night’s sleep.

During the morning, we transfer to visit the Saiq Plateau. Lying at 6,000ft above sea level the plateau has a peculiarly pleasant microclimate. Key regional crops include everything from peaches to pomegranates and – in April and May, damask roses. We will visit the beautiful traditional village of Al Ayn, with its ingenious falaj irrigation waterways, and families who still produce rosewater using centuries’ old techniques.

In the afternoon, we return to Nizwa to visit the old traditional Souq, a key place for the city as a connecting city along the trade routes in Oman. Although there are of course a great many shops and stalls catering purely to tourists, there are also a great many selling traditional wares, food and goods to other locals.

We regroup in the early evening and share our experiences, and then have a final discussion focusing on the programmatic themes and our (emerging) understandings.

We arise to transfer back to Muscat. We close the program with a ceremony dedicated to gratitude for each other and for the place that was our home and then head to the airport for our flights home.

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