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The Oman Conference, President's message, Al-Hoota Cave unveiled
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From the Editor
Welcome to latest news from the world of ISCA. Have YOU booked for the upcoming Conference in Oman? Every new piece of information or new image just confirms what an incredible part of the world Oman is, and how amazing the Conference will be. All booking details are here - so BOOK NOW. Immediately book your place for the Conference by completing the registration form  http://touroman.om/iscac-meeting/ and booking your hotel room http://askvacations.com/iscac.php#
These Booking forms have recently been updated, and can also be printed and filled out.

Also in this Newsletter, Images of Oman, the reopening of Al Hoota Cave, news on all ISCA matters from the President. Enjoy!
Dan Cove
Do you really need more reasons to book for the Oman 2016 Conference?? Then just look at this extraordinary selection of images below showing some of the sites to be visited. Get excited..!
The Jebel Akhdar, "the Green Mountain", is part of the Al Hajar Mountains range in Ad Dakhiliyah Governorate of Oman. It is one of Oman’s most spectacular areas. The highest point, Jebel Shams (Mountain of the Sun), is around 3,000 metres (around 9,800 feet) high.
Wadi Bani Khalid is a wadi about 203 km from MuscatOman. It is the best-known wadi of the Sharqiyah region. Its stream maintains a constant flow of water throughout the year. Large pools of water and boulders are scattered along the course of the wadi. As a geographical area, Wadi Bani Khalid covers a large swathe of low land and mountains.
Caves form some of the interesting features of this wadi. These include Kahf Maqal which is one of the Sultanate's underground chambers. However, reaching this cave takes a lot of effort and visitors should be prepared for the adventure. Springs of water are also common in this wadi. The springs of Ain Hamouda, Ain al Sarooj and Ain Dawwa, among others, are a blessing to the eye as one ventures along the wadis. The village of Badaa is a well-known tourist stop in the valley. The wadi is approx. 270 km from Muscat
The Wahiba Sands is a large desert area just four hours drive from Muscat. Its geography is mixed: in the north are smaller dunes and wide flat areas.
A surprisingly wide array of flora and fauna call the sands home, as do about 3,000 Bedouin, some of whom you will get to meet when you visit the Wahiba. There are also camps to spend the night in the desert, a remarkable experience that starts with a golden sunset, continues with a densely-starred sky and concludes with the soft light of a desert dawn.
There are ninety tower tombs spread around a large area of al-Jaylah in the Wilayat of Sur. The site is unique in its geological diversity as it is the meeting point of several wadis running in different directions: Wadi Shab and Wadi Ṭīwi to the north and Wadi al-Ṭa’iyyīn and Wadi Khabbah to the south.
This glorious piece of modern Islamic architecture was a gift to the nation from Sultan Qaboos to mark the 30th year of his reign. Quietly imposing from the outside, the main prayer hall is breathtakingly rich. The Persian carpet alone measures 70m by 60m wide, making it the second-largest hand-loomed Iranian carpet in the world; it took 600 women four years to weave. The mosque can accommodate 20,000 worshippers, including 750 woman in a private prayer hall. 
Bahla Fort comprises the ruins of a typical Omani military fortress, built by the local Banu Nabhan tribe that ruled between the mid-12th and 15th centuries. It is one of four historic fortresses situated at the foot of Jabal Al Akhdar highlands. Its walls and towers were built in adobe, on a sandstone base. The fort became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987.
Majlis al Jinn, which translates to “Meeting Place of the Spirits”, is one of the world's ten largest cave chambers. It is situated in Oman, southeast of Muscat, and is notable for its isolated and relatively inaccessible location. The only entrances to Majlis al Jinn are small openings formed by rainwater erosion atop the remote Selma Plateau, which forms the peak of the cave’s magnificent freestanding domed roof. The sheer size of the chamber, when contrasted with its unassuming exterior, renders it a unique natural wonder.

FINAL CONFERENCE PROGRAM

ISCA CONFERENCE, OMAN, 2016
(PROVISIONAL PROGRAMME 27 March 2016)
 
Day 1: 6 Nov 2016, Sunday  
      Arrival Muscat (Muscat International Airport) Airport transfer to conference hotels
Registration  
Board Meeting
(Board Members arrival 5th Nov 2016, Saturday)
Morning & Afternoon, six hours
Dinner: Beit al Luban  
Overnight Muscat  
Day 2: 7 Nov 2016, Monday  
Formal Opening Special Guest (TBC)
Lecture: Introduction to the geology of Oman Geological Society of Oman
Lecture: The wild caves of Oman Andrew Lawrence, Min. of Tourism
Lecture: Adventure tourism in Oman Stephen Jones, Oman Sail
Dinner: Birkat Al Mawz Bedouin style dinner (outdoor)
Overnight Nizwa  
Day 3: 8 Nov 2016, Tuesday  
Al Hoota Cave 850m + 430 stairs or adventure option
Lectures & discussion – Management of show caves ISCA to provide speakers
Nizwa Souk Traditional market
Dinner: Nizwa Fort Oman cultural evening
Overnight Nizwa  
Day 4: 9 Nov 2016, Wednesday 4x4: Nizwa – Wahiba Sands
Lunch at Bedouin house  
Wahiba Sands 30km drive into dune fields
Dinner: 1000 Nights Camp Buffet with singers and dancers
Overnight 1000 Nights Camp Tented desert camp
Day 5: 10 Nov, Thursday 4x4: Wahiba - Sur
Salma Plateau: Majlis al Jinn Cave View entrance only
Salma Plateau: Al Jeela Tombs 1-2 km walk
Dinner at hotel in Sur Venue to be finalised
Overnight Sur  
Day 6: 11 Nov 2016, Friday Coach: Sur area
Wadi Shaab - Water Cavern   6km rough terrain walk & 150m swim
Programme for those unable to manage Wadi Shaab:  
Sur: Fortresses and dhow building yards  
Qalhat: Archaeological site  
Wadi Tiwi 4km walk
Overnight Sur  
Day 7: 12 Nov 2016, Saturday Coach: Sur - Muscat
Falling Star Sinkhole (Hawiyat Najm) 800m walk + optional stairs
Free time (Shopping in Mutrah Souk) +2 hours
Open bus sunset tour Old Muscat & Mutrah The historic quarters of Muscat
Farewell Dinner: Evening Dhow cruise Mutrah harbour
Overnight Muscat  
Day 8: 13 Nov 2016, Sunday  
Departure from Muscat  
 
Pre/Post Conference Tour packages:  
Variety of options through Tour Oman.
See conference website. Note: link will be available at later stage as the website is still being developed.
 

            Message from the President                                                                                                                   

Dear ISCA Members,
 
We just completed a wonderful summer season receiving record attendance for our show cave, Natural Bridge Caverns.  Texas is usually very hot and dry this time of year but we have also been blessed with rain that has made it lush and green on the surface and the caverns beautiful with dripping and flowing water.  We have also been fortunate, not to have seen the terrible flooding that other regions of the United States have had like the state of Louisiana.  

Speaking of natural disasters, my heart goes out to the people of Italy in the region hit by the devastating earthquake.  The loss of life from this disaster is so saddening. I am happy to report that ISCA Secretary / Treasurer Renata Marinelli and our other friends in Genga, Italy are ok. They heard and felt the quake but damage did not occur there.  The epicenter of the quake was in the southern portion of their region and they are continuing to experience aftershocks.  Our ISCA headquarters is located in the village of Genga as well as Frasassi Cave.  Our ISCA Congress 2018 will be hosted by Frasassi and held in Genga. 

As I reported in the June newsletter, Renata has been recovering from knee surgery.  Unfortunately, she has not been able to heal as well as hoped and another surgery might be necessary.  Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers for her health and a full recovery.  

Thanks to all of our members who paid their dues so timely after information was provided on the new ISCA bank account.  If you have not yet initiated your dues bank transfer, please do so as soon as possible.  Your association operates on a small budget and the funds are needed and appreciated. 

Congratulations to our friends at Al Hoota Cave in Oman who recently re-opened their cave to guests on September 5th!  The cave had been closed for renovations and I know they are very pleased to have one of Oman's most popular tourist destinations open again.  I also know they are excited to showcase Al Hoota Cave to us! 

The primary focus of this newsletter is to provide you with more information about our upcoming conference in Oman.  Our hosts have shared more pictures and descriptions of the places we will see and experience to entice you to attend!   

In this newsletter you will find the current program, registration, and hotel booking information.  The conference is about two months out and it's time for everyone to register and make your hotel reservations!  The Al Hoota team has worked hard to keep the registration fee and hotel rates as low as possible for our likely attendance. We have reached the point in time where our hosts have had to make non-refundable deposits for our conference and they would greatly appreciate the courtesy of members registering as soon as possible.  If you have any questions or need help with registration you can contact  Sara Chortani of Tour Oman at sarac@tour-oman.com  or on +968 9804 8274. You can always contact me too at bwuest@naturalbridecaverns.com, I look forward to hearing that you will be attending!  

ISCA Board Members, please note that you will need to arrive one day early on November 5th to attend the Board meeting that begins on the morning of November 6th.  All ISCA members are welcome to attend and listen to the Board meeting.  

I look forward to seeing you in Oman!  

If there is anything I can do to help you, if you have interest in serving in some capacity, or if you have any suggestions regarding what we can do to make ISCA even better, please let me know.

My best wishes to all of you.  

Blessings,

President
International Show Caves Association
The President admiring Sydney Harbour, Australia prior to the 2014 ISCA Congress. The opportunity to travel and to experience amazing new parts of the World in the company of the ISCA Family is one of the greatest things about membership!

Oman Unveils new Al Hoota Experience

Al Hoota Cave, Oman’s most popular natural tourist destination, will reopen to the public on 5th September 2016. The first tourist cave to open in the GCC, the facilities at Al Hoota have undergone significant improvements and will be open for visitors ahead of the Eid Al Adha holiday.

The cavesystem is one of Oman’s true natural wonders, with Al Hoota experiencing around 75,000 visitors a year before it closed for renovation. The enhanced Al Hoota experience will enable people to get the most from their visits. The ability to plan a visit online means people can book the elements of the visit they want, creating a bespoke experience.

Before even reaching the cave, visitors will get to experience Oman’s only electric train which runs from the visitor centre right into the cave.

A completely refurbished visitor will improve visitor flow throughout the attraction, as well as enabling visitors to discover more about the history of the caves at an interactive geological museum. Families are well catered for, with a children’s play area and a gift shop on site. A new restaurant adds to the well-rounded experience.

Eng. Khalid Mirza, Director of Projects Development at Omran, said: “Al Hoota is the first tourist cave to open in the GCC, first opening to the public in November 2006. It was critical that maintaining such an important and precious natural attraction was done comprehensively, especially to address areas of the cave that’d been affected by floods. Omran has worked closely with the Ministry of Tourism to enhance the natural assets of the cave to create a top class tourist experience.”

He added: “International, regional and Omani visitors will all enjoy a truly authentic and memorable experience, and we are really proud to reopen one of Oman’s incredible natural assets to the public. We’re expecting a lot of visitors to come and discover the caves during the Eid Al Adha weekend, whether for the first time or for a return visit!”

The cave system stretches more than 4.5km, with only 500m publicly accessible, however visitors can discover a lot of the systems’ history and features in the geological museum which showcases of over 150 items of rock, wood, corals and other unique materials. The exhibition also provides four interactive stations with a live show of each phenomenon to allow visitors to learn about the formation of this stunning natural phenomenon.

Responsibility of the development was handed over to Omran by the Ministry of Tourism on 1st June 2015. Since the handover, Omran has invested in broad enhancements of the site to enhance visitor experience, and to improve facilities at one of the GCC’s most breathtaking tourism attractions.

The Al Hoota Cave will open to the public on 5th September 2016 , with a new website launch on the day featuring online bookings and prepaying for tickets. Opening times are Saturday-Thursday from 9am-6pm and on Fridays from 9am-12pm and 2pm-5pm.

Visit omran.om

Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) drives investment, growth and development of the rapidly growing tourism and real-estate sectors in the Sultanate of Oman. We are master developers of major real estate & tourism, heritage and urban developments, delivering some of nation’s most iconic destinations. Our projects create unique experiences that benefit the social and economic growth of the Sultanate.Omran has a diverse portfolio of developments, hospitality assets and joint ventures that span across the Sultanate and contribute to growing the capacity of the Oman’s tourism sector. Our key projects include Madinat Al Irfan Urban Centre; a 7.4 million sqm mixed-use development designed to the best international standards in urban planning and strategically linked to the nearby Muscat International Airport and the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre; the Sultanate’s upcoming flagship business centre. Madinat Al Irfan will generate significant inbound revenues, and through Public Private Partnerships will increase capital retention within the local economy.Omran is also the master developers of Mina Sultan Qaboos Waterfront that is set to be one of the top waterfront destinations in the region. The project is centered around the timeless scenery of Muttrah's historic port, fort and mountains. The first phase of the waterfront will be delivered in time for the upcoming global events in the region such as Expo 2020 and the FIFA 2022 World Cup. It will consist of various hospitality, lifestyle, and entertainment, cultural zones as well as residential units that will redefine the experience of Muscat and provide investors with a significant opportunity to participate in a unique and unparalleled marketplace offering.We develop relationships that create solid foundations for future economic diversification and prosperity of Oman, as well as providing outstanding long-term investment opportunities for private and public sector companies. Omran’s proven track record of delivering tourism projects to world-class standards is an outcome of our commitment to integrity, transparency and collaboration. By working in partnership with local communities and embracing the unique aspects of Oman’s culture and heritage, we built sustainability into every project while safeguarding the natural beauty of the country for the future generations.

ISCA Calendar

19-23 September 2016

NCA Convention: Squire Boon Caverns, Indiana, USA

6-12 November 2016

ISCA Conference: Al Hoota Cave, Oman

15-18 November 2016

IAAPA 2016: Orlando Florida, USA

July 2017

17th UIS Congress: Sydney, Australia

October 2018

8th Congress of ISCA: Frasassi Cave, Genga, Italy

Main Contributors


Brad Wuest
ISCA President

Friedrich Oedl
ISCA 1st Vice President

Pradyot Bhagat
Cluster Sales Manager Oman Tourism Development
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Copyright © 2016 International Show Cave Association, All rights reserved.


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