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Saudi Arabia... The Forbidden Kingdom

February 10 to 23, 2019

As the birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia has been shielding itself from the eyes of the west for a long time but time has come now that the Kingdom is moving in huge steps towards modernization and openness. But this is also a land with a vibrant cultural pedigree, aside from its glitzy oil-rich modern cities. Amongst the rock-hewn splendors of Madain Saleh and Madain Shoeb, you will explore Nabatean heritage equal to what Petra offers. Most of the great empires of the ancient world traded with the Arabian Kingdoms that commanded the important spice trade routes in the peninsula. Colorful markets, desert landscapes, coral reefs, rock engravings, ancient monuments, traditional mud-brick cities,  and imposing fortresses are abundant in a country that has so much to offer to those who choose to venture in it & explore its enigmatic and intriguing side.

Trip remark: The Madain Saleh is going through detailed restoration at the moment and it is very hard to predict when it is going to be open so if it will be closed at the time of your visit we will offer another Nabataean site known as Madain Shuaib and keep the right to change the order of the sightseeing activities as below.

This is a joint venture trip which is being promoted and sold jointly by “Spiekermann Travel” and “Original World Travel”

Per person sharing in double occupancy (land Only): 6,085.00
Single Supplement: $935.00   

Led by Local Guide

Price based on a group size minimum of 6 and maximum of 16 participants

Extra night Jeddah: $120 per person twin; single: $207

Includes arrival transfer.

Your tour does not include

  • International airfare
  • Saudi Arabia Visa - $249.00 at time of printing plus handling fees. Passport should not include any Israeli stamps.
  • Beverages with meals and meals not noted.
  • Trip surcharge to operate below required minimum participants.
  • Items of a personal nature, i.e. souvenirs, laundry, phone calls, emails, etc.
  • Dayroom or extra hotel nights necessitated by airline flight schedule changes.
  • Transfers if arriving or departing on flights that are at different times than the group.
  • Travel protection insurance.

Your tour includes

  • All transfers with assistance and luggage porterage.
  • Transportation within country using A/C motor coach.
  • All mentioned accommodations in 5* hotels (or best available in smaller towns 3-4* in some places).
  • All meals as listed (B: breakfast, L: lunch and D: dinner).
  • All entrance fees to visited sites (mentioned in the itinerary).
  • Service of professional English speaking tour guide along some local guides at various cities and sites.
  • Bottled water on bus during touring days.
  • Assistance in obtaining visa approval letter.
  • All gratuities to guide, porters, drivers, hotel and restaurant staff etc.

Trip Grade:

II Active – Some hikes, slightly more demanding walks at or to sites, few elevations, comfortable but busy schedule and some long rides.

Lodging Level:

*** -****Superior: In large cities 5 stars' hotels and in some smaller town, lodges and hotels with limited amenities, average service and comfort level acceptable to western standard. (3 or 4 stars)

Fine Print: Saudi Arabia is a dry country. Alcohol is absolutely forbidden (as are narcotics and pornographic materials). Dress is modest and women do not need to cover their heads. They should wear abayas at all times (which will be provided by the agency in Saudi Arabia the next day after arrival). Be advised that you will be fingerprinted and undergo a retinal scan upon arrival in the country. Also be aware that most places in the Kingdom shut down between noon and 3 pm every day as well as several other times during prayers and often the group will be returned to the hotel for some free time during these periods. Women do NOT have to cover their hair. In addition, sometimes sites can be closed for no foreseen reasons or authorities can also deny visit of certain places without prior notice and we (STS) are not responsible for any such events/acts.

Photographs by Kaylee Dall, www.kayleejay.com

View Tour Itinerary

Sunday, Feb 10
Arrive Jeddah

Arrive in Jeddah, meet, assist and transfer to your hotel for check in and overnight. Dinner will be provided only if you arrive to Jeddah prior to 8 PM (D)

Monday, Feb 11
Arrive Jeddah

A morning visit to some of the old Ottoman houses, mostly constructed from coral and reinforced with wood so that beams criss-cross the interior walls. The most beautiful & well known is Nasif House, which was built during the 1850s by the well-known Nasif Family, one of the most influential trading families in the history of Jeddah. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the house was one of the most important buildings in Jeddah. It was here that King Abdul Aziz spent his first night in Jeddah, as the guest of Mohammed Nasif, after he led his victorious army into the capital of the Western Province. Then visit Altaybat Int’l City for Sciences and Knowledge also known as Abdul Rauf Khalil Art Museum. which is a very beautiful museum that houses endless collections of arts, ethnography and archaeology artifacts. After a lunch at a local restaurant, continue to visit the corniche of Jeddah (sea-side promenade), a major attraction that acts as an open air museum displaying an array of modern sculptures ana gathering social place for locals. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Feb 12
Jeddah – Abha

Check out from the hotel and visit the colorful Fish Market and a walking tour along the corniche (Promenade) on the Red Sea to admire the different parks, the displays of sculptures and art work before lunch along the seaside followed by transfer to the airport for your flight to Abha. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Wendesday, Feb 13
Khamis Mushayt (Abha)

Asir, with its capital at Abha, is mainly a highland province and includes the entire area of southwest Saudi Arabia till the Yemen border. Perched at the highest point accessible by road, the cable car takes visitors on its 7km ride at an altitude of 2,500 meters. Full day excursion with a visit to Mount Souda, Khamis Mushayt, and Hamsan Village. We first stop at the top of Mount Souda, located in the Hejaz Mountains. We continue to Khamis Mushayt, an industrial city about 25 km east of Abha. The city's antique silver market is its chief tourist draw. Afterwards stop at Al Hamsan Traditional Village on the outskirts of town, an imaginative development consisting of a stone tower and buildings; including a museum that is replica of an Asir home two decades ago, an auditorium, a traditional restaurant and a gift shop. Lunch at a local restaurant in Bin Himsan Al Habala, the location of the first cable car in Asir, is named after an old village located on a steep 400 meter cliff made famous by the people of Al Habala. The inhabitants lived in stone dwelling clinging to the cliff-face for the security and safety found in the rock walls. So sheer was the cliffside that the villagers --men and women-- lowered themselves down into ravine on ropes. Visit of the traditional baskets’ market and Muftaha Village Art Gallery. This evening, visit a typical Saudi home for personal interaction with some wonderful local people. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Feb 14
Abha - Al Ula

Breakfast at Hotel then transfer to airport for your flight to Jeddah, arrive and connect to a flight to Al Ula. Transfer to our luxury camp for check-in and lunch. This afternoon visit the old houses, Hijaz Railway Station and the magnificent iconic Elephant Rock. (B,L,D)

Friday, Feb 15
Al Ula

Start the day excursion to archaeological site of Madain Saleh visiting, Nabatean Well, Qasr Al Bint, Diwan and Al Farid Palace. Wadi Al Ula, gateway to Madain Saleh is known for its Lion of the Lihyanites - predecessors of the Natateans (100 to 500 BC). Madain Saleh was known as “Al Hijr” in the ancient times & served as a stopover on a very prosperous trade route. The cities lie on 9 sq kms in an area of isolation about 845 Km from Jeddah in the northwestern part of Saudi Arabia between Tabouk and Madinah. Return to our camp for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Saturday, Feb 16
Al Ula - Al Jouf

This morning drive to Al Jouf via Tima.in Tima see Haddaj water well, Al Hamra Palace and Raham Fort. Countiune on the drive to visit Dowmat Al Jandal. The ancient stone fortress, also known as Marid Castle, is 2,000Ft high. Built with stones on a hill it majestically overlooks the old city from the south. In the city visit Omar’s mosque, named after the second Moslem Caliph: Omar Ibn Al Khatab. Transfer to your hotel for check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Trip remark: Madain Saleh is going through detailed restoration at the moment and it is very hard to predict when it is going to be open so if it will be closed at the time of your visit we will offer another Nabataean site known as Madain Shuaib and keep the right to change the order of the sightseeing activities as below.

Friday, Feb 15
Al Ula – Tabuk

In the morning, drive to Khuraiba Lion Tombs for a visit from the outside then continue to Al Wajh to visit the old city. After lunch, visit Madain Shuaib, the 2nd most important Nabatean site in the Kingdom with its rock-carved tombs dating from the era of 4th century BC to 1st Century AD. Afterward head to Tabuk for dinner and overnight at your hotel. (B,L,D)

Saturday, Feb 16
Tabuk - Al Jouf

After breakfast depart Tabuk visiting the Hijaz railway station (from outside); then continue to visit one of the forts followed by the mosque of Domat Al Jandal. After continue to the ancient stone fortress, also known as Marid Castle, is 2,000Ft high. Built with stones on a hill, it majestically overlooks the old city. Afterward make a stop to visit Omar’s mosque, named after the second Moslem Caliph: Omar Ibn Al Khatab before arriving at Al Jouf for dinner and overnight. (B, L, D)

Sunday, Feb 17
Al Jouf – Hail

We begin our day with a visit to Sakaka Fort, situated on high ground overlooking Sakaka from the northwest, it is the center of many legends, but it's widely believed that this fortress was built in the 7th century B.C. Mud construction was added to it in the 3rd century. It is known as Zaa'bal Fortress and Zaa'bal Palace. Then continue to Al-Rajajil - the site of a group of standing stone pillars that date back to the Chalcolithic period. Continue to Hail via the Nafud Desert, visiting en-route Jubbah to see the magnificent rock carvings. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Monday, Feb 18
Hail to Al Qassim

This morning view the Oraif and Qishla Forts then drive to Al Qassim about 2 hours’ drive. Arrive and visit Al Musaugef Museum, then Shenana tower from the 11th century, Jedieah Museum and King Fahad Mosque. Dinner and overnight at our hotel (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Feb 19
Ushaiger - Shagra- Riyadh

Drive to Riyadh in route visit Ushaiger, a small village 200 km NW of Riyadh. Ushaiger is one of the oldest towns in the Saudi region of Najd and it was a major stopping point for pilgrims coming from Kuwait, Iraq and Iran to perform Hajj. Ushaiger historical village is restored to preserve its heritage and has a museum which displays various relics and pieces from the village. Continue to Shagra to visit the old walls that used to protect the city during attacks. It was built in early 18th century and was in use till the mid-20th century. Arrive Riyadh dinner and overnight at your hotel (B,L,D)

Wednesday, Feb 20

Start your day, visit Diriyyah, one of the most important sites, from where the history of Al Saud Dynasty began. Continue to Musmak Fort was built during the reign of Abdullah bin Rashid in the year 1895 A.D. Afterwards, see Dira Souq then stop for lunch at a local retaurant. Then visit National Museum, a place of learning and discovery, meant to kindle pride in the Arab heritage and reverence for Islam. This national landmark is composed of eight galleries telling the complete story of Arabian History from the creation of the universe to our modern era. Next is a visit to Murabba Palace is among the most important palace built by King Abdulaziz in the year 1937 A.D. Built to accommodate his family, the palace was composed of a number of a presidential palaces, service buildings and King Abdulaziz Divan. That same year the King and his family moved in this palace. This palace was built on the local traditional Najid style by using local building material only. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Feb 21
Riyadh (Edge of the World)

This morning depart in 4x4 vehicles driving 96 km northwest of Riyadh to the magnificent sight the ‘Edge of the world’. Here the cliffs of Tuwaiq Escarpment drop away giving splendid views over the plain below. On a foggy day, the whole plain below is an endless sea of haze. Then return to Riyadh for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Friday, Feb 22
Riyadh – Al Hafuf - Dammam

Early departure to Al Ahsa/Al Hafuf, considered the largest oasis in the world. Visit the Al Qara caves, consisting of calcareous sandstone, and sedimentary rock of clay and lime. Jabal Al-Qarah rises about 738 feet above sea level and has a complex set of passageways. The site has iron railings and smooth walkways to allow novice explorers to safely navigate small portions of the intricate caves. Continue to the Ottoman Turkish Fort from the 17th Century AD and the mosque it houses within its walls built in 1571 A.D. Afterward head back to Dammam to visit the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture. Then back to hotel for either overnight (B,L)

Saturday, Feb 23
Dammam – USA

Very early morning transfer to the airport for your flight back home. (B)

We (STS) reserve the right to change hotels, restaurants or the order of activities if/as needed