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Saudi Arabia... The Forbidden Kingdom

Jan 26 to Feb 08, 2019

Optional extension to Bahrain (Feb 08 to 10)

Optional extension to Gulf States (Feb 08 to 20)

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.

Per person sharing in double occupancy (land Only): $6,995.00
Single Supplement: $995.00   

Escorted by Chris Tuttle Ph.D.

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

Bahrain extension (2 nights): $695.00 per person in double occupancy

Single supplement: $155.00

Your tour does not include

  • International airfare from USA (Approx $1000 from JFK).
  • 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 4 & 5* hotels (while using a luxury camp in Al Ula).
  • 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)

About your Guide, Christopher A. Tuttle, Ph.D.… Christopher A. Tuttle is an archaeologist whose research focuses on the Hellenistic and Roman periods in the Middle East. His specialization is the ancient kingdom of the Nabataeans and their capital city of Petra, where his fieldwork has been centered for nearly 20 years. He holds a B.A. in Classical and Medieval Studies from the University of Massachusetts, Boston and a Ph.D. from the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University. Chris lived and worked full-time in the Middle East for nearly 15 years, first in Jerusalem and then in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. He was the Associate Director of the American Center of Oriental Research (ACOR) in Amman, Jordan from 2006–2014, during which time he directed field projects in Petra and assisted numerous other archaeological missions in the region. He then served for three years as the Executive Director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC) based in Washington, D.C.

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

Saturday, Jan 26
Depart the US

Depart the US for Jeddah arriving the second day.

Sunday, Jan 27
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, Jan 28

In the Morning visit some of the old Ottoman houses, mostly constructed from coral and reinforced with wood. 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. We will visit the Nasif House from Outside unless we can get permission to go inside but it is not guaranteed all time. After a lunch at a local restaurant, we will visit Altaybat Int’l City for Sciences and Knowledge Also Called AbulRaouf Khalil museum which is a very beautiful museum that houses endless collections of art, ethnography and archaeology artifacts. After visit corniche of Jeddah (seaside promenade), a major attraction that acts as an open-air museum displaying an array of modern sculptures and gathering social place for locals. Return to the hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Jan 29
Jeddah to Abha

Check out from the hotel. Visit to the colorful Fish Market. Transfer to the airport for your afternoon flight to Abha. Lunch at airport. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Wendesday, Jan 30
Khamis Mushayt (Abha)

Enjoy a full day excursion with a visit to baskets’ market and Muftaha Village Art Gallery. First stop at the top of Mount Souda Mountains of Saudi Arabia, located in the Hejaz Mountains. Afterwards head to the city of Khamis Mushayt to visit Al Hamsan Traditional Village on the outskirts of town consists of a stone tower and buildings; including a museum that is a replica of an Asir home two decades ago, an auditorium, a traditional restaurant and a gift shop. Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Jan 31
Abha to Al Ula

Start your day with an early breakfast at your hotel then transfer to the airport for your flight to Riyadh, arrive and connect your flight to Al Ula, arrive Al Ula and transfer to your luxury camp for check-in on the way visit the old Mud houses, and Hijaz Railway Station and drive to see the magnificent iconic Elephant Rock. (B,L,D)

Friday, Feb 01
Al Ula

Start your full day excursion to the archaeological site of Madain Saleh, the 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. Return to your camp for dinner and overnight. (B, L, D)

Saturday, Feb 02
Al Ula to Al Jouf

In the Morning you will leave Al Ula to Al Jawf Via Taima ( Haddaj water well – Al Hamra palace and Radham Fort ) then drive to Al Jawf on the way 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 the visit before arriving to Al Jouf for 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 01
Al Ula to Tabuk

In the morning, drive to Khuraiba Lion tombs for a visit from 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 02
Tabuk to Al Jouf

After breakfast depart Tabuk visiting the Islamic Fort and railway station (from outside); then continue to Al Jawf, on the way visit Domat Al Jandal. The ancient stone fortress, also known as Marid Castle, Built with stones on a hill, it majestically overlooks the old city. Then see Al-Rajajil - the site of standing stone pillars that date back to the Chalcolithic period. In the city 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 03
Al Jouf to Hail

Begin your 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. Visit the famous Sysara water well then . 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 04
Hail to Riyadh

In the morning view drive to the airport for your flight to Riyadh. Upon your arrival, transfer to your hotel for check in. then continue Al-Jenadriyah is a cultural and heritage festival that draws more than one million visitors every year. It is organized by the National Guard, and the Activities include a camel race, performance of local music and dancing of the Ardah and the Mizmar. You will enjoy an evening at this spectacular event before you return to the hotel for your dinner. (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Feb 05
Shagra- Ushaiger- Riyadh

Start your day by Driving to Ushaiger, a small village 200 km NW of Riyadh. The village 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. We will have lunch at the local restaurant. Continue to Shagra to visit the old walls that used to protect the city from attacks. It was built in the early 18th century and was in use until the mid-20th century. Return to Riyadh for dinner and overnight at your hotel. (B,L,D)

Wednesday, Feb 06

Have Breakfast at the hotel and then drive to visit Diriyyah, where the history of Al Saud Dynasty began. Continue to Musmak Fort built during the reign of Abdullah bin Rashid in the year 1895 A.D. as a military garrison for his army. Explore Chop square and Dira Souq carpet. Afterward have Lunch then visit the 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. Then continue to Murabba Palace which was built by King Abdulaziz in the year 1937 A.D. and was composed of a number of presidential palaces, service buildings, and King Abdulaziz Divan. This palace was built in the traditional Najid style by using local building material only. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Feb 07
Riyadh to Al Hafuf Dammam

We will depart by road to Al Hafuf which is considered the largest oasis in the world. We will visit jawatha and Al Qysaryah. Enjoy the traditional market at Al Hafuf Qysaryah and then the visit to Jawatha which is the first Mosque built in that area. Enjoy lunch at Zaman Awal local restaurant. Later we will 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. Then drive to Dammam arrive and transfer to your Hotel in Dammam. Rest before transferring to the airport for your flight back home (early Feb 8). (B,L,D).

Friday, Feb 08
Dammam to USA or Bahrain

Transfer to the airport for your flight back home. OR to Bahrain, through the Causeway to cross the gulf to the Island of Bahrain (B).

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