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Saudi Arabia... The Forbidden Kingdom

March 10 to 24, 2018

Though people of various cultures have lived on the Arabian Peninsula over a span of more than 5,000 years, the harsh climate historically prevented much settlement, except in major oases. Most of the great empires of the ancient world traded with the Arabian Kingdoms that commanded the important spice trade routes in the peninsula. In the south, Najran with its mud-brick forts dotting the palm oases is one of the ancient caravan stops that you will visit. The country’s main attraction and its hidden treasure is the UNESCO World Heritage site of Madain Saleh. It is considered second only to the famous Petra in Jordan in terms of Nabatean architectural remains. Colorful markets, desert landscapes, coral reefs, rock engravings, ancient monuments, the country has so much to offer to those who choose to venture in it & explore a nation that is seldom exposed to the eyes of the outsiders.

Per person sharing in double occupancy (Air and land from NYC): $8,495.00
Single Supplement: $995.00   

Credit for not using our included airfare $750.00

Led by Professor Dorothy Keller, Art Historian at University of St. Joseph, CT.

Price based on a group size minimum of 6 and maximum of 12 participants

Your tour does not include

  • Airfare to/from JFK to/from home airport.
  • Airport taxes/fuel surcharges and security fees (approx. $485.00).
  • Saudi Arabia Visa - $249.00 at time of printing including processing and 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

  • International air from New York-JFK/Jeddah and Riyadh/New York-JFK , Roundtrip coach class.
  • 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.

View Tour Itinerary

Saturday, Mar 10
Depart the US

Depart the US for Jeddah arriving the second day.

Sunday, Mar 11
Arrive Jeddah

Arrive in Jeddah, meet, assist and transfer to your hotel for check in and overnight.

Monday, Mar 12

A morning visit to some of the old Ottoman houses, mostly constructed from coral and reinforced with wood so that beams crisscross 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 which is a very beautiful museum that houses endless collections of arts, ethnography and archaeology artifacts. After a lunch at a local restaurant, we will make stop at the corniche of Jeddah (sea-side 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, Mar 13
Jeddah to 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, check in at the hotel and dinner . (B,L,D)

Wednesday, Mar 14

Full day excursion with a visit to Mount Souda, Khamis Mushayt, Habala Village and Hamsan Village. 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. One of the most interesting aspects of the area is its distinctive local people -- not least of which the colorful Flower Men of Tihama. Khamis Mushayt, an industrial city about 25 km east of Abha. The city's antique silver market is its chief tourist draw. An imaginative development, the Al Hamsan Traditional Village on the outskirts of town consists 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, and Shada Palace. That evening, visit a typical Saudi home and see how families live and get to have a personal interaction with some wonderful local people. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Mar 15
Abha to Al Ula

Breakfast at Hotel then transfer to airport for your flight to Riyadh , arrive and connect your flight to Al Ula , arrive Al Ula and transfer to your hotel (B,L,D)

Friday, Mar 16
Al Ula

Continue visiting the old houses, the museum in Al Ula, then proceed for a full day excursion to archaeological site of Madain Saleh visiting Hijaz Railway Station, 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 your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Saturday, Mar 17
Al Ula to Al Jouf

Drive to Al Jouf stopping in Tayma to visit Bir Hadaj, Al Hamra Fort, and the museum. Transfer to your hotel for check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Sunday, Mar 18
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. Then continue to Al-Rajajil - the site of a group of standing stone pillars that date back to the Chalcolithic period. Visit the famous well, fort, and mosque of Domat 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. Continue to Hail via the Nafud Desert, visiting enroute Jubbah to see the magnificent rock carvings. Upon arrival, transfer to your hotel for check in, dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Monday, Mar 19
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 your hotel (B,L,D)

Tuesday, Mar 20
Shagra - Ushaiger - 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, Mar 21

Morning at leisure afternoon visit Diriyyah, one of the most important sites, from where the history of Al Saud Dynasty began. It is situated in the eastern part of the so-called Najd area in the valley known as Wadi Hanifa, Musmak Fort from outside one of the most important monuments in important historic landmark in the city of Riyadh. This palace was built during the reign of Abdullah bin Rashid in the year 1895 A.D. The reason for building this historic palace was to serve as military garrison for his army, which operated under a Governor in Riyadh from Hail. Ibn Saud on the 15th January 1902 captured the fort. Lunch at Assaraya Turkish Restaurant, 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, 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 and Dira Souq. Return to your hotel for dinner and overnight. (B,L,D)

Thursday, Mar 22
Riyadh - Al Hafuf

Early departure by road 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. then drive to your hotel at Al Hafuf for overnight. (B,L,D)

Friday, Mar 23
Al Hafuf - Dammam

Morning drive to Dhahran, the oil hub of Saudi Arabia to visit The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, a bold new initiative on the part of the Saudi Aramco Oil Company to promote cultural development within the Kingdom. The museum and archive facilities connect the vibrant cultural life of the center to the past and to the very roots of the society from which this center is conceived. Designed for the oil company Saudi Aramco, the cultural center will contain 100,000 square meters of cultural facilities – including an auditorium, cinema, library, exhibition hall, museum and archive. Afterwards either you are transferred to your hotel for a night in Dammam OR transfer to the airport for your late afternoon flight to Riyadh (where you will connect to your late night flight from Riyadh to USA). (B,L)

Saturday, Mar 24
Dammam to USA or Bahrain

Transfer to Dammam airport for your flight back home OR cross the Causeway Bridge to Bahrain (B).

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