This week-long taster tour showcases the cream of the Sultanate’s sights and experiences – from the rugged wadis of the Hajjar range to the windswept…
Throughout the ages, abundant resources of Saudi Arabia's fertile oases attracted settlers. Despite the challenges posed by its vast rock-strewn desert and barren mountains, the roots of earliest civilizations of the Arabian Peninsula were laid. With a human history spanning 10 millennia, the recently opened Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the most fascinating and enigmatic countries to visit today.
In this highlights tour, we take a deep dive into the country to discover UNESCO protected sites with prehistoric inscriptions and rock art, grand tombs of ancient Arabian Kingdoms of Dadan and Nabataean Hegra (the modern Mada'in Saleh) at Alula. We experience the country that gave birth to Islam which has swept the world, and visit sites of Babylonian Roman and Ottoman settlements as we traverse the Kingdom through some of the world's most spectacular desert scenery and mountainous landscapes including, the 'Edge of the World'!
This tour will inspire intrepid travellers drawn to destinations with a difference. It takes in places that stimulate the mind, broaden horizons and opens the conscious to ideas the world has long forgotten.
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On arrival in Jeddah, you will be collected from the airport and escorted to your hotel in town. Located on the Red Sea, Jeddah has been a port of great importance for millennia. The most cosmopolitan of Saudi Arabian cities today, it is considered the commercial capital of the country and the main gateway to Mecca for pilgrims heading for Hajj.
Saudi Arabia's most cosmopolitan city Jeddah sees millions of international visitors passing through it each year either en route to Mecca and Medina for Hajj or to conduct business in the port.
In the seventh century AD the city rose to prominence as a commercial port city and later became the gateway to Mecca as Islam became the principal religion in the reagion. Today the ancient cultural heart of the ancient port city can be explored at t Al Balad while the waterfront around the corniche offers relaxation with many cafes, restaurants and shops dotting the promanade.
Jeddah's Museum of Archaeology housed in the former Khuzam Palace and the Fekieh Aquarium displaying over 200 species of sharks, stingrays, and other marine life are a must.
Today we explore the ancient port city of Jeddah, starting with the UNESCO Heritage-listed and the most evocative quarter of the country, Al Balad. After lunch, we visit Tayebat City Museum to see some of its 60,000 exhibits, including ancient coins, manuscripts and costumes and later we head for the Floating Mosque, ending at Jeddah Corniche early evening for a stroll along the waterfront, with a backdrop of the world’s tallest water fountain.
Here narrow alleyways of Al Balad hide a treasure trove of 19th-century tower houses of wealthy merchants with their unique architectural style and the intricate handcrafted woodwork of their ornate balconies. These are interspersed with squat houses made of of coral stone, souq’s, spice-merchants, traditional bakeries and quirky cafes., where you can sit and watch teh world go by.
This morning we head for the station to experience Saudi Arabia’s recently upgraded Haramain High-Speed Railway in the comfort Business Class for the 1 hour 40 journey to Medina. (Trains leave daily except Mon and Tuesday). We will be met on arrival and escorted to our hotel, where we drop off bags and head out to explore the city.
Medina is the second holiest city for Muslims, making it a key destination for millions of pilgrims travelling to Saudi Arabia for Hajj or Umrah. Originally a Jewish settlement known as Yathrib, it later became known as Medina for the role it played in establishing Islam. This is where the Prophet Mohammed and his followers fled in 622AD after being persecuted in Mecca. The event marked the re-setting of the Muslim calendar back to zero and re-naming the city as the City of the Prophet, Madinah Al-Nabawiyah, abbreviated to Medina.
It is significantly the location of the first mosque, The Quba Mosque, the foundation stones for which were laid by the prophet himself. However, the most important mosque in the city is the Al-Masjid An-Nabawi, the second largest mosque in the world after Mecca and enshrines the tomb of the Prophet.
After a leisurely breakfast, we head off by road for AlUla. The 3hr 30-min journey passes alongside parts of the old abandoned tracks of the infamous Hejaz Railway, which T.E. Lawrence had a hand in destroying during the World War I effort. Time permitting, we may make a photo stop. On arrival in Alula, we check into our luxurious hotel located around a stunning rock formation and enjoy some much needed time at leisure, perhaps for a dip in the pool or a stroll into the desert around the hotel.
Alula, the undiscovered hidden gem of Saudi Arabia was the capital of the ancient kingdoms of Dadan and Lihyan.
Recently opened to leisure travellers this largely undiscovered region holds remarkabally well preserved, timeless and complex history spaning 200,000 years. Evidence of prehistoric habitation with the discovery of Paleolithic stone tools, inscriptions and rock art, through to burials and funerary monuments of the Bronze age, the grand tombs of ancient Arabain Kingdoms of Dadan and Nabataea from 600 BC, Roman settlements dating back to 106 BC and traces of water management systems from the early islamic period 600 AD through to modern day.
Layer upon layer of human history and a wealth of natural wonders are waiting to be explored, from dramatic rock formations and sand-swept dunes to archaelogical ruins that tracing ancient cultures.
This morning we make an early start into the desert to visit Hegra (Mada’in Saleh), a UNESCO Heritage-listed site. Subject to time and permission from the Royal Commission of AlUla, we will also visit Dadan, to see the tombs cut into a cliff-face with and the Jabal Ikmah to see some prehistoric man-made rock art and script and stop at Elephant rock to admire some of the deserts natural wonders. We will end the day with a visit to AlUla Old Town, a restoration project that aims to preserve this traditional Saudi village with its 900 mud-brick houses for future generations.
Hegra or Mada’in Saleh a UNESCO Heritage-listed site, is the second settlement of the Nabatean people who also built the city of Petra but with barely any visitors. Our recommendation is to visit as early as you can before the crowds hit! Strewn between some of the most stunning desert scenery are a collection of tombs carved into the rock about 130 of which have been excavated so far. Each one is different in shape, size and decoration reflecting the status of the people buried here and giving a great into the lives of these ancient people.
Dadan and Jabal Ikmah
Renowned as one of the most developed ancient cities of the Arabian Peninsula the Kingdom of Dedan flourished from at least the 6th century until the 2nd century BCE. What remains of the city are a dozen or so tombs cut into a cliff-face with some remarkable inscriptions demonstrating the high culture of this civilisation. A visit to nearby Jabal Ikmah an area with the largest concentration of pre-historic man-made rock art and script in Saudi Arabia.
AhUla Old Town, still an active restoration project, the 900 traditional mud-brick houses and 5-Rabha's or squares are being loveling restored to for preservation. Although presently empty, the town was still inhabited until the 1980s when most families left to settle in newer cities with more modern facilities.
We have a long day ahead as we leave Alula and head for Hail. En route, we take a detour to the village of Taima for a visit to the Hadaj Well, of biblical importance. One of the oldest mechanical structure is still standing. On arrival in Hail, we check into our hotel and have the remainder of the day at leisure.
The Hadaj Well of biblical importance is one of the oldest ancient mechanical structures still standing in Saudi Arabia. It is beleiveid to have been built in the 1st millennium BC by the last of the Babylonian rulers, King Nabonidus who spent 10-years in Taima, on self-imposed exile away from Babylon. it is said he disagreed with and in order to reflect of a course of action retreated to Taima.
The well is still functional and and has waters in at least one of its outlets.
Nestled between Mount Shammer and Mount Salma, the city of Hail was once the capital of the entire Arabian and served as the gateway to the Al Nafud Desert.Today Hail is an integral part of Islam’s pilgrimage trail. It is known for hosting large and significant international events, including the January Desert Festival that celebrates local culture and the Hail International Rally, when hundreds of rally cars, quads and motorcycles gather to race through the desert. Our visit this morning takes us an hour’s drive out of the city to the UNESCO World Heritage site at Jubbah, where we see the thousands of fascinating and exceptionally well-preserved petroglyphs, inscriptions and rock art. On our return, we will take in a few of its fascinating sites, which include the Brazen and Al Qishlah Castles and an array of Souq’s and markets that give an excellent insight into desert life. On our return, we will take in a few of its fascinating sites which include the Brazen and Al Qishlah Castles and an array of Souq’s and markets that give an excellent insight into desert life.
The UNESCO World Heritage site at Jubbah where we see the thousands of fascinating and exceptionally well-preserved petroglyphs, inscriptions and rock-art drawings tracing human habitation some 10,000 years back. These depict man pre-historic man rearing cattle, hunting as well as an array of wild animals from ibex to ostrich, horses and lions. Camels are probably the latest to populate both this area and the walls of the surrounding rocks.
Prehistorical tools found in the area show that it was already inhabited by man for thousands of years.
This morning we continue our explorations of Hail with an exhilarating visit to The A’arif Fort atop a mountain peak for excellent views across the city before returning for lunch and a spot of shopping in Hail’s bazaars for those who choose. In the afternoon, we head for Buraydeh (3 hours), the capital of the Qassim district, located equal distance between the Red Sea and the Gulf of Oman. On arrival, we check into our hotel in the heart of the city.
The city has three castles located within the city center. The oldest and probably the most famous is the A'arif Fort built on top of a rock which provides the best viewpoint over the city.
Then came the Barzan castle whose construction begun in 1808 and consits of three floors and covering an area of more than 300,000 square meters. Much of it was destroyed by Abdulaziz in 1921 but one tower survived.
This morning we have an early call as we prepare to visit Buraydah’s lively camel market located at the edge of town. Late morning, we make tracks for the beautiful heritage village of Ushaiqer, one of the oldest and most attractive settlements in northern Arabia and home to the traditional Najdi style of architecture. (2 hrs drive). Following lunch, we continue our journey towards the capital city of Riyadh (2hrs 30 mins), where we check-in at our hotel.
Every morning at 6am the outskirts of Buraidah are home to the world's largest camel market, where thousands of camels, goats and sheep are bought and sold, along with saddles and other accessories. The extreml;y serious and highstakes business appers pretty haotic to teh uninitiated but we are told there is order and veryestablished rules for the trade. If you are not disturbed too much by the smell of the animals, it is a truly unique Saudi experience.
This morning we visit the principal and historical attractions in Batha, the centre of town. They include the Al-Masmak Fortress, the excellent National Museum displaying a unique collection of the Kingdom’s historical part and a series of historic mud-brick buildings, giving an insight into the traditional lifestyle of local people. We also visit the Kingdom Tower, showcasing the gleaming modern-day architecture of the city. After lunch, we will head out to Jebel Fihrayn, for a brisk walk to the 'The Edge of the World’ viewpoint to experience sunset from the top of the 300-meter-high desert cliffs overlooking the never-ending surrounding plains, which was once a sea bed.
The political and historical heart of the Kingdom, Riyadh is one of the largest, most spread out cities of the Kingdom. Despite its modern exterior, it is more conservative than other places and one should bear this in mind when in public. Centrally located with numerous cultural and historical places nearby the city makes an ideal location for visitors like Jebel Fihrayn, for a brisk walk to the ‘The Edge of the World’ viewpoint to experience sunset from the top of the 300-meter-high desert cliffs, overlooking the never-ending surrounding plain, which was once a sea bed.
Our final visit of the tour is a leisurely visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of D’iriyah, the historic home of the Saudi state. Your afternoon will be at leisure to explore the city on your own or relax in your hotel, absorbing the memories of the last 10 days. Riyadh offers excellent opportunities for dining out, and we will be happy to make recommendations.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of D’iriyah, the historic home of the Saudi state.Sacked by the Ottomans in the 19th century, the city had remained largely neglected for decades, until now. Today it has four rather impressive and modern museums that preserve, protect and showcase have been designed to sit sympathetically between the ancient mud-brick houses, with walls of glass that preserve the oldest parts in situ, while allowing access to visitors.
This morning you will be transferred to the airport for your return flight home or your onward connection elsewhere in the Kingdom.
A 3000-year-old city situated on the east coast of the Red Sea, Jeddah is Saudi Arabia's most cosmopolitan city of Saudi Arabia with millions of international visitors passing thro…
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