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DESERT SANDS & MONUMENTS OF SAUDI ARABIA

  • Overview
  • Accommodation
  • Itinerary
  • Fares

A journey overview

  • Jeddah
  • Al-Balad
  • Taif
  • Medina
  • AlUla
  • Hegra
  • Wadi Dissah
  • Tabuk

10 Days Exploration
  • Departing:
  • 27 Sep 2023 New release

The little-known landscapes of Saudi Arabia are ours to explore. Only recently opening itself up to tourism, this enigmatic land abounds with desert charm, modern metropolises and geological wonders. A group of just 24 guests will enjoy an immersion into fascinating realms, from the beguiling Red Sea coast to the staggering rock-cut monuments of AlUla.

Map
Jeddah
Jeddah

Jeddah’s Cultural Offerings

A thoroughly modern metropolis, Jeddah presents us with all the sensory stimulus offered by any other large harbourside city. Its most historic neighbourhood, Al-Balad shows another side to the region, with its intricate network of laneways and high-density living. 

Medina
Medina

Mosques & Mountains of Medina

After Mecca itself, Medina is considered Islam’s holiest city. The Al Masjid an-Nabawi mosque is an incredible sight, the vast complex able to accommodate up to a million worshippers. Later, at Uhud Mountain, we stand before the site of an historic seventh-century battle.

Jabal Ikmah
Jabal Ikmah

Carved by Ancient Hands

Look upon the exquisite rock structures on display in the remote desert region of AlUla. From the hollow tombs of once-powerful leaders to the writings of citizens and scholars, left for all eternity in the expansive rock faces of Jabal Ikmah. And the grandest monument of all, the magnificent Hegra.

Hisma Valley
Hisma Valley

The Mesmerising Terrain of the Hisma Valley

Set out on a 4x4 adventure through the Hisma Valley. As beautiful as it is barren, the desert floor undulates in concert with the endless rise and fall of countless sandstone formations. 

Itinerary

Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city, Jeddah, welcomes us at the beginning of our remarkable journey. This historic port city lies at the midpoint of Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coastline. The country’s wealth has allowed the city to experience rapid modernisation, though it retains its long-held prestige as the gateway to Mecca. We make our way to the Narcissus 88 Boutique Hotel, an opulent residence boasting an impressive range of restaurants and spectacular views from its rooftop terrace.

Please note that, throughout Saudi Arabia, consumption and possession of alcohol is prohibited.

We hit the road early this morning, winding our way along mountainous roads during our drive inland to the city of Taif. Along the way, we pause to appreciate the lofty scenes around us. From our vantage point atop Al Hada Mountain, we spy the summits of lesser hills poking through the clouds. Taif is known as the ‘City of Roses’, and during our visit we find our way to the Taif Rose Factory to learn about the delicate flowers that are such a part of the city’s identity. Afterwards, we stop to admire the façade of Shubra Palace. The one-time royal residence features an exquisite blend of Islamic architecture and Italian marble, while its windows and balconies bear a resemblance to the palaces of India. 

Following lunch in Taif’s downtown area, we head to the Al Shareef Museum. The owner of this private museum has dedicated himself to seeking out artefacts of historical value from across the country. Our vehicle then transports us beyond Taif’s mountain ranges back to Jeddah. Upon our return, we stretch our legs, taking in the atmosphere along Jeddah’s waterfront. Here we look upon the surprising sight of King Fahd’s Fountain, whose water gushes skyward, to a height of around 300 metres.

This morning, we make our way to the Tomb of Eve, an archaeological site said to be the final resting place of the world’s first woman. In Arabic, she is known by the name Hawa, and the city even takes its own name from her story – Jeddah meaning ‘Ancestor of Women’. A tour of Jeddah’s historical district sees us visiting Nassif House, built as the residence of the city’s former governor. Today it serves as a museum and cultural centre. At Al Alawi Souq, we browse stalls brimming with fresh produce, traditional jewellery and clothing. The aroma of spices dictates a break in proceedings for lunch. With our energy stores high, we head to the station and board a high-speed train for our journey to Medina. On arrival, we make our way to Uhud Mountain, an important Islamic site. The Battle of Uhud was fought between Muslims and Meccans on this spot in the year 625 AD and the site includes the graves of soldiers whose lives were lost in the battle. This evening, we check into Le Meridien Hotel, Medina.

Our journey continues north to Khaybar Dam. This prodigious piece of engineering seems all the more impressive when considering it is believed to have been erected in the third century BC. We continue our northward drive across the desert to AlUla, arriving in time for lunch. A sense of awe pervades as we are welcomed to Shaden Resort; our luxurious residence is encircled by titanic mountains and built upon a vast carpet of sand. Absorb incomparable vistas from your villa, relax on your private patio or swim before a backdrop of palms and sheer cliffs.

One could be forgiven for feeling more than a little perplexed at the sight of the colossal artistic treasures occupying the otherwise desolate landscape here. We begin our expedition at the Dedan Lion Tomb. Here we find the hollow tombs of this ancient kingdom’s rulers, carved into a mountain of rock. At nearby Jabal Ikmah, we see a vast collection of ancient inscriptions made directly upon the face of the great rock. These writings are considered an ‘open library’. Afterwards, we stroll the Orange Path through a lush desert oasis. Date palms tower high above us as we tread a path between mudbrick houses and ancient city walls. After lunch, we make the short journey to Elephant Rock, a geological wonder carved by nature itself. Stand before its magnificent form as it bathes in the orange glow of a setting sun. We then return to our secluded residence for the night.

A short drive this afternoon brings us to Hegra, one of the region’s greatest treasures. An extensive archaeological site, only recently opened to tourism, Hegra displays all the mysterious beauty and grandeur of Petra. Its extraordinary Nabataean ruins feature an array of tombs, most famous of which is Qasr al-Farid, ‘the lonely castle’. Taking shape in the first century AD, the soaring monument was meticulously cut into a single face of the rock which supports it. Its isolation in the midst of a boundless desert lends it an even greater sense of mystique. Over lunch, we reflect further on the incredible sights we have seen here. 

This afternoon, a choice of Your World experiences is on offer:

— Prepare to take off and enjoy unique perspectives of AlUla’s stunning landmarks. Aboard a helicopter, soar over Elephant Rock and Hegra, before hovering over the abandoned locomotives of the Hejaz Railway. Your pilot then turns in a westerly direction, and you will soon be presented with the slightly unsettling sight of the world’s largest mirrored building, the Maraya Concert Hall, gleaming in the desert. Pass back over Jabal Ikmah and Dedan Lion Tomb before touching down in the charming village of Al Fursan.
— Take your time to lap up more of the lavish amenities and unmatched panoramas back at our unique resort.

Relax at our resort this morning and drink in the views of its extravagant courtyard, embellished with pools, fountains and palms, for a final time. En route to Tabuk, we stop to explore Al-Mua’azam Fort, a 15th-century Ottoman stronghold once used to shelter pilgrims. On arrival in Tabuk, we discover its Ottoman-era castle, which features a mosque, courtyard and watchtowers. The castle now serves as a museum, illuminating Tabuk’s history and its connection to pilgrims and prophets. This evening, we browse the stalls of Tawaheen Souq. The traditional marketplace illustrates aspects of the local culture through its myriad patterned and colourful rugs, sandals, cushions and bags. While in Tabuk, we stay at the Grand Millennium Hotel, a modern property whose interiors recall the bygone era of the Hejaz Railway.

Our transport brings us south to Wadi Dissah, a vast palm-lined canyon running between walls of sandstone massifs. We walk the length of the valley, stopping here for lunch to admire its beauty a little longer. Nearby, we find Al Shaq, Saudi Arabia’s Great Canyon. Wandering a sandy path between immense rock walls, we find a lush environment brimming with various bushes, palms and grasses. The more adventurous among us may wish to follow a track to the cliff’s rocky peak, allowing for a spectacular, though precarious, vantage point to the canyon below. This evening, we return to the Grand Millennium Hotel for dinner. 

We follow Saudi Arabia’s epic mountain trail to the Hisma Valley. Here we drive through the Bajdah Desert, trading glances with curious camels and plotting a course between imposing rock formations, each one as distinct in shape as the next. The conspicuous contours of one such monolith has earnt it the moniker ‘Ship Mountain’. We spend the day exploring the valley further as part of a convoy of 4x4 vehicles, leaving fresh tracks in red sand, as we drift between rocky mountain ranges and over ridges dotted with small shrubs. At the end of our desert immersion, we return to the Grand Millennium Hotel for a well-deserved rest. 

Arising from our slumber, we take time to appreciate the grand adventure we have embarked upon here in Saudi Arabia. Following lunch, we bid a fond farewell as our journey concludes.

Add to your experience with a post tour option

Post tour option

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Complement your Saudi Arabian journey with a 14-day post-tour exploration of Jordan and Israel during our Ancient & Holy Lands journey. At the conclusion of your Saudi Arabian journey, join a private vehicle transfer from Tabuk to Petra, taking approximately three hours. Your driver will assist with the formalities of crossing the border into Jordan.

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