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DESERT SANDS & MONUMENTS OF SAUDI ARABIA

  • Overview
  • Accommodation
  • Itinerary
  • Fares

A journey overview

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

10 Days Exploration
  • Departing:
  • 16 Sep 2024 Selling Fast

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 26 guests will enjoy an immersion into fascinating realms, from the beguiling Red Sea coast to the staggering rock-cut monuments of AlUla.

Map

Tour Manager - Antony Philip

Tour Doctor - Dr Victoria Hayes

4 September 2024: As Your Tour Manager, Antony Philip Welcomes You On This Journey

4 September 2024: Your Accompanying Tour Doctor For This Journey Is Dr Victoria Hayes


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 Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah, an opulent residence whose twin restaurants specialise in the distinct flavours of Mediterranean, Moroccan and Saudi Arabian cuisine.

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

To begin our exploration of the city, we head to the Al-Tayebat Museum. Spread across 12 buildings that recreate traditional Hijazi architecture, the historical artefacts within the museum are extraordinary, and include antiquities from Saudi Arabia, Persia, Morocco and China. An exhaustive study in the region’s development, exhibits also include Islamic manuscripts, tribal costumes, coins and ancient pottery. There’s even a city in miniature proudly displayed within one of the courtyards.

Today’s lunch is staggered, in order to give us the chance to appreciate the wide variety of cuisine on offer in Jeddah. Discover local favourites courtesy of our guide, who will take us into the city’s various culinary hotspots. Jeddah’s proximity to the Red Sea makes this the perfect opportunity to sample its diverse range of fresh seafood dishes. 

Relax back at our palatial residence this afternoon, before we head out to experience Al-Balad, Jeddah’s Old Town. Al-Balad’s architecture is vast and varied in its style. The UNESCO World Heritage site transports us back in time, such is the degree to which its exquisite and historic buildings have been preserved. We wander narrow laneways, gazing skyward to admire the succession of colourful, geometric roshan window coverings adorning many of the city’s buildings. 

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 head to the station and board a high-speed train for our journey to Medina. On arrival, we make our way to Uhud Mountain, where the Battle of Uhud was fought between Muslims and Meccans in the year 625 AD. The site includes the graves of soldiers whose lives were lost in the battle. After a brief visit to the nearby Hejaz Railway, we undertake a shopping expedition at Medina’s central market. Our day concludes with spectacular views of the Al Masjid an-Nabawi mosque, the city’s centre of devotion and an architectural marvel. The vast complex is able to accommodate up to a million worshippers. Enjoy dinner at one of the city’s local restaurants before 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. Following lunch here, we continue our northward drive across the desert to AlUla. A sense of awe pervades as we are welcomed to Habitas AlUla. 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 sheer cliffs. Early this evening, we adjourn to the spectacular natural phenomenon of Elephant Rock and propose a toast to our awe-inspiring surroundings.

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. Before getting up close to these desert wonders, we take an overview of our surroundings while standing atop the Harrat Viewpoint. Peering down, we spy the small city of AlUla, being swallowed up by a vast chasm, surrounded by gigantic sandstone cliffs. Aboard 4x4 vehicles, we then make our way to 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’. 

After taking a short break for coffee at the Pink Camel Pastry Boutique, 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. 

Following lunch, we admire some of the works coming out of the area’s thriving art scene at Al Jadida. Also known as ‘Art Town’, Al Jadida features five different themed squares and offers a vibrant atmosphere at night. You may like to return later tonight to dine. During a visit to AlUla’s Old Town, we discover ancient alleyways and contemporary restaurants during a leisurely stroll.

A short drive this morning 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, 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.

You may prefer to take your time to lap up more of the lavish amenities and unmatched panoramas back at our unique resort.

Our transport brings us to Wadi Disah, 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. Climb aboard 4x4 vehicles for an off-road adventure, driving alongside towering cliffs, and through flowing streams bordered by lush vegetation. The facades of several Nabataean tombs can also be found here amid the striking natural surrounds. We proceed further north to the city of Tabuk, which for centuries was a resting place for the region’s pilgrims. Here, we check into the Holiday Inn.

Nothing short of a new world awaits us today. Various elaborate construction projects are gradually taking shape in the desert. ‘The Line’ will be a city measuring 170kms long, 200 metres wide, and 500 metres high. Housed entirely within soaring glass walls, the city’s projected nine million residents will live without roads, cars, or emissions of any kind. The populace of ‘Trojena’ meanwhile, will find themselves nestled within nearby mountains, where modern apartments, hotels and resorts will offer convenient access to year-round skiing, a man-made freshwater lake, and spectacular hiking trails. 

Reaching Al Bada’a, more excavation sites reveal evidence of the Nabataean people. Nearby, we find the Springs of Prophet Moses, a lush oasis which invites visitors to have their own spiritual experience – for these are the same waters it is said Moses himself came to drink from. Arising from the water’s edge, along the Gulf of Aqaba, we then see the sheer Cliffs of Tayeb Ism. Also known as the Valley of the Moses, this astonishing site is where the prophet is believed to have brought the Israelites to after having fled Egypt.

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.

Brochure