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Saudi Arabia: Women’s Expedition

Saudi Arabia: Women’s Expedition

From $ 8,795 AUD

Description

On this women-only adventure around Saudia Arabia’s dramatic landscapes and UNESCO World Heritage sites, you’ll spend 12 days learning about the country’s deep history, sampling the local cuisine and getting to know the local women. With a desire to tell their own story, they will introduce you to the world of the diverse and severely underrepresented women of Saudi Arabia. Tour a citrus farm with sisters who transformed their father’s vision into a multigenerational business, take a cooking class and pottery workshop, get to know the Holy City of Madinah with a local female guide, cruise and snorkel the Red Sea and meet Saudi Arabia’s first-ever female guide in Jeddah.

Trip Name
Saudi Arabia: Women's Expedition
Last Updated
2024-06-17
Days
12
Capacity
12
Highlights
  • Tour a local, family-owned citrus farm with the sisters who run it, explore Wadi Disah (Valley of Palm Trees) and see Alula’s remarkable rock formations with giant tombs from the Nabatean era.
  • Visit Madinah – the second holiest site in Islam, after Mecca – with a local female guide. Enjoy a Saudi-style picnic of local bread and peppermint tea with views over the Holy City.
  • Take a bullet train to Jeddah’s Al Balad – a UNESCO World Heritage site – and meet with Saudi’s first female guide Abir. Wander the narrow streets, meet friendly vendors and sample local delicacies.
  • Cruise the Red Sea on a boat on your final day – snorkel, swim and end it all on a private women-only beach for sunset.
  • This trip is designed to support local women and entrepreneurs, so you’ll join a cooking class with a local chef, meet with a pottery artist, get pampered at a women-owned salon, join a host family for a home-cooked meal and stay in a female-owned boutique hotel.

Itinerary

ITINERARY CHANGES Our itineraries are updated regularly throughout the year based on customer feedback and to reflect the current situation in each destination. The information included in this Essential Trip Information may therefore differ from when you first booked your trip. It's important that you review this information prior to travel so that you have the latest updates. Due to weather, local conditions, transport schedules, public holidays, political unrest or other factors, further changes may be necessary to your itinerary once in-country. Your group leader or local representative will keep you up to date with any such changes once your trip is underway. OPTIONAL ACTIVITIES A selection of optional activities that have been popular with past travellers are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only for some of what might be available. Prices are approximate, are for entrance fees only, and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability, and maybe on a join-in basis. It may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination, so some pre-planning for what you are most interested in is advised. When it's recommended that travellers pre-book these activities, look for a note in the Special Information section of the day-to-day itinerary. For most, they can either be organised independently on the day, or let your group leader or local representative know you are interested at the Welcome Meeting and they can assist. Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. Although it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Medium and high-risk activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and group leader or local representative are unable to assist you with organising these activities. Activities that contravene our Responsible Travel policies are also not listed. Please remember that the decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.

Day 1 - Riyadh
Salam! Welcome to Riyadh – the birthplace of modern Saudi Arabia. Once a walled, mud-brick way along desert trading routes, this capital is now a contemporary metropolis with more than 4000 mosques, busy shopping centres, palaces, museums and traditional souks. When you arrive at Riyadh International Airport, you’ll be met by an Intrepid representative and transferred to your hotel, ready for your adventure to begin at 6 pm tonight with a welcome meeting. Get to know your local leader – women are making significant contributions to the tourism sector here and represent around 30% of the workforce – over a traditional Saudi meal in a local heritage restaurant. Saudi Arabian cuisine blends traditional Arabian and Middle Eastern cuisine with influences from Africa and South Asia. You’ll sample local breads, fresh salads, sambosas (a triangle pastry often filled with beef, onions and spices), taheena and kasba (a mixed rice dish).
Day 2 - Riyadh
After breakfast, visit Diriyah – the birthplace of the first Saudi state. The district of At-Turaif is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is known for its well-preserved adobe structures that showcase the Najdi architectural style. It was the first capital of the Saudi dynasty and holds great cultural and historical importance. You’ll find out how the mud-brick houses were built, how homes were cooled during the hot summer days and how people lived without electricity. Meet with a host family of women and enjoy a home-cooked traditional meal here for lunch. Get to know the Saudi culture through eating and cooking with the families, then head to Souq Al-Zal – one of the oldest markets in town. This afternoon, you’ll meet Ghada, a local artist and psychologist, at her pottery workshop. She’ll introduce you to the colours and patterns that Saudis are known for, like the Najdi style and the Aseeri style.
Day 3 - Unayzah
Make your way to Unayzah this morning, stopping in Ushaiger along the way. Explore the heritage village and see a glimpse of a traditional, slow-paced Saudi society. Bedouins first settled here 1500 years ago and Ushaiger quickly became a popular stopping point for pilgrims crossing to Makkah, thanks to its springs and low olive and palm groves. Continue to Buraydah, where you’ll roll up your sleeves with a local chef and learn some of the traditional dishes the Najd area is famous for. Influenced by the region’s topography and desert climates, Najd dishes are hearty and wholesome – think rich stews, wheat and rice dishes with fragrant spices. After enjoying the fruits of your labour for lunch, you’ll be treated to some coffee and Kleija for dessert – these biscuits hail from the date-rich province of Qassim and are filled with date paste or nut-sugar. Spend the night in a traditional home built in the local Quasimi architectural style. Converted into comfortable accommodation, your home for the night is on a working farm, among the gardens and date palms.
Day 4 - Hail
Today starts with a visit to Unaizah to explore one of the oldest markets in Najd. Here, you’ll find lots of varied shops and folk crafts, and if you’re lucky, you’ll see one of the traditional weekly performances. This is the perfect place to buy an abaya (as a foreigner, the use of an abaya is completely optional, but you’ll need one for your visit to Madinah). On the way to Hail, you’ll stop at Buraydah – home to the world’s largest date market. Known as the Date City, this is where farmers from all over the region come for the seasonal market in August and September. The region has more than 7 million date palm trees, which is the highest concentration among all regions in Saudi Arabia. Learn why dates are a cornerstone of Saudi culture and why they’re considered one of the best gifts one can give. Carry on to Hail, where you’ll have a free afternoon to rest and relax.
Day 5 - Hail
Today you’ll have the opportunity to rest and recharge with a free day in Hail. Hail used to be the capital of the entire Arabian Desert and was a frequent stop for those travelling to Mecca from the north. If you like, you can take an optional half-day tour to Jubbah – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Jubbah hosts two of the most emblematic carvings in Saudi Arabia. The petroglyphs, dating back 10,000 years, feature hunting parties, lions, horses and camels. After soaking in some local history on the tour, you’ll head into the Nufud desert for a desert picnic. Alternatively, you can head to the Hail Souq and pick up your own fruits, vegetables and dates. The souq also features handmade crafts such as clay pots and handwoven mats. You might also like to see the Hail Flea Markets – one of Saudi’s last real flea markets, primarily run by women selling handmade crafts and traditional attire. Tonight, meet back up with your group and head to a female-owned, female-only salon for a spot of pampering. Chat to the locals and learn how these types of businesses have created enterprise opportunity for the women who live here.
Day 6 - AlUla
Today is a long travel day as you head to your next stop in Alula. Home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Alula sits deep in the desert. The natural rock formations and canyons here feature pre-Islamic rock art and immaculately preserved tombs, built more than 2000 years ago by the Nabataeans. When you arrive, you’ll head to Elephant Rock for sunset. The rock (also known as Jabal Alfil) was carved by millions of years of wind and water erosion and now stands 52 m high – now one of Alula’s most impressive geological structures. As dusk falls, there will be food trucks, and music, so you can hang out on the deck chairs and enjoy the view! After, head to the Old Town and explore Old Market Street’s many local artisans, handicraft stores and restaurants. Visit a modern abaya shop to learn how this staple piece has evolved and how many Saudi women still choose to wear it, even since it became optional in 2018.
Day 7 - AlUla
Start the day early with a sunrise visit to the Nabataean site of Hegra. This was the southern capital of the Nabataean kingdom, dating back to the first century BCE, and extended as far as Petra in present-day Jordan. Tours here are guided by a local rawee (storytellers), who are predominantly women. You’ll explore several of the 100 well-preserved monumental tombs, most with elaborate facades carved from rocks scattered around the desert. The smallest tomb is only 2.7 m tall, but the largest is 21.5 m! Later, head to a local family-owned citrus farm. Tour the farm with the Al Joud family and learn more about their local produce and how they turned their father’s labour of love into a multi-generational business. Sample the local produce before sitting down under the trees for a farm-to-table lunch prepared by the sisters. This afternoon is free for you to explore at your own pace. Maybe head up the mountain to the Harrat Viewpoint or visit the town for sunset, where you can see Hegra in the distance.
Day 8 - Alula
Jump into 4WDs this morning and head out on a daytrip to Wadi Disah – one of Saudi Arabia’s most popular natural attractions. Loosely translated as the Valley of the Palm Trees, this valley is made up of rocky mountainous peaks, freshwater springs and palm trees, creating an oasis in the middle of the desert. This site has been inhabited for centuries and is well known for its dates and mangos. On your off-road adventure, you’ll descend into the valley through the lush vegetation and rushing stream, which winds its way between the towering rock walls. Lunch is a traditional, Bedouin-style meal among the palms. Then, you’ll take a walk and explore part of Wadi Disah’s 15 km-long canyon. Soak in the dramatic scenery of the unique landscape before heading back to your hotel for the night.
Day 9 - Madinah
This morning, travel through the desert and mountains along an ancient pilgrimage route to Madinah. This volcanic area is rich with black lava stone, mountain landscapes and religious history. Stop at the terminus station of the Hijaz (or Ottoman railway), which once brought pilgrims to Madinah from as far away as Damascus in Syria, then arrive in one of the two holiest cities in Islam. In the centre of the city sits Al Masjid an Nabawi (the Prophet’s Mosque) – a 10-minaret giant that can accommodate one million people. Meet with a local female guide and join the masses of pilgrims in the heart of the city. Have lunch in one of the local markets, then visit the outskirts of the mosque. Later, you’ll have time to explore the next-door museum dedicated to the life of Prophet Muhammad. One of the 25 pavilions is dedicated to the history of women in Islam and is a dedicated space for women to engage in spiritual discussion and reflection. At sunset, head to a viewpoint across the Holy City and enjoy a picnic of local bread and duggah (spice) with tea and peppermint.
Day 10 - Jeddah
This morning you’ll hop on one of Saudi Arabia’s state-of-the-art high-speed trains for the journey along the Haramain High Speed Railway to the coastal city of Jeddah. This commercial hub sits on the Red Sea and is home to the second busiest seaport in the Middle East. The main gateway to Mecca (the holiest city in Islam), Jeddah sees up to two million pilgrims a year on their way to perform the Hajj. Jeddah is known as the most liberal city in Saudi Arabia and is a popular spot for visitors. When you arrive, you have a free afternoon to cool off in the hotel’s pool or explore the city. Tonight, head to Al Balad (named by the locals, this means ‘the town,’ referencing the base of Jeddah). Take a tour of this UNESCO World Heritage Site with the country’s first female guide and learn the history of these buildings and Abir’s story. Sample a few local delicacies, like sobia (a local drink made of bread) or beans and pickles from the local vendors, then continue to explore on your own.
Day 11 - Jeddah
Hop on a private boat today and soak up the sunshine on the Red Sea. Go snorkelling (gear provided) and find out why this region is known for its underwater sea life – you’ll see the many varieties of colourful corals and tropical fish. The temperature of the water never drops below 21 degrees Celsius here, and the high salinity of the water is known to be beneficial for your health! This afternoon, toast to an incredible trip with some snacks and refreshments on the boat. End the day on a private women-only beach. Chill out on the sand, listen to the local music with a mocktail and watch the sunset over the Red Sea. Later, why not gather your group for a final dinner and continue the celebration of an amazing journey.
Day 12 - Jeddah
With no further activities planned, your trip comes to an end in Jeddah this morning after breakfast. If you’d like to extend your stay, just speak to your booking agent ahead of time.

Trip Dates

StartEndPrice FromRoom Type
10-11-202421-11-2024AUD $ 8,795-
24-11-202405-12-2024AUD $ 9,675-
15-12-202426-12-2024AUD $ 8,795-
12-01-202523-01-2025AUD $ 9,675-
26-01-202506-02-2025AUD $ 9,675-
09-02-202520-02-2025AUD $ 9,850-
13-04-202524-04-2025AUD $ 9,675-
05-10-202516-10-2025AUD $ 9,675-
26-10-202506-11-2025AUD $ 9,675-
16-11-202527-11-2025AUD $ 9,675-
07-12-202518-12-2025AUD $ 9,675-
28-12-202508-01-2026AUD $ 9,675-
18-01-202629-01-2026AUD $ 9,675-
01-02-202612-02-2026AUD $ 9,675-
22-03-202602-04-2026AUD $ 9,675-
12-04-202623-04-2026AUD $ 9,675-

Accommodation

Hotel (5 nights),Heritage Hotel (1 night),Desert Camp (3 nights),Boutique Hotel (2nts)

Transport

Private vehicle,High-Speed Train,Boat,4x4 Jeep

Map