Most Inspirational Moment
The 4x4 journey into the Sheda Mountains (after the visit to the marble village of Dee Ann), the stunning caves, rocks and vistas at the Cave Resort, where the warm welcome and sharing of coffee and dates as we perched at the “edge of the world” added to an unforgettable experience. A guided exploration of the caves on foot was a taxing but thrilling adventure. Close behind this day and also inspirational, was the majestic “Elephant Rock” bathed in evening sunlight shared with Arabic families enjoying a relaxed day out; the Nabataean Tombs at Jabal Alhambra; the Holy mosque at Medina; the sand dunes at the Yellow Lake and ….. attending (unexpectedly) a Saudi wedding celebration!!
Thoughts on Group Leader
It took a couple of days for us to “gel” as a group with our leader. Once he absorbed the fact that the group wanted more from him than just to get us from A to B safely, he made an effort to give us more information in advance; this included timings and plan of each day, a cultural ‘snapshot’ of the next destination, a selection of places to eat (though his knowledge of this was a little sketchy). We soon got into our mutual routine and found him punctual, efficient, willing to answer questions and helpful and attentive with unexpected hitches. He formed excellent relationships with the local Arab guides and facilitated their interaction with the group. There were one or two in the group that were a bit vocal and at times, over-demanding …. I think he found it difficult to stay patient under “attack” and these occasional confrontations were uncomfortable for all of us.
Advice for Potential Travellers
Accept that the advice to wear loose, comfortable clothes is important, not just to fit in with the culture of host country, but also because it simplifies packing and is just what you need in the hot climate! Make sure you have a good supply of nutritious snacks for the middle of the day hunger pangs; there are some long journeys (necessary to cover the many areas you wouldn’t want to miss) and stops are usually when refuelling the coach, when the available source of food is a small garage supermarket. Water is readily available. Don’t expect to swim, there are few opportunities to do so in public and time at the hotels that might have a pool is tight! Learn how to say please and thank you in Arabic; it is always appreciated. If you are, like me, absent-minded at times, be wary about taking small, valuable things on this trip. If you leave something in these remote desert resorts, your chance of getting a response is slim. I don’t think the machinery is yet in place to negotiate return of lost items.
It was very comforting to have Exodus Travel’s Tom Manchester (the creator of this wonderful adventure) with us on this the first Saudi trip. He was part of the group and kept a low profile but in a modest, understated, yet authoritative way, he gave guidance and advice to our tour leader when needed. He also surprised us with the cost of dinner on our last evening. I (and the group as a whole) found his presence immensely reassuring. Tom Manchester is to be commended (5 stars) on creating this unique exodus trip.