10 Days | 19 to 28 November 2021 (Saudi Arabia)7 Days | 28 November to 4 December 2021 (Egypt)

We are just asking for expressions of interest on this tour. Those registering an expression of interest, before 31/01/2021, will receive a discount, per person, of a minimum of £200 (more if we get 20 passengers). No deposit required until April 2021.

Everyone has their own view of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) but few have actually been there to see for their selves. To railfans it’s often thought about as the land containing the last leg of the 1050mm Hejaz Railway carrying pilgrims from Damascus and Amman through the desert to Medina from where they would need to continue to Mecca by Camel Train. The railway attacked many times by T E Lawrence never re-opened after the end of the Ottoman Empire. Today there are two dedicated museums and several locomotives also remain. From Medina there’s no longer a need to take a camel train, as a high-speed railway connects to Mecca. Further east, two other railways now exist taking heavy freight as well as delivering passengers. We plan to visit the KSA, travel every possible piece of track, visit depots and many Hejaz artifacts.

We will see arid desertscapes and green oases together with the country’s rich cultural heritage from the incredible Nabatean Tombs at Madain Saleh, mudbrick architecture at Ha’il, to the fortifications of Tarout Island Dammam.

The Egypt extension offers the opportunity to cross the Red Sea to visit well-known archaeological sites in Upper Egypt then, to travel the full extent of the Nile Valley by train to the jewel in the crown – the Giza Pyramids. We complete our tour with a visit to Alexandria, the site of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world where the opportunity to ride the extensive 19th-century tram network will be presented.

Availability

Tour Highlights


  • Comprehensive rail travel in KSA & Egypt plus trams in Alexandria
  • Depot visits and photographic facilities
  • The first railfan visit to the KSA
  • Exploration of Artifacts and locomotives from historic Hejaz Railway
  • World heritage KSA sights at Hofuf, Dir’iayah (Riyadh) and Madain Saleh
  • World heritage ancient Egyptian sights at Giza, Luxor and Aswan AlexandriaHejaz Railway museums and locos
  • Opportunity to ride all rail lines in Saudi Arabia
  • Workshop and depot visits
  • Rich cultural heritage
  • KSA - Includes 9 breakfasts, 8 dinners and 3 lunches
  • Egypt – Includes 6 breakfasts, 6 dinners, 3 lunches
  • Tour Itinerary
  • Prices & Options
  • Booking
  • Gallery
  • Transport & Accommodation

Day 1 Friday 19 November

We commence our tour by day-time flight to the air hub of the island Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf and stay close to the airport in the capital Manama.  Bahrain is much more liberal than the KSA and those who may wish to explore the island should consider arriving the previous day or overnight.

Day 2 Saturday 20 November (B,D)

We will enter the KSA by crossing the 25km causeway and bridge taking us to Dammam, the capital of Saudi’s Eastern Province to stay for 2N close to the Corniche on the Persian Gulf. First we will visit the Saudi Railways Organisation’s (SRO) workshops and depot to see some of the locomotives used for freight traffic from the docks to the capital Riyadh. We hope to be able to arrive by charter train from the main station. For lunch, we will break at a food court where a choice of simple snacks can be obtained – a pattern repeated on other days.

Day 3 Sunday 21 November (B,D)

We travel by fast road some 200km north along the gulf coast to the workshops of the Saudi Railway Company (SAR) near the port of Ras Al Khair for a visit to the diesel depot which deals with the heavy industrial trains that operate over this system. Hopefully, we will meet a long train with cut-in locos for photos. Any who do not wish to join us for this freight railway may relax or walk the Corniche, to join us later. One could visit the King Abdulaziz Cultural Centre (own expense). From mid-afternoon we visit Tarout Island with its 16th century castle and Old Town to complete our day.

Day 4 Monday 22 November (B,L,D)

We leave Dammam at 8:00 on the SRO line towards the capital Riyadh, breaking our journey halfway at Hofuf. There may be a loco-hauled passenger arrival at Dammam at 6:30 and, if so, any earlybirds could go to see/photo this. At Hofuf we visit the souk, the Jawatha Masjid and the UNESCO oasis of Al-Ahsa. We return to view the Qasr Ibrahim Ottoman fortress and take some lunch prior to continuing our rail journey to Riyadh, arriving late afternoon to stay 2N. We then plan to undertake an after-hours visit to the Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University which sports an 11km driverless metro before a late dinner at our hotel.

Day 5 Tuesday 23 November (B,D)

Today we discover KSA’s capital city, visiting the Public Transit Visitors’ Centre where the future of Riyadh’s public transport system can be seen, the Metro, Trolley Bus at the King Saud University and the Aviation Museum complete our transport items. We also take-in the mudbrick Masmak Fortress and a nearby souk, explore the UNESCO site of Dir’aiyah to wander through small alleyways where the story of modern Saudi began. If there’s a convenient freight train operating the Riyadh – Haradh route we may be able to factor in a photo opportunity. Diner will be traditional Arabian style – but not with floor seating!

Day 6 Wednesday 24 November (B,D)

We depart from Riyadh taking the daily train from the SAR station, 600km towards Jordan through the desert to alight at Ha’il. From Az Zabira Jc., we may see a long potash train and if one is waiting for the road at Ha’il, we’ll try to photograph it. Arrival will be early afternoon and then we will visit the A’arif Castle, Qishla barracks, the Barzan Palace and stroll through the Market to stay locally. For any track aficionados there is the weekly overnight train the 400km onwards to Jauf (c.$70+) but, it would entail a taxi ride back and missing breakfast – it’s the only possibility!

Day 7 Thursday 25 November (B,L,D)

We now take a 400+km transfer by road from the alignment of the SAR line towards the Jordan border to that of the Medina – Jordan route, ie that of the old Hejaz railway at Mada’in Saleh. Following lunch, we will visit the Hejaz Station Museum containing a WW1 steam locomotive and then the nearby UNESCO Nabatean carved tombs. We will complete our day watching the sun set behind the Qasr Al Farid tomb and stay locally.

Day 8 Friday 26 November (B,L,D)

We commence our journey south along the route of the Hejaz Railway to Medina taking a packed lunch. Our first call will be at the remarkable Elephant Rock some 30km south, before we visit some of the locations on the Hejaz attacked by TE Lawrence. Significantly these include 3 steam locomotives, one which suffered war damage, another displayed on a wye complete with train, and finally one having been derailed. The actual access to these locomotives from the main highway will entail us using a number of 4WD vehicles which will entail an extra charge (c.$110) paid locally. We stay overnight in Medina.

Day 9 Saturday 27 November (B,D)

In the morning we visit old and new. There’s the Hejaz Railway museum at the old station complex, which contains 6No. WW1 locos and much more. Then, we have a visit to the depot of the Haramain HS railway. We will leave Medina for Jeddah early afternoon on the HS railway to be rapidly whisked the 400+km to stay in Jeddah overnight. We hope to be able to offer an optional (not included) opportunity to ride the c.1hr each way to Mecca and return. There’s no question of exiting at Mecca. If you were taking an evening flight out ie Gulf Air, you could do so this evening, otherwise it’s our final dinner.

Day 10 Sunday 28 November (B)

If you are returning to London, the direct BA flight is expected to depart early but, we hope you will be able to extend your stay in the region and join us for a few more days across the Red Sea to Upper Egypt and the Nile Valley, which we access by a flight to the city of Sohag.

Egypt add-on

Day 1/11 Sunday 28 November (B,D)

After immigration and customs formalities are negotiated, we will transfer to a hotel overlooking the Nile where we will take a late breakfast, make ourselves more comfortable, then visit the nearby Red and White Coptic Monasteries. After, we return to Sohag where our journey to the city of Luxor on the Nile, sometimes referred to as the world’s greatest open-air museum, will be completed by train. We stay for 3N.

Day 2/12 Monday 29 November (B,L,D)

This morning we’ll visit the Temples of Karnak the largest religious structure ever erected. Then it’s by horse-drawn cart to the Nile for a private boat to take us to our waiting coach on the West Bank and the rock-hewn temples in the Valley of the Kings. We will take lunch at the historic Al Marsam Hotel before a visit to the Colossi of Memnon. The 600mm Armant sugar cane rail system is close by and we are negotiating a visit and we hope to be able to offer a charter prior to the return to our hotel. The day will be completed with a sunset felucca on the Nile followed by a dinner overlooking the vast river.

Day 3/13 Tuesday 30 November (B,L,D)

We aim to take an early train south to Aswan, the end of the line. After exploration of the rail facilities we will visit the Temple of Isis on Philae Island ‘set like a pearl in its surroundings’ before returning to Luxor by fast highway. Dinner is again overlooking the Nile.

Day 4/14 Wednesday 1 December (B,L,D)

Today will be a relaxed day as we take a 10 hour journey north on the Nile Valley Railway to Cairo, the world’s largest Arab city, where we stay overnight. We have dinner at our hotel overlooking the Nile.

Day 5/15 Thursday 2 December (B,D)

From where we stay, it’s a short 4-station hop on the metro to the Ramses Station where we visit the railway museum with its 3 steam locos, and also take a look at the station itself. We return on the metro to Giza, where our bus takes us to the iconic Necropolis (Pyramids) and the adjacent Sphinx. We then transfer by road to Alexandria on the Mediterranean coast. If the USA-type 0-6-0T is still extant at nearby Media City, we will endeavor to make a passing call. Overnight and dinner are at the colonial hotel used as Monty’s wartime HQ.

Day 6/16 Friday 3 December (B,D)

The highlight of the day for many may be the opportunity to ride and photo the old 1860s tramway system along the coast road outside our central hotel. We also visit the 15th-century Citadel of Qaitbay, built on the site of the Pharos Lighthouse – one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the Ancient World’ and also the El Shoqafa Catacombs. Mid pm we will take a fast train to Cairo, and transfer to a hotel at the airport, 20km from the city.

Day 7/17 Saturday 4 December (B or FB)

For those returning on the BA flight to London, it’s a very early departure. Other departures are at a more sociable time. For those who have not visited Cairo, and its ancient sites, before, we recommend you add on a few extra nights.

Prices (per person) – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

  • Full holiday with flights from UK: £4,625 *
  • Land only: £3,925

Prices (per person) – Egypt

  • Full holiday with flights: £2,965 *
  • Land only: £2,165

Prices (per person) – Saudi Arabia and Egypt

  • Full holiday with flights from UK: £6,890
  • Land only: £6,090

Options

  • Single supplement: £615 (Saudi Arabia), £295 (Egypt)
  • 4WD off-road inspection/investigation of 3No. Locomotives damaged by TE Lawrence: £90
  • O/N track-bash + taxi return to end of NE line to Jawf: £60
  • If you are doing both tours then internal flight from Jeddah KSA to Sohag Egypt): £200

Deposit

  • If booking before 31/12/2020 we only need an expression of interest. Deposit payable April 2021.

* with such a large number of flight options, and upgrades, the with flight price will be agreed at time of booking

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Visa Notes

Each of the 3 countries require UK citizens to obtain a visa (other nationalities need to check). For Bahrain, the visa is issued on presentation of a completed arrival card. The fee is 5BD or 15 in $, € or £. For the KSA, the visa is issued by return online for a fee of $125. For Egypt the cost is $25 for either a visa online or on arrival. Aim for online as it smooths the group arrival. We will issue detailed guidance for both online processes.