Guest Comments

Guest Feedback - Masawife Tour Operator

Dear Amir,

Edge of the world Trip was wonderful with Khalid Al Rabiah Masawife Tours

“As a group of women exploring in Saudi Arabia, we were pleased to have very respectful and conscientious guide, with excellent driving skills. I would highly recommend Khalid Al Rabiah for other women or for parents who are looking for someone to trust if their daughters wish to travel.”

Regards,

Female Guest

Miss Marilyn Smith


Dear Amir,

MADAIN SALEH TRIP WAS WONDERFUL:

After weeks of deliberation, a small group of Jacobs ZATE staff from Al Khobar, set out to explore one of Saudi Arabia’s historic sites. Having researched options for a safari to Al-Ula and Madain Saleh, an itinerary was prepared in collaboration with a Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) recommended tour operator; in this case it was Mr Amir Qadir, Tourism Manager at Masawife Tours (www.masawife.com), who was extremely helpful at all times. Masawife Tours refined every detail of the trip, from flights and transfers to the informed bilingual guide provided to make the trip a success.

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With only limited time available for the group, the adventure began with an early morning flight from Dammam to Madina from where Masawife arranged transfer with a dedicated driver Mr Habib, who was diligently waiting at Madina for our arrival. Before the long drive north to Al-Ula, we enjoyed a traditional Arabic breakfast and then followed the route of the historic Hejaz Railway. Spectacular mountainous landscapes provided the backdrop to the journey, as we passed Ottoman forts and stations along the road. What remains of the historic single track railway is visible in the form of a small raised embankment and culverts to the west of the modern highway.

Al-Ula City came as a welcome respite, with lunch at the Arac Resort. Fortified and rested, we set off to explore the ancient Al-Khuraibah city ruins and ‘Lion Tombs’ at Mount Dadan. Our tour guide Mr Adel Awad Al-Anazi of AlUla Guided Tours provided insight and explanation of the historic context of the site and then we proceeded to the ‘Open Library’ at Mount Ikma, where inscriptions and rock paintings show wildlife, people and pledges to tax duty of the day.

The first day culminated with spectacular views across the Al-Ula valley from Harrat Awared at sunset, then a drive to our overnight stay at the Arac desert camp. Arriving at the camp in the dark we were greeted by our professional hosts and made welcome by Mr Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Fadil, Deptuty Director of AlUla Guided Tours, then sat around the camp fire in front of the ‘majlis’ with tea and Arabic coffee, (qahwah), which was refreshing after a long day. The tented accommodation at the camp was simple and comfortable. At sunrise the splendour of the camp became evident, nestling in a small canyon bounded on three sides by steep cliff faces. The deafening silence broken by the call of crows and rock pigeons, echoing off the stone enclosure, as the red dawn sun kissed white canvas tents. The tranquillity of the place cannot be overstated, the air was warm and fresh; a welcome change from the norm of air conditioned environments experienced in regional daily life.

After breakfast we set out for the main purpose of our safari; heading from the camp along the desert track and then a short road journey to the restored and historic Hejaz Railway Station at Madain Saleh. Here we explored the maintenance shed and interpretive panels which set out the history of the railway and its significant influence in trade and commerce and of course its role during the First World War.

From here the paved road takes the visitor past the deserted ruins of the old Madain Saleh farming settlement and into the UNESCO World Heritage site. The young and well informed tour guide Adel Awad Al-Anazi introducing Nabatean tombs incrementally, starting with a few smaller ones and explaining their historic relevance. With numerous tombs on the site, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the majesty of these structures. Carved thousands of years ago from the top down, chisel marks remain visible along with owner’s references and graffiti through time.

The unfinished tomb of Qasr al-Fareed is the most iconic, most publicised and referred to as ‘The Unique’, providing the pinnacle of any tour of the site; yet there is more and we were guided to the ‘diwan’ at Mount Ethlib with remnants of historic worship in the form of niches carved in the rock.

The Madain Saleh site and monuments are without question spectacular offering the photographer endless landscape possibilities in differing light from dawn till dusk. It is a place of reverence, of remarkable construction which has survived the abuse of climate and harsh sands, allowing the visitor insight to what was once a vast civilization.

From the tombs our journey returned to the Old City of Al Ula, where we enjoyed a traditional lunch in the private function room of a local restaurant where the food was excellent.

At the Old City, we ascended the steep stairs to enjoy the panoramic views from the Musa Ibn Nusair fortress, to the south west the city being restored, with the main highway dividing to the south east the ruinous farms in decay. The views are a paradox of society, with the new road and traffic in tight juxtaposition with the ruin town being restored.

Walking through the claustrophobic maze of streets in the Old Town, with twists and turns in what has been in living memory an active settlement, conjured up images of the hustle and bustle, sights, sounds and activities which once pervaded the area. Homes, accessed from the street through a narrow door, containing little more than a communal room with stair to an open roof and smaller totally enclosed rooms at the rear, give a real sense of life and community.

The Old Town contains many features, which could themselves take up significant time to properly appreciate and understand. Repurposed stone artefacts from previous civilizations at Al-Khuraibah, built into the newer homes and buildings of the Old City preserves historic references through time.

The historic ‘sundial’ located on the gable of a building, would be seen and an architectural detail would it not be for the informed guide’s explanation of the seasonal significance to the farmers of past times.

Of particular significance, was to stand in the small and simple mosque in the Old City and understand that this was built on the site where the Prophet Mohammed had visited inscribed the ‘qibla’ in the rocks many centuries ago when leading a congregation to prayer, subsequently the community building a mosque on the site, in respect of the event.

As the day waned, we left the Old Town and visited the famous ‘Elephant Rock’, a monolithic natural stone formation in the desert. The site requiring no explanation, it looks from most angles to be a fossilized mammal, but for legs. The void below the head is enormous and can only truly be appreciated at some distance.

Our tour of Al-Ula and Madain Saleh concluded with some food at the Arac Resort, some rest and then a night time journey back to Madina for our return flight to Dammam. Whilst it had been a packed tour, all agreed the two days had felt as though we had taken longer; we saw much and appreciated the opportunity to visit the area. Al-Ula offers significant historically and culturally interest, the visitor will want to return to better appreciate these, from what two days only provides a teaser of all that Al-Ula can offer.

The group is grateful for the opportunity to visit the historic sites of Al-Ula and Madain Saleh; they provide an insight into a world many do not see. The welcome and professionalism experienced made created an exceptional memory, for a trip which was all too short to see so much.

Kind regards

Guest

Peter Randles
Project Director


Dear Amir,

Jim and I have had a wonderful trip that we will always remember. Everything we saw and did in the Al-Ula area was fantastic. Masawife strengths were as follows.

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1. Masawife business communication was courteous, prompt, and with clear instructions. I had tried emailing 7-8 other tour operators and they never responded. 

2. Masawife transportation arrangements were smooth– we always had enough time to make connections. It could not have been easy arranging a trip for international customers that arrived in Dammam, but our plane arrangements were well-timed, and our driver in Medina was prompt and courteous.

3. Saeed Al-Gehani is an excellent guide– for both national and international customers. He managed our schedules well and was articulate and knowledgeable. He has the ability to connect with people and we enjoyed him very much.

4. The camp that we stayed at was a trip highlight. The tents, the rock formations, the camels, and the quiet of the desert were all very special. Saeed feels the camp needs better lighting on the road out to the camp. It was so dark we had to wait for a special driver. But Jim and I would not have given up the camp experience.

The Saudi and international doctors at the conference were amazed that we had gone on such a trip on our own– and now several of them have decided to visit Al Ula. We have recommended you.

I checked your website for a Trip Advisor where I could post this evaluation, but I could not find one. Such a posting might help other foreign visitors.

Sincerely,

Guest

Mary Blankenship


Dear Mr. Amir,

Good day!

I would like to thank you and Mr. Khalid for all the effort our teachers was happy in this trip and below one of our teachers feedback:

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1. How was the guided tour? Was the guide very knowledgeable or not? How do you feel the guide did overall (out of 5)

I enjoyed the guided tour. The tour guide was very knowledgeable, in my opinion, and his English was excellent. I would rate our tour guide, Ahmad, very highly.

2. Was the time of year a good time for the trip? (Month of December…colder season) It was a bit cold in the mornings and evenings. It was too cold to sleep in the tents. The tents did not have heaters in them! I woke throughout the night shivering from the cold. I think I would have enjoyed the tent experience more if the weather was warmer or if the tent had a portable heater. It was good having the trip over a 3-day weekend.

3. If you could make a suggestion for this trip, what would be your suggestion? I would recommend that you create a list for how to pack appropriately for the activities on this trip. For example, we did a lot of walking and hiking on this trip. People need to pack appropriate shoes and socks. However, not everyone knew to do this and they were not able to enjoy all of the walking and hiking. Other things to suggest would be a light jacket, knit hat, and gloves if you have this trip during winter time again.

Looking forward for more trips with your agency.

Regards,

Female Guest
Ms. Shaikhah Al Ahmad
HR Coordinator


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