Guildford Travel Club Presents

Saudi Arabian Journeys

18th February 2020

John Weatherburn

Camel and owner

Saudis believe God blessed their country from above with the Qu'ran and from below with oil. What of the land in-between that is criss-crossed by ancient trade and pilgrimage routes? 

With 18 million annual visitors, Saudi Arabia matches Portugal as a travel destination. Most visitors are pilgrims. Some come for family or business reasons. Few other travellers are admitted.

For 20 years the Weatherburns lived in Saudi Arabia through the 1991 Gulf War, the 2003 Iraq invasion, the 2004 Al Qaeda insurrection and the 2010 Arab Spring. All the while they travelled the country; following the Frankincense Route from Yemen to the northern Nabatean settlements, the pilgrimage routes from the Levant to Makkah and the Hejaz Railway that Lawrence attacked. Like Thessiger and Thomas they crossed the Rub'Al Khali the world's largest sand desert. They visited the Asir Mountains and the stunning volcanoes of the northern Hejaz. Like Cousteau they dived on the 5,000 km of Red Sea coral reefs.

Hawksbill turtle
Hawksbill turtle
barren landscape
Jebel Bayda - white volcano
ruined fort
Medain Saleh, Qasr Al Farid - the Lonely Castle of the Nabataeans
railway bridge
Hejaz Railway, Hadiyah bridge
colourful fish
Crinoid and Anthea Fish