Intrepid Travel introduces a Saudi Arabia Women’s Expedition trip led by female tour leaders and guides and featuring female-owned local tourism businesses to shake up cultural stigmas about women in the ultra-conservative Middle East country.

Capped at 12 travellers per trip, the 12-day Saudi Arabia Women’s Expedition will have a limited run of five departures, beginning from 26 November 2024 and priced from AUD$8,795.

The tour will start in Riyadh and finish in Jeddah, featuring nine female-owned and -operated businesses to empower and support local women.

Intrepid Travel Saudi Arabia Tabuk Wadi Al Disah desert Jenny Gray 4686
Wadi Al Disah desert in Tabuk province.

Groups will stay in a female-owned boutique hotel, heritage property and desert camp, while experiences include a sunrise tour to the Nabataean site of Hegra with a local rawee (storyteller) and lunch with two sisters who run a local citrus farm near Alula.

Travellers will also visit Madinah – the second holiest Islamic site after Mecca (also in Saudi Arabia) – with a local female guide. 

Saudi Arabia and women

Intrepid Travel Saudi Arabia Madinah Al Masjid an Nabawi The Prophets mosque leader Rula Zina Bencheikh 00007
Intrepid Travel local guide Rula at Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (The Prophet’s Mosque) in Madinah.

Saudi Arabia remains an extremely conservative society, however recently women have acquired some freedoms and represent 30 per cent of its tourism and hospitality sector.

The new itinerary is designed to address common misconceptions about women in the Middle Eastern country with opportunities to visit women’s homes and female-only spaces.

Intrepid spent a year developing this trip independently, partnering with local DMC operator Sara Omar.

“A lot of people think Saudi women are unable to do anything, that we’re not educated, that we don’t work. Meeting the locals is the best way to understand what the lifestyle is really like,” Ms Omar said.  

Travel for change

Intrepid Travel Saudi Arabia Jeddah Al Balad leader Sara Zina Zina Bencheikh 00026
Intrepid Travel Managing Director EMEA Zina Bencheikh and Saudi Arabia DMC operator Sara Omar in Jeddah.

Intrepid Travel Product Manager for Women’s Expeditions Jenny Gray said: “We challenged ourselves to create a trip in Saudi in line with our values that would be a genuine force for good,” she said.

“With tourism to Saudi focused on vast ultra-luxury offerings, we wanted to balance that by creating something completely unique in Saudi Arabia: a trip putting local women’s voices centre stage.

“With activities like joining a cooking class with a local female chef and getting pampered at a women-owned salon, the trip will give our travellers the chance to see a side of Saudi few get to experience.”

Top-down shot of Intrepid Travel local village meal with dishes and drinks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Local village meal at Najd near Riyadh.

Intrepid Travel Managing Director EMEA Zina Bencheikh recently visited Saudi Arabia and witnessed firsthand the positive effects of tourism on women.

“We strongly believe that travel, when done right, can be a positive force for change,” she said.

“On my visit, I met many women who were embracing the changes in their society. They were excited to begin their careers in travel and welcome people to their country.”

Intrepid launched its first-ever Women’s Expeditions in Pakistan and Nepal last year.

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