Caravan-Serai Tours is a small agency located north of downtown Seattle, Washington. We have been helping our clients plan their vacations and adventures of a lifetime for over 30 years. We started as a typical travel agency called Travel Express, selling airline tickets and cruise packages, but owner Rita Zawaideh saw a niche in marketing tours to her homeland: Jordan. Caravan-Serai Tours was born! For several years both organizations operated as separate entities even though the staff was the same. Tours to the Middle East were handled by Caravan-Serai Tours and vacation packages and airline tickets were handled by Travel Express. As you can imagine, this became cumbersome and eventually Travel Express was absorbed by Caravan-Serai. We still do all the same things, it is all just under one name now.
Rita Zawaideh is the owner of Caravan-Serai Tours, and recipient of numerous travel industry awards and recognition, and she is passionate about showing people the very best of her homeland and region. She has expanded the business from just the Levant destinations (Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Israel) to include all of North Africa, the Caucasus, the Arabian Peninsula, and Iran. She has been a leader in organized travel to the region, making it accessible to more and more people over the years.
You can read more about Rita’s family history in Jordan at the page Roots in the Middle East
Maha Sarhan is a native of Egypt but has lived in the US for more than 30 years. She has been with Caravan-Serai Tours for over 25 years and often leads tours to Egypt and other destinations across the region. She is fluent in Arabic and French and will make sure you have the experience of a lifetime. She is available in the office to help you with your airline tickets, plan a tour, or book a cruise.
Brenda Pierce is a graduate of the University of Washington’s International Studies program (BA) and has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East and North Africa. She helps to coordinate tours, develop new tour programs, manages the website and occasionally leads groups to destinations such as the Caucasus, Iran, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. She is in the office part time working on administrative tasks, but primarily works from home on marketing and the website.
A Caravan-Serai was a resting spot for travelers traversing the world’s continents, from China to the Middle East, and beyond. Here, travelers took a break from their journey to refresh themselves and their animals, and to meet new people and exchange news, trade and travel tips, ideas and experiences.
Our aim at Caravan-Serai Tours is to create tours that reflect the spirit of the travelers from long ago, who looked forward to the hospitality and the opportunity to learn from others that they would find at the next Caravan-Serai. At Caravan-Serai Tours, not only do we really know our destinations, but we understand them. We have lived, worked, and traveled throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and are proud of our heritage. Our multi-cultural office staff in Seattle hail from Jordan, Egypt, Iran, and the US, and have traveled all over the world, looking forward to those opportunities to meet new people and learn about their culture and traditions.
This is not just a business for us; it is a life’s work to unveil a part of the world that is a mystery to so many.
Some more things to know about Caravan-Serai Tours:
In order to give our clients a more personal experience, we keep our groups small – no more than about 15 or 16 people on each tour. This allows for more interaction with your guides and the people you will meet while traveling in the Middle East, and more opportunity to experience Arab hospitality. The Arab tradition of hospitality is central to the culture of the people of the Middle East and a source of great pride. At Caravan-Serai Tours we operate with that same sense of pride that comes from showing you a region of the world we love.
We select hotels based on our personal knowledge of the rooms, services offered, cleanliness, location, and price. We don’t just take a hotel’s word that they are a five star hotel without checking it out first. Many hotels in the Middle East and North Africa say they are four or five star hotels when they are more comparable to a two or three star hotel in the US. We know the best places to stay and also know which hotels to avoid.
The guides we use in many of our destinations are personally known to us so we know they have the experience and knowledge, as well as disposition, to work well with our clients.
Caravan-Serai Tours is in constant communication with our in-country operators to ensure your tour is going as planned. Even though you are “over there” and we are still here in Seattle, we are with you 100% of the time while you are on your tour.
Relationships are everything to us. We develop relationships with many our clients that last a lifetime, and quite often our clients come home from one of our tours having made several new friends, both in the country they visited and from the group they traveled with. These relationships, and those we maintain with our in-country offices, are vitally important to us. Without any of these, we would be a very generic and not very successful tour company!
Our tours are for people who want to enjoy themselves, experience new cultures, and learn about a vast array of countries. We do this by blending unique cultural and educational programs with fun and adventure.
Our mission is to provide you with a cultural experience that you will cherish for the rest of your life.
If you would like to assist the critical situation for Syrian refugees in Jordan, please visit our sister non-profit, SCM Medical Missions.