Mada’in Salih in Saudi Arabia

Friday, 9 September 2022 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  5 minutes

© flickr.com - Sammy Six/cc-by-2.0

© flickr.com – Sammy Six/cc-by-2.0

Hegra (known to Muslims as Al-Hijr, also known as Mada’in Salih or “Cities of Salih”) is an archaeological site located in the area of Al-‘Ula within Medina Province in the Hejaz, Saudi Arabia. A majority of the remains date from the Nabataean Kingdom (1st century AD). The site constitutes the kingdom’s southernmost settlement and its second largest city after Petra (now in Jordan), its capital city. Traces of Lihyanite and Roman occupation before and after the Nabatean rule, respectively, can also be found.

The Quran places the settlement of the area by the Thamudi people during the days of Salih, between those of Nuh (Noah) and Hud on one hand, and those of Ibrahim (Abraham) and Musa (Moses) on the other. However, a definitive historical chronology can not be obtained through the order of verses due to the fact that the Quranic chapters (surah) deal with different subjects in non-chronologic order. According to the Islamic text, the Thamudis were punished by God for their idolatry, struck by an earthquake and lightning blasts. Thus, the site has earned a reputation as a cursed place—an image which the national government is attempting to overcome as it seeks to develop Mada’in Salih for its potential for tourism.

In 2008, UNESCO proclaimed Mada’in Salih as a site of patrimony, becoming Saudi Arabia’s first World Heritage Site. It was chosen for its well-preserved remains from late antiquity, especially the 131 monumental rock-cut tombs, with their elaborately ornamented façades, of the Nabataean Kingdom.

© flickr.com - Sammy Six/cc-by-2.0 © flickr.com - Sammy Six/cc-by-2.0 © flickr.com - Sammy Six/cc-by-2.0 © flickr.com - Sammy Six/cc-by-2.0 © Abu Shar Namureh/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Richard.hargas/cc-by-sa-4.0
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© flickr.com - Sammy Six/cc-by-2.0
The archaeological site of Hegra is situated 20 km (12 mi) north of the town of Al-‘Ula, 400 km (250 mi) north-west of Medina, and 500 km (310 mi) south-east of Petra, Jordan. Al-Istakhri wrote in “Al-Masalik”:

Al-Hijr is a small village. It belongs to Wadi al Gura and is located at one day’s travel inside the mountains. It was the homeland of the Thamudians. I have seen those mountains and their carvings. Their houses are similar to ours but are carved in the mountains, which are called the Ithlib mountains. It looks as if they are a continuous range but they are separated and have sand dunes around them. You can reach the top of the mountains, but this is extremely tiring. The well of the Thamudians which is mentioned in the Holy Quran is located in the middle of the mountains.
— Al-Istakhri

The site is on a plain, at the foot of a basalt plateau, which forms a portion of the Hijaz mountains. Beneath the western and north-western parts of the site, the water table can be reached at a depth of 20 metres (66 ft). The setting is notable for its desert landscape, marked by sandstone outcroppings of various sizes and heights.

The archaeological site lies in an arid environment. The dry climate, the lack of resettlement after the site was abandoned, and the prevailing local beliefs about the locality have all led to the extraordinary state of preservation of Al-Hijr, providing an extensive picture of the Nabatean lifestyle. Thought to mark the southern extent of the Nabatean kingdom, Al-Hijr’s oasis agriculture and extant wells exhibit the necessary adaptations made by the Nabateans in the given environment—its markedly distinct settlement is the second largest among the Nabatean kingdom, complementing that of the more famous Petra archaeological site in Jordan. The location of the site at the crossroads of trade, as well as the various languages, scripts and artistic styles reflected in the façades of its monumental tombs further set it apart from other archaeological sites. It has duly earned the nickname “The Capital of Monuments” among Saudi Arabia’s 4,000 archaeological sites.

Read more on UNESCO.org – Hegra Archaeological Site (al-Hijr / Madā ͐ in Ṣāliḥ), Wikivoyage Mada’in Salih and Wikipedia Mada’in Salih (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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