Al Hijr, Madain Saleh is
located 22 kilometers from Al Ula.
It occupies a strategic position on the road linking southern Arabian
Peninsula, Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), Syria and Egypt.
In Al Hijr the road coming from south of Arabia
divides out into two branches: one
heading to the north ending in', Petra in Jordan, which was the political
capital of Nabataea’s, passing through Tabuk, and the second branch heading
towards Mesopotamia through Tem'a. This important strategic location has made
Madain Saleh to become the capital
of Nabataea and an important economic and trade destination of caravans.
Al Hijr or Madain Saleh is an archeological site
in Saudi Arabia, located in the of
Al Ola governorate of Al Madinah
province and occupies a strategic position linking south Arabia with
Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. It was the land of Thamoods in the Wadi Al Qurah "Valley of
Villages", lying between Al Madinah and Tabouk. It is said that, Al Hijr
was known as Madain Saleh or Saleh’s village.
Al Hijr is located to the north east of Al Ula,
47-26 North Latitudes and 53-37 East Longitudes. I is known as Al Hijr since ancient times. The people
who resided in this place were called Koran. According to Quran, the Thamoods had met the missionaries of
the prophet Saleh, and then they converted to his religion after slaughtering a
she-camel sent to them by God.
Views of the Archeologists
According to archeologists, Al Hijr was inhabitant
by Al Moaineen and Al Thamoudains in the third millennium BC. Before them the
place was occupied by the Lehainians in the ninth century BC. Nabateans invaded the state of Bani
Lehain, who used stone structure as their houses, temples and tombs. It is
believed that Nabateans had built the city of Al Hijr themselves as it revealed
through the inscriptions found. Al Hijr contains a great deal of Moaineen and
Lehain inscriptions that link Al Ula, Kheriba and Hiania towns as oldest
perhaps dating back to 1700 BC. . Some of these places were destroyed by
earthquakes, according to the established literature.
As for Al Hijr city, its antiquities belong to the
Mea'nains traders and the early Thamoudains who had migrated into it from the
south of Arabian Peninsula.
In 2008 United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had announced that the archeological site of
Madain Saleh was included in the world Heritage List. Thus becoming the first
site in Saudi Arabia to join the World Heritage List.
Nabateans, who built Al Hijr
It has been proved to the researchers that the
Nabataeans were the first to settle in Al Hijr, "Madain Saleh," and
hence are the original architects of Al Hijr. researchers believe that the Nabataeans had originated from
the Arabian Peninsula. Historian Dedor Al Saqali writes that, the Nabateans
were a nomadic herdsmen tribe, who
did not know the art of Agriculture. These people had no sedentary life nor did
they drink alcohol and that their land was mostly rocky and rugged, unfit for a
It is understood that the Nabateans had founded a
large kingdom and its capital was Petra ‘Sila' located to the north of Mada’in
Saleh. The sources of the oldest evidence to the existence of Nabateans date
back to the ninth century BC, which was the beginning of their kingdom in the
city now known as the Sila', Petra.
When they decided to control the ancient trade route, they founded their
capital at Al Hijr city.
Through Nabateans inscriptions found in the Madain Saleh we can determine the age of Kingdom of the
Nabataea’s, as it starting from the beginning of the first century BC to the
mid-second century AD.
Nabateans had faced many economic and political
challenges, particularly with the Roman Empire. It was the biggest problem and
a major challenge faced by the Nabataea, as it was decidedly isolated and
finally leading to its downfall and decay. It was the discovery of the seasonal
trade winds in the first century BC which resulted in the adoption by
neighboring countries and the owners of commercial convoys to transport their
goods through Red Sea, resulting in the vulnerability of Al Hijr, which was
dependent on the passage of the convoys through its land and levying tax on it
for its own prosperity.
When convoys pass through this ancient city with
vibrant landscape and golden hills on the far-left it was one of the best scene
in the Arabian Peninsula.
From the available inscriptions the Nabateans
language resembles the late Aramian language which was greatly influenced by
Arabic language. 700 years before the birth of Prophet Muhammad (Blessings and
peace be upon him), the Kingdom of Nabateans extended from Damascus to the Red
Sea. But in 63 AD it was annexed by Rome and in 106 AD the Emperor Trojan
transformed it to Romanian province with the rest of the Arabian Peninsula.
The success of Nabateans was due largely to the
presence of the best architects of the ancient world with them. They were able
to overcome the scarcity of water sources in the region through a network of
pits and canals to harness and store water, some of which are in use.
The remains of Madain Saleh, testify to the
remarkable work of engineering. More than 131 tombs were found which were
carved out of huge sandstone mounds, standing singly amidst the world of wavy
sands, as well as some in a state of decomposition. The names engraved on these belong to the local Bedouins
Going clockwise, the first tomb to be seen is Al
Sane tomb as an introduction to the key elements of the model of the Nabatean
tombs. It has a great interface,
with the figures of five components, and the inscriptions at the top of the
door and the niches into which the dead bodies were placed.
Al Kheremat is next location with twenty shrines in
good condition. It is one of the
best preserved tombs in the Madain Saleh. There are many symbols that appear to
be linked to generations of the cultural imagery borrowed from the Egyptians
and Ethiopians. Statuettes of winged lions with human body and forms of flowers
painted on the bowls used in the rituals associated with funerals testify to
this. Al Khremat houses were built of mud as well as they contained water well.
The Jabal Ithlib
This toponym refers to two mountain ranges which
dominate the site from the northeast.
These mountains, with their high peaks, were particularly important for
the Nabataeuans since they chose them to be their religious area. They thus
carved inside the Jabal and on its outline, various type of sanctuaries and
other structures related to the cults of rituals they practiced there. One of them called the Diwan is a room
for banquets near which are carved several niches with betyls.
According to the explorer Charles Doughty (1888 AD),
there was a threshold in the palace that has fallen down with the extension of
the ceiling. “Also this room is pleasant and cool, because the north facing
façades allow no direct sun rays into them, and the cool air is always fills
the space" he said. There is a deep sense of security and calm in the tomb
which makes it gravely solemn.
Climbing over the mountain of Ethleb, on will face
enthralling scene over Madain Saleh. Out at the palace of Al Bint are painted
whales in triangular forms as the guards of the tomb. This is an example of the influence of Greek art on the
Nabateans. The construction of the tomb has been halted midway, which gives
helps to offer an insight into the techniques of tomb construction by the
Nabateans. The construction starts
from the top going to the bottom. Flowers on its entrance and the other ones
depict decorated plates used in religious ceremonies, indicating that these
buildings contained graves.
The unique place is the Bani Lahain Bani Quza, which
is a distinct tomb, carved out of an isolated rock facing the west. It is also
incomplete. It has a special beauty when the sun blazes on it in the afternoon.
Eating and sleeping is prohibited inside Madain
Saleh. 6 kilometers from Madain Saleh is the old and abandoned Hijaz Railway
lines and the station building.
For further information please review the following
in Saudi Arabia registered and nominated for registration in the UNESCO world
Booklet of Al
Hajar Exhibition (Madain Saleh)
efforts to register Madain Saleh into UNESCO List