The Mysterious Treasure Mada’in Saleh (City of Hegra)

Mada’in Saleh

Mada’in Saleh is the mysterious treasure that has been lying for thousands of years in Al-Ula city, in the Northwestern of Saudi Arabia— Al-Ula city has recently been one of the most attractive and world-renowned tourist destinations.

In the past, it lied on the incense and spices route: one of the main trade routes on the Arabian Peninsula, used by traders to bring frankincense and myrrh from the south. Many ancient civilizations such as the Minaean, Dedanites, Nabataeans, and Lihyanite once settled there. Al-Ula features a rare splendid landscape and a distinctive geographical nature in addition to the various archaeological and historical sites.

Mada’in Saleh, also known as “Al-Hijr” or “Hegra”, is one of the largest Saudi archaeological, historic sites, and prominent destinations. Anyone visits Mada’in Saleh, can easily move to also visit the ancient Hijaz railway station, built under the Ottoman ruling of the region. Mada’in Saleh is rich with the historic ruins, some of which date back more than 2000 years, particularly to the Nabatean Kingdom. It features golden sculptured huge rocks constituting one of the most attractive magnificent scenes, inviolable monumental tombs, 94 of which are with decorated facades dating from the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD, around 50 inscriptions of the pre-Nabataean period, cave drawings, water wells. All of these monuments and tombs are directly cut into the sandstone, which is the best proof to show the architectural advancement as well as the hydraulic expertise of the Nabataeans. The artificial wells built in rocky grounds and even still in use is a best example on the development of the Nabataean agricultural techniques.

On the other hand, we cannot talk about Mada’in Saleh without mentioning the world-renowned Kingdom of Dadan remains and the Lion Tombs at ancient Dadan. One of the important sites in Mada’in Saleh is Al-Khuraybah, the capital of the Dadan and Nabateans Kingdoms. Al-Khuraybah is classified as one of the most developed cities in the first millennium BCE in the whole Arabian Peninsula. That’s why it is said that Al-Ula was the capital of two ancient great Arab Kingdoms— the Kingdom of Nabatean and the Kingdom of Dadan. It is the land of historical and archaeological wonders. Moreover, and as is the case of the region of Al-Ula governorate, Mada’in Saleh enjoys highly favorable climatic conditions along the year. It is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage.

Mada’in Saleh, a UNESCO world Heritage site

It is noteworthy that the Archaeological site of Al-Hijr (Mada’in Saleh) was the first World Heritage property to be inscribed in Saudi Arabia in 2008. It was nominated and selected for several reasons; most important of which is being the largest conserved site for the Nabataeans civilization extended to Petra (currently known as South of Jordan), bearing witness to important cultural exchanges in architecture, decoration, language use and the caravan trade for it is located on the ancient trade route connecting the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean world and Asia, as well as bearing a unique testimony to the architectural style, the epigraphic presence of several ancient languages (Lihyanite, Thamudic, Nabataean, Greek, Latin) and the encounter between a variety of decorative and architectural influences (Assyrian, Egyptian, Phoenician, Hellenistic).

  • Mada’in Saleh welcomes thousands of tourists and there’s a Saudi-French collaboration to prepare it as a world tourist destination

During Winter At Tantora festival, Al-Hijr city or Mada’in Saleh name has repeatedly mentioned in the local media and among the different social networks users as a site of universal value. The festival is annually organized by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage that has co-operated with Al-Madinah Regional Municipality to execute a project to rehabilitate and develop the archaeological site. An extremely comprehensive Local Management Unit is being built to enable satisfactory protection of the property, organize systematic monitoring of the conservation of the site, and prepare a project for the presentation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property for the benefit both of visitors and of the population of the region.

It is worth noting that France and Saudi Arabia work on a mutual archaeological project to develop the archaeological site of Al-Ula, and particularly Mada’in Saleh. The excavations in the area started in 2002 and are currently in their third five-year program. It is strongly believed that the region will play a key role in the cultural tourism in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and France are about to sign an agreement mandating France to go on the development plan of the archaeological site for the upcoming 10 years.