25 December 2014

Madain Saleh (Al Hijr)

Madian Saleh is Saudi Arabia’s first World Heritage Site and is situated near Al Ula in Madina Province. It is a very impressive Nabatean burial site and village and is known locally as Al-Hijr with opening times Saturday to Thursday 09:00 – 18:00 hrs and Friday 15:00 – 18:00 hrs. Foreigners need an entry permit to enter the site whilst local people are exempt and there is no cost for entering. The Nabateans were Arab tribes who became settled and lived in cities. They excelled in commerce as well as in the development of water resources, collecting water through a system of channels and storing it in vast cisterns. They settled in Syria and the northwestern part of the Arabian Peninsula with their capital at Petra in Jordon and Madain Saleh their military base on the southern border of their empire. The Nabateans used the Aramaic script their language was northern Arabic with respect to vocabulary and proper nouns. They formed the Nabatean script by joining some letters one to another, from which the Arabic script of today is developed. Madain Saleh contains carved tomb facades, religious areas, residential areas, wels & water channels, remains of the Syrian pilgrimage route, remains of the Hijaz railway and mud brick houses. The site occupied a strategic position along the old Incense trade route that connected the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula with the north and the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Syria and the Nile Valley of Egypt. The route coming from the south bifurcated at Madain Saleh into two directions; a road to Tayma, Dumat al-Jandal and then Mesopotamia and another road to Petra in Jordon the capital of the Nabateans. Madain Saleh, also known as Al-Hijr, dates back to the Nabatean Civilization and is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia. At first glance, it looks like a vast ground with a huge rock in it, but when you look carefully, those rocks have been carved into shapes of tombs and graves. The levels of these graves vary depending on the level of social and financial status of their owners. People settled in this area due to the suitable climate and the availability of fresh water in the area. The monuments surround the residential area and contain over 100 tombs, ninety-four of which have decorated facades that vary considerably in size. Thirty tombs bear a dated Nabatean inscription incised in a special frame above the door of the funerary vault and every tomb represents a cemetery for one family. Tombs were carved using simple tolls such as chisels, hammers and picks. The process was started by selecting a suitable site and then the carver would hollow out a cavity from the top of the rock to the required depth. He would then proceed to carve the details of the façade from top to bottom without the use of scaffolding. Then the tomb chamber was hollowed out as well as the burial places themselves within the chamber.