Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih)

 Saudi Arabia
N26 47 1 E37 57 18
Date of Inscription: 2008
Criteria: (ii)(iii)
Property : 1,621.2 ha
Buffer zone: 1,659.34 ha
Ref: 1293

The archaeological site of Al-Hijr is a major site of the Nabataean civilisation, in the south of its zone of influence. Its integrity is remarkable and it is well conserved. It includes a major ensemble of tombs and monuments, whose architecture and decorations are directly cut into the sandstone.

It bears witness to the encounter between a variety of decorative and architectural influences (Assyrian, Egyptian, Phoenician, Hellenistic), and the epigraphic presence of several ancient languages (Lihyanite, Thamudic, Nabataean, Greek, Latin).

It bears witness to the development of Nabataean agricultural techniques using a large number of artificial wells in rocky ground. The wells are still in use.

The ancient city of Hegra/Al-Hijr bears witness to the international caravan trade during late Antiquity.

Criterion (ii): The site of Al-Hijr is located at a meeting point between various civilisations of late Antiquity, on a trade route between the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean world and Asia. It bears outstanding witness to important cultural exchanges in architecture, decoration, language use and the caravan trade. Although the Nabataean city was abandoned during the pre-Islamic period, the route continued to play its international role for caravans and then for the pilgrimage to Mecca, up to its modernisation by the construction of the railway at the start of the 20th century.

Criterion (iii): The site of Al-Hijr bears unique testimony to the Nabataean civilisation, between the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC and the pre-Islamic period, and particularly in the 1st century AD. It is an outstanding illustration of the architectural style specific to the Nabataeans, consisting of monuments directly cut into the rock, and with facades bearing a large number of decorative motifs. The site includes a set of wells, most of which were sunk into the rock, demonstrating the Nabataeans’ mastery of hydraulic techniques for agricultural purposes.

Suggested Base:

Al Ula (also Al Ola, Arabic العلا al-ʿulā; Also Dedan), is a city some 110 km southwest of Tayma (380 km north of Medina) in north-western Saudi Arabia. Al-Ula was historically located on the Incense route. It was the capital of the ancient Lihyanites (Dedanites). It is well known for archaeological remnants, some over 2000 years old. The older history of the oasis has been divided into several phases. The Dedanite kingdom spans to the seventh and sixth century BC. Dedan is mentioned in the “Harran Inscriptions”. In these it is told how Nabonidus the king of Babylonia made a military campaign to northern Arabia in 552 BC or somewhat later, conquering Tayma, Dedan and Yathrib, the old Medina. It is thought that around the turn to the fifth century BC the kingdom became hereditary. [read more]


Khaybar (Arabic: خيبر‎, IPA: [ˈxajbar, ˈxäjbär]) is the name of an oasis some 153 km (95 mi) to the north of Medina (ancient Yathrib), Saudi Arabia. Before the rise of Islam, this fortress town had been inhabited by Jewish tribes; it fell to Muslim forces in 629 AD. Indigenous Arabs, as well as Jews, once made up the population of Khaybar, although when Jewish settlement in northern Arabia began is unknown. In 567, Khaybar was invaded and vacated of its Jewish inhabitants by the Ghassanid Arab Christian king Al-Harith ibn Jabalah. He later freed the captives upon his return to the Levant. A brief account of the campaign is given by Ibn Qutaybah, and confirmed by the Harran Inscription. See Irfan Shahid’s Byzantium and the Arabs in the Sixth Century for full details. [read more]

8 replies »

  1. This is exceptional. I never would have guessed there were places so beautiful in Saudi Arabia. I could just spend days exploring this place. I would tell all my friends back home to visit.


  2. We got to explore this region that dates back thousands of generations of the Nabataeans. It is a very beautiful, spiritual place that many people don’t know about.


  3. We didn’t expect it to be this magnificent. We keep hearing stories from people but this is way more than we thought it would be. It’s amazing, it’s beautiful. So much history, so much going on.


  4. I learned firsthand that is a place of awe-inspiring beauty, a landscape of cliffs and canyons featuring ancient petroglyphs and rock art. It feels like another planet. There’s no light pollution, so you can see pretty much every single star in the sky. There is no traffic, so the air is fresh, there are no skyscrapers, so your views are totally unobstructed. The mushroom and elephant shaped rock formations also add to that out worldly notion.


  5. While in AlUla, there is also an opportunity to visit its old town, where the community lived in close proximity, as well as the infinitely Instagrammable Elephant Rock, so called because of its uneven archway, resembling an elephant’s trunk. Natural wonders are plentiful, with the quiet region allowing for stunning stargazing, with views of the Milky Way uninterrupted by light pollution.


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