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 Madain Saleh   

This isolated Nabataean city is situated in Saudi Arabia in a very spectacular scenery and is visited by very few compared to Petra, so most of the time you will be alone, a rare experience at an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Madain Saleh has over 100 well preserved  tombs with monumental facades carved into rocky outcrops in the flat desert plains - as seen on the picture aboce - and make it a really unique and "must visit" site. Most tombs were built in a short time span between 50-70 AD, but Madain Saleh, called in antiquity "Hegra", was inhabited much earlier in 500 BC. Madain Saleh also features many votive niches and Nabataean script found all over on rock walls.

Mada'in Saleh Revisited   

Since the first article five years ago a lot of detailed research and various excavations were done by the Saudi-French archaeological team at Mada’in Saleh. Recently the first summary report was published in book form and studying its interesting results triggered a renewed site visit and this update article.   

Dedan & Lihyan Kingdom    

A first settlement at al ‘Ula oasis was erected about 4,000 years ago and developed to one of the most important trading posts on the famous Incense Route. It is no wonder 1,000 years later with the rise of the Nabataean empire, that Mada’in Saleh was erected just 20 kms north of it. Dedan, or Khuraibah as it is called, was one of the few ancient cities, which allowed various ethnic tribes living next to each other in peace and erecting separate temples to worship their main deities Dhu Ghaibat, Nikrah and Wadd.

Tayma Excavations  

Tayma is one of the very few important early trading posts on the northern stretch of the “Incense Route”, where it branches off east to Mesopotamia. The precondition for any ancient settlement and major trading center was sufficient water supply and in the case of Tayma this was given and allowed sufficient farming for a population of 3,000-5,000 inhabitants and 80,000 palm trees. Therefore it has a long history of settlement starting in 4,000BC with an important silex fire stone industry with Neolithic flint drill and bead production.

Al Fau & Kinda Kingdom  

This ancient oasis and vital trading center is situated about 80 km south of Wadi al-Dawassar at the foot of Jebel Tuwaiq escarpment. It was an important post on the key south-north caravan route to the Gulf area & Mesopotamia. South Arabian inscriptions called al-Fau also Qaryat dhat Khal, for its principal deity was god Khal. But Minaean traders also called it the “City of Paradise”, because of its oasis character with many date palm groves. Other ancient sources mention it as Qaryat al-Talu or “Red City”, because of many red clay palaces.

Al Ukhdoud Ruins Revealed  

Situated on the outskirts of Najran and lying on the ancient trading route between Marib in “Arabia Felix”, as Yemen was called in antiquity, it was an important incense and spice trading center of the southern Arabian Ma’in kingdom extending from Yemen into Saudi Arabia at the time. The Sabaean script letters “WD’B” were found eight times in the al Ukhdoud ruins and are a clear indication of the importance of pre-historic spice trade next to the high volume of valuable frankincense being sold to Mesopotamia, Egypt and Rome. 

Dilmun - Pre-historic Paradise  

This ancient cultures has unfortunately been forgotten despite its importance in pre-history. It is linked to the Sumer Saga of the creation of the world and mentioned also 4,500 years ago in the Gilgamesh Epos. Dilmun was possibly founded by ancient sailors from the Indus Valley where Harappa and Mohenjo Davo exported many goods per sea into the ancient world.