Formerly known as the Lost City of the Dead, Al-Ula is a living museum that houses ancient civilizations, historical sites, and archaeological wonders dating back 200,000 years.
It is located in northwest Saudi Arabia and covers an area of more than 22,000 square kilometers. It is famous for its Sandstone Mountains and fertile oases teeming with resources.
Due to its location as an ancient crossroads of Arabia, it was an ideal resting place for caravan merchants who traveled long distances in the region.
Wadi Al-Ula is a landscape of stark contrasts, with bizarre rock formations sculpted by man and nature, petroglyphs, and a fertile oasis that has thrived since ancient times.
Al-Ula was the capital of the Arab civilizations’ kingdoms of Dadan and Lihyan, which flourished in the desert oasis from 600 to 300 BC by controlling the frankincense trade routes that passed through the valley.
Traces of hunters carrying spears on horses and camels can be seen in the mountains of Al-Ula, which had religious significance for the Dadans and Lahanians, who worshipped everything that was in their sight.
In the past, the Arabs worshipped only the divine trinity: the star, the sun, and the moon.
“For the Arabs, the camel had societal significance, just like the ox represented fertility, and the lion represented strength and resilience.
The man started with symbols, followed by drawings, and ended with writing, all of which are found in these mountains.”
The current Arabic writing style is directly derived from Nabataean writing
Visitors to the area can examine the signs and inscriptions of Lehyani and Thamudi with the help of local guides. This is because there are many treasures of AlUla yet to be discovered.
Next came the Nabataean Kingdom, whose population lived and prospered in the city of Hegra for more than two millennia. Until it was conquered by the Roman Empire in 106.
The Nabataeans were one of the many Bedouin tribes that roamed the Arabian desert.
They are most likely originally from western Arabia, the Hijaz, due to the similarities between the Semitic languages spoken and the deities worshipped in the two regions.
Al-Hijr, the ancient city of 52,000 square meters, was the main southern city of the kingdom and today is home to more than 100 well-preserved tombs.
One of the largest well-preserved tombs is the Alfred Palace, or “the only castle”. It is one of the most popular and visited sites in Al-Ula. Al-Hijr is also the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Kingdom.
The Nabataeans were so adept at harnessing natural water resources that travelers sought their help as they passed through the arid lands.
In the Hegra, the Nabataeans relied on underground water reserves and designed canal systems to channel and store it.
The name Nabatean has been linked to the Arabic word “Nabati,” which means water flowing from a well.
Stone tombs were built to contain the remains of families or groups, whose stature was reflected in the size or decoration of their final resting places.
High in the mountains, there were simple pit graves where people of lower social status were buried.
The deity worshipped by the Nabataeans was Dushara, an eagle that guarded the entrance to several tombs in Hegra.
The bird is now decapitated, with a theory suggesting that the Romans beheaded it as a way to claim the land. This would ensure that the Nabatean god died with them.