Mada'in Saleh, Saudi Arabia

Mada'in Saleh "which means the Cities of Prophet Saleh (pbuh)", also known as Al Hijr, is a series sandstone outcrop of various sizes and heights surrounded by a ring sand mountains. It is a pre-Islamic archaeological site located in Al-Ula city, within Al-Madinah Region of Saudi Arabia. Al Hijr was mentioned in the Holy Qur'an, as the home of Thamud tribe.



Mada'in Saleh is the most important settlement of the Nabataeans, second only to Petra in Jordan. It's most significant cultural role dates back to the first century BC and first century AD, i.e., during the flourishing Nabataean state and before its fall at the hands of the Roman Empire in 106 AD. It continued to be a source of cultural energy and intellectual interaction probably until the 4th century AD.

Featuring well-preserved rock-cut monumental tombs with their elaborately ornamented facades, the site also has cave inscriptions dating to a much earlier period. In total, it has 111 tombs, of which 94 are decorated. Mada'in Saleh gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2008, making it Saudi Arabia's first. As stated in the UNESCO description, Mada'in Saleh "... 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, Talmudic, Nabataean, Greek, Latin)".




Mount Athlib


Mount Athlib stands dramatically on the horizon in the northeast of Mada'in Saleh. It is surrounded by a vast space. As in the city of Petra, this region has a narrow corridor called (siq) carved into a rock as a large open lounge called Diwan, which is surrounded, by columns and terraces supported on three interior stone walls.




Qasr Al San'e


The first tomb you come across in the area is the Qasr Al San'e (palace of the manufacturer), and it is an introduction to key elements of Nabataean style tombs. It has large façade, two descending figures in five degrees, and inscriptions at the top of the door and inside the tombs are slots where the dead bodies were placed.




Al Fareed Palace


Al Fareed Palace is very popular among the Nabataean tombs in Al Hijr and the most beautiful tomb in general. It features a very large Northern interface. It is named Fareed Palace (Arabic for unique) because of being the only tomb with a separate stone mass and a different large façade, unlike all other tombs in the Mada'in Saleh. The accuracy and beauty of sculpture in the interface is remarkable.





Temples and Stone Monuments


Spread in Al Hijr are stone temples and they constitute an enormous painting, intensely beautiful portrait painted by history loftily. A number of the temples were for general use while some were for special worship for the clan who erected them. Many of these temples in different sizes are built around Mount Athlib and located in the northeastern part of Al Hijr. Most famous of them is the Diwan, which is a carved hall in stone. Some of the niches carved in mount Athlib have two adjacent enclaves, and some three.





Residential Area


The remains of a significant old residential area were discovered in the Nabataean Mada'in Saleh. This area dates back to distinct historical periods of human settlement and population activity in the region. It is located in the plain area called Kharibat Al Hijr between Qasr Al Bint Tomb and Al-Hijaz Railway Station.




Mada'in Saleh Train Station


This site is one of the most important stations along the Hijaz railway. It is a large and major pilgrim station which contains an ancient Islamic fortress dating back to the Ottoman Empire. The fortress is characterized for its architectural style, and was used as a rest area, accommodations and a restaurant for passengers. It consists of a workshop for the maintenance of trains. There is also an old pool, 5 stone wells, and 16 railway buildings built with treated stones. Parts of a old train still remains at the station today.