Mada’in Saleh: A Journey Through Ancient Times
Nestled in the northwestern corner of Saudi Arabia lies one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in the Middle East – Mada’in Saleh. Known as the ‘cousin of Petra’, this ancient city is home to some of the world’s oldest monuments, making it an unmissable destination for any history buff.
A Brief History of Mada’in Saleh
Mada’in Saleh is believed to have been founded by the Nabateans around the 1st century BCE. Although the exact origin of the civilization is still unknown, it is believed that the Nabateans were an Arab tribe from the north-western corner of the Arabian Peninsula. In its heyday, the city was a vibrant hub of trade and commerce, with its inhabitants trading in incense, spices, and other goods.
The city gradually declined in importance and by the 4th century CE, it was largely abandoned. The city was later rediscovered by the Europeans in the early 1800s and became one of the most important archaeological sites in the region.
Exploring the Ruins of Mada’in Saleh
Mada’in Saleh covers an area of about 2km and contains 131 tombs, some of which are believed to date back to the 1st century BCE. The tombs are carved from sandstone and are decorated with intricate carvings and sculptures. The most impressive of the tombs is known as Qasr al-Farid, which is thought to be the tomb of a Nabatean king.
The city also contains several temples, some of which are dedicated to gods from the Nabatean pantheon. The most famous of these is the Temple of the Winged Lions, which is thought to have been dedicated to the god Dushara. The temple is adorned with carvings of winged lions, which are symbolic of power and strength.
The Great Mosque of Mada’in Saleh
The Great Mosque of Mada’in Saleh is one of the most impressive structures in the city and is well worth a visit. The mosque was built in the 13th century and is one of the earliest examples of Islamic architecture in the region. The mosque is decorated with intricate carvings and is home to a vast library of Islamic texts.
Visiting Mada’in Saleh
Mada’in Saleh is located in the Al-Ula region of Saudi Arabia and is accessible by car from the nearby cities of Riyadh and Jeddah. The city is open to the public, but visitors must obtain a permit from the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage before visiting.
The best time to visit Mada’in Saleh is from October to April, when temperatures are more comfortable and the sun is less intense.
Mada’in Saleh is an incredible archaeological site which is home to some of the oldest monuments in the world. Exploring the ruins of this ancient city is a truly unique experience and an absolute must-see for any history buff.