Our ‘Everything you need to know’ series starts with the rich and captivating history of one of Saudi’s most enigmatic landmarks – the Mada’in Saleh.
While the area was only made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, it has long been an essential attraction for travellers from throughout the world and for some of the most dedicated Umrah travellers.
So, without further ado, here is everything you need to know about Mada’in Saleh...
What is it?
The largest ancient former-settlement this side of Petra, Mada’in Saleh is a necropolis - a large cemetery made from gargantuan stone statues built in ancient times. The site was built in the past to be of use to the city of Hegra which was once close-by but time has seen the remains of the city lost to the ages. Despite this, the area has been perfectly preserved thanks to the arid desert conditions and the dedicated, continuous care of the generations of families that have live nearby. The site consists of over a hundred different tomb fronts that you can be viewed up close to help learn more about their former inhabitants.
Where is it found and what makes it unique?
The Mada’in Saleh is located 400km north west of Medina – roughly a day’s travel for visitors but tours can be arranged locally with any local guide company.
While its size and grandeur make it hard to forget, the area is also famous for being used by generations of settlers. However, unlike many monuments throughout the world, the Saleh’s sandstone edifice is still intact despite being made from a frangible rock due to a lack of rain. This means that this ‘capital of monuments’ is a living time-capsule for the area around it – with range of languages from the different cultures that called it home still carved into the stone; showing the influence of many civilizations including the Assyrians, Egyptians, and Phoenicians.
Advice for visiting
As previously mentioned, the site is ancient and should be treated with the utmost respect. While visiting, it’s recommended that you check out the Qasr al Bint “The Palace of the Maiden” which at 16m high is the tallest tomb. You can also take some time to view the Jebel Ithlib – an unmissable central stone outcropping - the famous Qasr al-Farid tomb, or the remnants of the town of Hegra.