Saudi Arabia keeps impressing us by revealing more of its natural and historic secrets — Al-Ula governorate is one of these precious secrets that have been out of sight for thousands of years.
Al-Ula name has gone viral latelycoinciding launching Winter at Tantora festival. Al-Ula is a part of MedinaProvince that lies in Wadi Al-Qura; a valley oriented north-south between, onthe west, the lava fields of the Harrat 'Uwayrid, and the sandstone massif ofAth-Thumayid mountains.
It can be said that Al-Ula played aninstrumental role throughout the history in the Arabian Peninsula owing to theunderground water resources and the strategic location along the incense traderoute road, it has.
Al-Ula that gathers the wondrousbeauty of nature created by Allah along with the historical monuments made byman throughout the ages, shows us how the ancient Saudi civilizations were ableto cope with the nature, the terrains, and the climate conditions of theregion, besides the different techniques of cultivation they came up with toovercome the adverse desert conditions.
Al-Ula comprises a group of the bestheritage sites in the world that dates back to the sixth millennium BC, whichcan take one across a historic journey of human development across the ages.
Of the most prominent places to visit in Al-Ula is Mada'in Saleh also called "Al-Hijr" or "Hegra", a majority of its remains dates back to the Nabatean kingdom. It was the Kingdom's southernmost and largest settlement after Petra. The popular tourist site includes 131 huge rock-cut tombs from the Nabatean Kingdom and overlooks a part of the Hijaz mountains. It is noteworthy that Mada'in Saleh is the first UNESCO World Heritage in Saudi Arabia.
One cannot visit Mada'in Saleh without visiting the world-renowned Kingdom of Dadan remains and the Lion Tombs at ancient Dadan, that's why it is said that Al-Ula was the capital of two ancient great Arab Kingdoms — the Kingdom of Nabatean and the Kingdom of Dadan.
Mada'in Saleh is full of grand ruins and remains, of which we mention Qasr al-Farid; the well-known Nabatean tomb. It is an iconic and a unique tomb standing four stories tall with notable intricate carvings on its façade. It is so called as it was carved out of a single rock.
The archaeological site also contains one of the popular religious attractions, which is locally known as Mahlab Al-Naqa, which is a circular water basin carved in the rock with a diameter of 370 cm and a depth of 220 cm. It dates back to the 6th century BC.
The ancient city still has the antique train station that once was a part of the Ottoman giant railway network that links Damascus to Medina through the Hejaz region. Center of Turkey was the first station passing through Sham, and ending in Medina, the second holiest city in Islam. That explains to us why Mada'in Saleh was a landmark station on the Muslims journey of Hajj. It also contains an ancient Islamic fortress with a well dedicated to watering camels, an old pool, another five wells, and some buildings of the railway built of limestone.
If you go there, never miss theopportunity to visit Al-Ula old town; the exceptional place with its lanes,alleys, and mud-brick houses built on rocky bases telling an interesting storyof Al-Ula community and its activities in the past. Wandering around the townis one of the most enjoyable activities to do there, thanks to the lanterns litat nights in a charming scene.
Of the interesting places to visit; the town houses aged about 700 years ago and the town's two archaeological mosques. Al-Ula Castle is one of the old town's landmarks as it is strategically placed on a sandstone promontory, dividing it into two districts; Al-Ashqaiq at the North of it and Al-Halaf at the South of it. It doesn't require much effort to climb it and enjoying the delightful view from the top. Lack or resettlement has served as a natural preservative factor to keep the fascinating beauty of the ancient town.
Al-Khuraybah also called JabalKhuraybah, is an ancient fortress built on and around hills and includes a partof the ancient town Dadan. There, one can see the known lion tombs mentionedabove — it is cut inside rocks in the foothills of the mountains with two lionscarved at its entrance. There is also a temple that was almost dedicated toreligious rituals at that time with several inscriptions on its walls.
Umm Ad-Daraj also called The Mother ofSteps or Staircases, is a rich mountain lies in the North of Al-Ulagovernorate. It features a group of steps built on a hill leading to threesandstone structures. A large number of antiquities, artifacts, pottery, andstone sculptures were found on this mountain. In the Lihyan age, it was used asa religious site that is why, on top of it, there are pagan temples beside someLihyan embossed carvings, apses, and lanterns.
The museum includes a number of hallsthat show Al-Ula history from the Stone Age to the Pre-Islamic Era and theIslamic Age, in addition to the Kingdom's Unification Pavilion. The museumcomprises several rare antiquities, manuscripts, maps and models of MadainSaleh's monuments. Al-Ula Museum is open from Sunday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to2.30 p.m. where archaeological items are displayed. Tour guides are there toprovide the visitors with information on the culture, flora and fauna of thearea… etc.
The Natural Rock formations, whichcharacterize the area, are formed in the same geological way as the US-placedGrand Canyon. Of which we mention;
It is a giant famous rock that liesabout 4 miles to the East of Al-Ula and shapes like an elephant about 164 feetabove the ground. Tourists and visitors frequent to this area from all over theworld. The area is also suitable for desert sports, camping, and mountainclimbing.
Another wondrous rock formation sculptedby nature on ages is Mount Athlab, which is one of the greatest touristattractions. This distinctive rock lies on the north-eastern side of Al-Hijrleads to excavations of apses beside some carvings of camels and merchants.Archaeologists think that the Nabataeans once took it as a center. The wholearea contains many temples, yet the most famous of them; Al Bint Palace foundon Mount Athlab.
Ekma, the history book of ancient Arabian Kingdoms and the largest open library in Saudi Arabia contains special writings, drawings, and inscriptions that dates back to the Lihyanites. The archaeological site lies on the Northwest of Al-Ula governorate yet it can be seen at a distance. It features a dark-red color and a high altitude making it look like a stunningly adorable natural painting.
Al-Ula visitors usually find it soeasy to enjoy and stay in it. There is an availability for visitors andtourists to stay in furnished apartments or camp in Al-Ula Arac Resort andenjoy the spectacular view of the huge sandstone mountains and the festivescenes of sunrise and sunset. There is also an opportunity to go on anexcursion and have fun with the matchless Bedouin mode. Nothing beats a tour bya helicopter to have fun watching the amazing view from the top. Staying thereis much easier with the tourist information center and a popular market.