Alola & Mada’en Saleh

​​​​​Al ‘Ula is a governate and city in north-western Saudi Arabia 110km southwest of Tayma and 300km north of Medina. The city, which was a major trade center and capital of the Lihyanite civilization (7th century BCE- 65 BCE), is famous for its archeological riches, mudbrick dwellings and the Al ‘Ula Museum. The governorate also contains Saudi’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mada’in Saleh which was built more than 2,000 years ago by the Nabataeans, the successors to the Lihyanites (Dedans).

 Mada'in Saleh listed by UNESCO

The archaeological site of Mada’in Saleh (aka Al-Hijr or Hegra) became Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage in 2008. The site is the remnants of the second largest Nabatean settlement after Petra in Jordan. The site dates back to the 1st century CE and is one of the most significant monuments and tourist destinations in the country. It comprises several tombs cut into the red rock faces of the Hejaz Mountains, which form a dramatic desert backdrop to this magnificent monument.

 Hejaz Railway Station

In Mada’in Saleh is the remains of one of the old railway stations on the famous Hejaz Railway which linked Damascus to Medina, until it fell into disuse after 1918.  The site contains an ancient Islamic fortress with central, a holding pool, several wells and limestone railway buildings. 

 Qasr Al Farid

Qasr al Farid (meaning ‘Lonely Castle’) is the most impressive monument in Mada’in Saleh, which although called a castle (qasr) is actually a tomb constructed around the 1st century CE and is just one of the 111 monumental tombs scattered there. Is dissimilar from the others in that it is isolated from the other tombs, which are generally thought to have been built in groups. These include the Qasr al Bint tombs, the Qasr al Sani tombs, and the tombs of the Jabal al Mahjar area.

 Al ‘Ula Heritage Town

A collection of ancient buildings built from stone and clay, tells the story of civilizations past and their way of life. The area has been beautifully preserved, and offers tourists a fascinating insight into Nabatean life. The site includes  a tourist information center and a souk.

 Temples and stone monuments

Al-Hijr is a site of several temples, some of which are open to the public while others are devoted to worship. The majority are on Mount Athlab, the most famous being Al Bint Palace.

 Khuraybah and the Lion Tombs

One of the most important archaeological sites in Ula, Khuraybah is the ruins of several stone buildings, a circular stone basin known locally as Mahlab al Naqa, and numerous carved tombs, the most famous of which are  the Lion Tombs.

 Mount Athlab

Mount Athlab, to the northeast of Mada’in Saleh, was an ancient center of the Thamud people who were thought to have settled here in around 715 BCE. It is now one of the main attractions in the Al ‘Ula region, in particular for the site at Mahareeb where intricate carvings of camels and caravans and examples of Thamudic script – an early Semitic language related to Arabic – can be found.

 Elephant Mountain

Just over 7km from Al Ula, is Elephant Mountain, a huge rocky outcrop 50m tall which resembles an elephant, which has become a popular spot for camping and desert sports. ​


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