MADAIN SALEH – Madain Saleh, also known as al-Hijr, is one of the best known archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia, located near Ula (previously known as Dedan), some 400 kilometers north of Madina.
Madain Saleh was once inhabited by the Nabataeans some 2000 years ago, Petra (located in Jordan) being the capital of the Nabataean kingdom.
The Nabataeans are of Arab origin who became rich by their monopoly on the trade of incense and spice in particular between the East and the Roman, Greek and Egyptian empires.
Madain Saleh has about 130 dwellings and tombs that extend over some 13 kilometers.
However, Muslims believe that Madain Saleh was built and was first inhabited by the people of Thamud. The Quran points out that Thamud `hewed out in the mountains, houses with great skill`(chapter 26 : 149). The Quran makes mention of the people of Thamud with considerable amount of details in several chapters.
Last summer holiday, I set for Madain Salih with two friends. We left Medina at 10.00 am, stopped at Khaybar to have lunch and reached Ula at 2.30 pm.
There is an archaeological museum in Ula. Unfortunately it was closed. Later I come to know that it is opened from 8.30 am till 2.30 pm from Saturday to Wednesday.
Early next morning we left our hotel for Mada`in Saleh. It took us some 20 minutes to reach there. At the gate of the site we were asked to submit our pass permit.
At the gate you will see a signboard like this :
There is also a signboard having a map of Madain Saleh, illustrating its various locations.
Many of the tombs and dwellings at Madain Saleh are surprisingly still in good condition and are really stunning.
The façades of their dwellings are carved out from the mountains. Just above almost all the gates there are various decorations namely; eagles and snakes. The inside of their dwellings are not identical as if they were built for different purposes. Some are small with low ceiling while others are more spacious.
Nowadays many of the dwellings and tombs need stairs to reach.
This is probably one of their meeting place, place of worship or dining room. It measures approximately 13 meters in length, 10 meters in width with a height of 8 meters.
There is a region at Madain Saleh where there are wells, however, this area was not accessible to visitors on my visit to Madain Saleh.