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In pictures: Here are 6 sites in Saudi Arabia on UNESCO’s World Heritage list

Published: Updated:

Saudi Arabia’s Hima Cultural Area, a mountainous area that is home to a large collection of rock art images dating back thousands of years, had been added by UNESCO on its World Heritage List on Saturday, joining five other sites in the Kingdom previously inscribed.

“We are thrilled to have this exceptional ancient site recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The area has outstanding universal value, providing us with many lessons about the evolution of human culture and life in ancient times,” said Dr. Jasir al-Herbish, CEO of the Heritage Commission.

Here are descriptions of the five other locations in Saudi Arabia inscribed as a World Heritage Site:

Mada’in Saleh:

In this photograph made on Thursday, May 10, 2012, foreign tourists visit a Nabataean tombs complex in the desert archaeological site of Madain Saleh, in Al Ula city, 1043 km (648 miles) northwest of the capital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)
In this photograph made on Thursday, May 10, 2012, foreign tourists visit a Nabataean tombs complex in the desert archaeological site of Madain Saleh, in Al Ula city, 1043 km (648 miles) northwest of the capital Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP)

Mada’in Saleh, also called “Al-Hijr” or “Hegra”, was the first Saudi site listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its huge historical significance.

As mentioned in the Holy Quran, many religions and peoples coexisted in its land for peoples of civilizations throughout history.

The area of Mada’in Saleh stretches about sixty hectares, and what is known on the surface is only a fraction of the treasures buried under the land. These immortal features made by the former Nabataeans who settled around this region between the first century BC and the first after AD are only the highlights of the civilization that ruled the land at the time.

At-Turaif District in ad-Dir'iyah:

The Al Bujairi District will be the first major part of the huge al-Diriyah Gate development to be open to the public. An F&B precinct steeped in history, it will feature a street market, a gallery, plaza, an amphitheater, and the At-Turaif visitor center – the entry point for tourists embarking on an exploration of the UNESCO World Heritage Site which is also slated to open in 2021. (Supplied: al-Diriyah Gate Development Authority)
The Al Bujairi District will be the first major part of the huge al-Diriyah Gate development to be open to the public. An F&B precinct steeped in history, it will feature a street market, a gallery, plaza, an amphitheater, and the At-Turaif visitor center – the entry point for tourists embarking on an exploration of the UNESCO World Heritage Site which is also slated to open in 2021. (Supplied: al-Diriyah Gate Development Authority)

At-Turaif District in ad-Diriyah represents a prominent national symbol in the kingdom’s history as it is associated with the first Saudi State.

Since the old city of Diriyah lay on the banks of Wadi Hanifa, it helped create positive interaction between man and his environment.

Diriyah thus becomes a model of oasis communities in deserts.

Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Mecca:

Woman walks past a boy wearing traditional costumes during the holy fasting month of Ramadan at Jeddah's historical area Al-Balad. (Reuters)
Woman walks past a boy wearing traditional costumes during the holy fasting month of Ramadan at Jeddah's historical area Al-Balad. (Reuters)

Al-Balad’s (Historic Jeddah) history dates back to pre-Islam eras. There are several archeological sites and buildings there such as the ruins of Jeddah’s wall and historical alleys and markets. The historic area of Jeddah - which includes many ancient mosques, buildings and neighborhoods - has received considerable attention for the past several years after being recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014.

It is unknown when this area was created exactly; but sources indicate that it started having fences and doors during the Portuguese campaign on Jeddah in the middle of the sixteenth century to protect it from the wars of domination between the Portuguese and the Ottomans. However, the first one to write about Jeddah was the famous traveler Al-Maqdisi; he visited it on his way to Mecca in the fourth century AH and said that it has wonderful castles with water but it is tiresome.

Rock Art in the Hail region:

Rock Art is the fourth listing of Saudi heritage sites on the World Heritage list. (Courtesy: Saudi Aramco World)
Rock Art is the fourth listing of Saudi heritage sites on the World Heritage list. (Courtesy: Saudi Aramco World)

The site of rock art in the Hail region includes two components situated in a desert landscape: Jabel Umm Sinman at Jubbah and the Jabal Al-Manjor and Raat at Shuwaymis.

A lake once situated at the foot of the Umm Sinman hill range that has now disappeared used to be a source of fresh water for people and animals in the southern part of the Great Narfoud Desert.

The ancestors of today’s Arab populations have left traces of their passages in numerous petroglyphs and inscriptions on the rock face.

Jabal Al-Manjor and Raat form the rocky escarpment of a wadi now covered in sand. They show numerous representations of human and animal figures covering 10,000 years of history.

Rock Art is the fourth listing of Saudi heritage sites on the World Heritage list.

Al-Ahsa Oasis:

Guinness World Records confirms al-Ahsa Oasis largest in the world. (Supplied)
Guinness World Records confirms al-Ahsa Oasis largest in the world. (Supplied)

Al-Ahsa Oasis is considered the largest in the world with more than three million palm trees, and was included recently among the UNESCO’s World Heritage List during the committee meeting in Manama, Bahrain, under the chair of Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain and which started on June 24 and finishes on July 4.

Saudi Arabia’s al-Ahsa Oasis has entered the Guinness World Records as the largest self-contained oasis in the world.

“Located in south-eastern Saudi Arabia, there are more than 2.5 million palm trees in the oasis, which is fed from a huge underground aquifer, which allows agriculture all year round in a region that is otherwise sand desert,” the reference book known for keeping world records said on its website.

Hima Cultural Area:

Rock inscriptions in Hima Cultural Area, Saudi Arabia. (Twitter)
Rock inscriptions in Hima Cultural Area, Saudi Arabia. (Twitter)

Hima Cultural Area was once a major route for traders, armies, and Hajj pilgrims who traveled from different parts of Arabia, Mesopotamia, the Levant, and Egypt.

The travelers left behind thousands of inscriptions depicting hunting, wildlife, plants, symbols, and tools in dozens of ancient scripts including Musnad, Aramaic-Nabatean, South-Arabian, Thamudic, Greek, and Arabic.

The location is also home to several wells that date back at least 3,000 years and still produce fresh water.