Saudis and the international archaeologists are interested in the historical “Mada’in Saleh” with its huge rocky structures and ancient engravings.
The carved mountain rocks are the most important characteristic of Al-Ula which go back to thousands of years. UNESCO recorded the monoliths in the World Heritage List as the first Saudi site to be registered.
Al-Ula is under the authority Saudi province of Medina located in the north-west of Saudi Arabia along the historic trade route linking the Arabian Peninsula, Syria and Egypt.
Mada’in Saleh is one of the most important cities of the Nabataeans civilization, after their capital, Petra. It contains the largest southern settlement of the Nabataean kingdom. Its most important cultural roles go back to the first century BC and the first century AD.
Mada'in Saleh that belongs to Al-Ula has a carved rock facade and a number of Islamic monuments represented in a number of castles and forts.
The first Civilizations in Al-Ula
Dr. Ahmad Mohammed Al-Aboudi, associate professor at the Department of Archeology at King Saud University, who spent 14 years in the excavations in Al-Ula and Mada’in Saleh, said that the site is Thamudi, according to the givens he had.
Al-Aboudi said that the story of the prophet Saleh occurred on this site, according to many data, studies and researches that has not been disclosed so far.
He also pointed out that there is a buried village that has not been explored so far in one of the sites, which goes back to the Thamudic period, noting that some indications refer to the site.
He noted that the chronological order, according to the assessment of some archaeologists: Al-Didan Kingdon came first then the Lihyan Kingdom and then the Nabataeans who made it into graves, although it didn’t exist as such before them.
Al-Abboudi attributed the importance of Mada’in Saleh to its value to heavenly religions. Judaism, Christianity and Islam have monuments in Mada’in Saleh, adding that there are more than 450 engravings in one mountain, inscriptions which go back to the early Islamic era in a mountain called Badia , “ the father of writings” mountain, it is known name is Al Aqra’ mountain, north of Mada’in Saleh.
The kingdom of Didan, a kingdom belonging to kingdom of Ma'in in the fifth century BC, was built in Al-Hijr at the northwestern parts of the Arabian Peninsula, probably this was the earliest reference to this archaeological monumental site.
Dr. Ahmad Al-Abboudi, the archeological prospector of Al-Ula, believes that the Thamudians were the first to inhabit the Hijr and the first to carve houses in rocks, followed by the Nabataeans.
Al-Hijr and the Thamud story are mentioned in the Qur'an more than once. The Holy Quran mentions the strength of the Thamudians and their carving of houses in the mountains. As we see it in the mountains in Mada'in Saleh.
Al-Aboudi clarified that research and investigation in Mada'in Saleh is still taking place in these sites despite the great weakness in research.
He also pointed out that the discoveries and conclusions are coming from tourists themselves when they visit those sites and mountains, which have not been explored yet.
The largest archaeological site in the world
Al-Aboudi added, the site of Mada'in Saleh is the largest archaeological site in the world, where sites and inscriptions were not consolidated yet, due to its huge number.
There is still a lot more that was not discovered so far, pointing out that there is no location in the world with such number of inscriptions, rock writings and sculpture on the mountains, as well as undiscovered towns buried underground and waiting to be unearthed.
Royal Authority of Al-Ula
The establishment of a Royal Authority for Al-Ula is considered as a recognition of the historical and archaeological importance of this site in the world, which is expected to be developed in a way that is appropriate for it.
Al-Aboudi Said that Al-Ula has not been explored to the full yet, it needs more efforts to discover this important site, not only for the Arabian Peninsula but for the whole world.