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Mada'in Saleh - Al Ula

Mada'in Saleh is sometimes referred to as "The Saudi Petra". This post is in a rushed draft form to share with some friends. It's notes and photos, not edited at all.

"The ancient city of Al-`Ula is one of the Middle East’s most impressive ghost towns, located along the Incense Road in northwestern Saudi Arabia, about 400 km (248 miles) from Medina. Once the capital of the ancient North Arabian Kingdom of Lihyan, its network of stone ruins – some of them over 2000 years old – blend almost perfectly into the surrounding desert.
According to the Harran Inscriptions, the king of Babylonia, Nabonidus led a military campaign in the region around 552 BC, conquering the Tayma oasis, Dedan (old Lihyan) and the ancient city of Yathrib (modern Medina).
Hundreds of years later, the Kingdom of Lihyan was ruled by the Nabataeans until their capital at Petra was overthrown by Rome in 106 AD. After that, the Nabataeans relocated to Hegra, now known as Mada’in Saleh (picture below), 20 km (13 miles) from Al-`Ula. The old settlement played host to the Prophet Muhammad in 630 AD while on his way to engage Byzantine forces at the Battle of Tabuk. But it wasn’t until the 1200s that Al-`Ula became a major site, the foundations of its ancient buildings reused in the making of the ruined city we see today.In the 20th century the new town center was established beside the old town and eventually the people left the old buildings. The last family left in 1983, while the last religious service in the old mosque was held in 1985." - http://ancients-bg.com/the-abandoned-city-of-al-ula/

We flew in last night, and as one of our friends described it: "There is nothing at the Al-Ula airport (ULH)...but it's still better than Jeddah (JED)." And she was right. The airport is really small, one luggage belt, two gates. Clean. Kinda funny that we had to board a bus to the terminal, as you can see from the distance to the terminal.(photo). The sun was setting as we met our guide and loaded into the suvs that would take us to the resort.

The camp Sahari Al-UlaResort is less than a year old, recently dedicated by prince Sultan? as the future of development in the area - getting back to nature vs a ritz Carlton. Fits in well with a push to increase tourism, tho many Saudis think (Marin sales?) is haunted. approach to camp was adventurous, as the lights in the canyon were welcoming lanterns on wooden T-poles. Hosts welcomed us with coffee and dates, of course.

camp photos

Outside of Mada'in Saleh
The morning air was cool, soft breeze. Never got oppressively hot.

Elephant rock

Dedan (destroyed place) - pre Nabatean "lahianian-beard" wall across canyon (from Yemen?)~160bc? Dedan="land of love" then changed name (rebranded) to lahian because of king
+ 70 year old palm trees
+Found incense marhbah in excavation
+sweet water tank (rain water not as salty as earth) ritual cleansing for temple

Lion tomb

Recently unearthed tomb, held 3 women

Stopped for bathroom after tomb/call to prayer started when we came out.
Back to camp for lunch, then desert zoo. Rest in air conditioned cabin until 2:30.

Mada'in Saleh

Train station ~4pm. Built by Germans. Hijab railway Damascus to medina. Turks hired strongest Bedouin tribe to defend train from other tribe raids

Phosphates in limestone Make rock look like it's melting. Iron oxide gives black streaks.

Story from the guide:
Al hijr cursed in Koran 4000-3000bc. saleh was a missionary?
Miracle camel was killed by the Thames. steaming angel killed all in thamud ; god made it flat. Locals superstitious

First tomb - 5 stairs for 5 gods. Shara? God of rocks represented by an eagle. 71ad

Kit and I sat in car after residential area. Cori rolled down dunes by tombs.

Kissing rock

Famous tomb

meditation area carved to be protected from wind and sunlight

Women's tomb. Collection of tombs owned by women, many had unique features like multiple floors, windows (workmanship errors?)

Back to camp after sundown, around 7:45?

(sunset photo)

Dinner at 8:30. Showered.

Found out tomorrow breakfast is at 4:30 for a 5:30 departure.

And then more text. so much content!

  Closing paragraph as needed.

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