Very cold, garbage everywhere, container camp, AlUla, Saudi Arabia, December 28, 2022
It was a cold night but my sleeping bag kept me plenty warm and the wind was blocked by the compound walls. The weather app said it felt like +3! Unfortunately we will probably have one or two nights even colder.
We went on two tours and the first was to Hegra which is built on a large plain of sandstone dating from 510 - 475 million years ago. This is where the Nabataeans lived and died. So far over 100 big rocks containing tombs have been found. The area was first discovered in the late 1800s by British explorers. We toured four different sites beginning with a huge rock filled with tombs-
The fourth window from the left is the most recent discovery. It’s the tomb of Hinat, the daughter of Wahba. As the sand blew away from the side of the rock, they saw the window which was sealed with rocks. Inside they found over 80 tombs. This was the society of the Nabataeans and to bury their dead, they wrapped them first in a fine cloth such as dyed wool. The next two layers were linen and the last layer was a leather shroud, some with handles to carry the body. Jewelry has also been found such as date necklaces which symbolized wealth and fertility-
The size and decoration of the tomb determined the status and wealth of the family. This family was not too rich-
There are shelves carved to hold corpses in the only tomb we were allowed to enter-
and graves dug in the ground-
We walked around a huge rock-
containing many tombs-
Our second stop was at the tomb of Lihyan, the son of Kuza which is Hegra’ s most iconic tomb-
It is situated all by itself and features 5 stairs at the top leading to heaven, two corniches and four Nabataean columns instead of the usual two meaning Lihyan was very important-
Above the doors to the tombs are different symbols representing trade. Hegra was important for two reasons- it was a direct trade route from Yemen to Jordan and there were a lot of water springs enabling agriculture, especially date palms. Some of the symbols are eagles, masks, snakes - Medusa, urns and rosettes-
The Kingdoms of Ancient North Arabia began in the 6th century B.C., after the Stone Age (Palaeolithic Period) and the Bronze Age - 9th century B.C. The Nabataeans arrived in the 1st century BC. They were a tribe that moved south from Petra and took over from the Lihyanites and the Dadanites who began living here in the 3rd century B.C. Next came the Romans and then the Muslims came along in 622 A.D. and here we are.
There are tombs-
with carvings above two of them-
They have just recently (2008) discovered buried Dadan. Archaeological excavations are done for 3 months every year and the rest of the year is used for cataloguing, cleaning and storing the artefact. Companies come from France and Germany to help the Saudis.
They have discovered a huge water basin carved from one large rock. It’s called Mahlab Al Naqah and holds 26 cubic meters of water. It was probably used for religious purposes-
At the archaeological site is a temple dedicated to Dhu Ghaybah, the main god of the Lihyanite Kingdom. Worship was based around offerings and pilgrimage. They have discovered many artefacts- lamps, statues, icons, and stoneware but for now they are in storage until AlUla builds 8 museums to hold it all-
Jabal Ithlip was a religious centre with a carved rock hall about 20’ by 20’ called Diwan where the Nabataeans gathered for political discussions, rituals and feasting. It was cool in the summer and protected so warm during the cooler months. The simple carvings in the walls are called baetyls or sacred stones. They represent the dieties the Nabataeans worshipped at this time-
There are over 100 inscriptions in numerous languages found on the walls. They are thought to be graffiti and 16 use the phrase “the protected Dadan”-
Our last stop was at Jabal Ikmah which is where there are thousands of inscriptions on the rock walls. Languages found here include Aramaic, Thsmudic, Dadanitic, Minaean, Nabataean, Greek. Latin and Arabic. They recorded pilgrimages, offerings and journeys-
I liked the first tour best but both were worthwhile and interesting.
Our next stop was at the Old Town in AlUla which is very much under construction. So far, what is completed is a street filled with shops and restaurants-
I spoke with an archaeologist from Mesa who said they are discovering room after room after room.
So far, the walls are authentic-
I saw many beautiful rock formations throughout the day-
Tomorrow we have a long drive to Jubbah to see more rock art.
Entrances into a restaurant-