Thursday, May 22, 2014

#673 Meda'in Saleh, Saudi Arabia
Somewhere I haven't been, but have wanted to visit ever since I first heard about it, Madain Saleh in Saudi Arabia is similar in structure to Petra (#873) just across the border in neighboring Jordan (Petra is 500km northwest). Part of the Hijaz mountains, it is located near the modern city of Ula (Al-Ula), which is 400km northwest of Medina. Its mention in the Quran makes it a sacred spot, but not somewhere that Mohamed encouraged people to visit because it was a place where God's wrath had been demonstrated. The Quran places the settlement of the area after Noah but before Moses (3rd Millenium B.C. approximately).
The name translates to the city of the prophet Saleh, and is also known as Al-Hijr ("rocky place") or Hegra. It belonged to a group of people from Thamud, and prophet Saleh was send to save them from their idolatrous ways, but they disobeyed even though Allah sent a sacred pregnant female camel which they slaughtered, and thus they were cursed and killed by an earthquake and lightning.,xcitefun-madain-saleh-3.jpg
Western archaeologists believe the city's main constructions were built by the Nabataens, but Muslims believe they were significantly older than this. There is also evidence of Liyhanite and Roman settlement in the area, before and after the Nabataens, respectively. Some pre-Nabataen cave art exists on Athleb Mountain. The Romans annexed the Nabataen kingdom in 106 A.D. The Ottomans had a fort here to protect the Hajj route from 1744 to 1757, and later they built the Hejaz Railway through the area. Minimal archaeological projects have been undertaken, but recent pushes by the Saudi Arabian government for recognition of heritage and cultural items along with the UNESCO status from 2008, have helped to protect the area.

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