Madain Saleh Saudi Arabia: An Ancient Stoneland

Madain Saleh and its romantic ruins are in the northeast quadrant of Saudi Arabia in Al-Madinah province. They are the largest ruins from the Nabataean Kingdom after Petra. Much of Madain Saleh Saudi Arabia remains date from the early 1st Century AD. We know the Nabataeans were Arab Nomads who urbanised at the turn of the millennium. They were a tough lot. Their primary defence was melting into the desert, and waiting for their enemies to die of thirst and starvation.

Madain Saleh Saudi Arabia in the Desert
Madain Saleh in the Desert: Sammy Six / CC BY 2.0

Madain Saleh Saudi Arabia in the Desert

The rock-cut settlement flourished in the early 1st Century AD, when the Nabataeans found a perfect medium to practice their sculpting skills on natural rocky outcrops. They established a foothold for their survival by carving wells and rainwater tanks out of solid rock. Then, they could grow their food and raise their livestock using traditional oasis agriculture methods.

Water was, is, and will always be a precious commodity in the Saudi Arabia Desert. In time, ‘all roads’ led to and from Madain Saleh. They thus commanded the trade in precious incense, myrrh, and spices. In time, the stone city became the main staging post on the long, north-south trade route through the desert. This was where camel caravans rested, and filled their water bags for the next leg of their dusty journey.

Ancient Water Well Where Caravans Stopped to Drink. Madain Saleh Saudi Arabia
Ancient Water Well Where Caravans Stopped to Drink: Sammy Six / CC BY 2.0

How the Ancient City Declined, and Faded Away

Madain Saleh Saudi Arabia entered a period of decline after it fell to the Romans in 104 AD. The trade routes melted away to a new, maritime route through the Red Sea. Finally, the defeated Nabataeans moved away completely, leaving their enigmatic carvings, chambers, and tunnels as the only signs they were ever there. It is a shame we know so little about these mysterious desert people.

Ancient Chamber in the Rock. Madain Saleh Saudi Arabia
Ancient Chamber in the Rock: Sammy Six: CC BY 2.0

About Richard Farrell

Richard FarrellI tripped over a shrinking bank balance and fell into the writing gig unintentionally. This was after I escaped the corporate world and searched in vain for ways to become rich on the internet by doing nothing. Despite the fact that writing is no recipe for wealth, I rather enjoy it. I will deny I am obsessed with it when I have the time.My base is Umtentweni in South Africa on the Kwazulu-Natal South Coast (30.7167° S, 30.4667° E). I work from home where I ponder on the future of the planet, and what lies beyond in the great hereafter. Sometimes I step out of my computer into the silent riverine forests, and empty golden beaches for which the area is renowned.

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One Response

  1. Avatar for Richard Farrell

    Natascha (WESTWARDS)

    Amazing pictures! How did you manage to get a visa for Saudi Arabia?


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