Saudi Arabia: Why Visit Maida’n Salah?

Why Visit Maida’n Salah?



Al Fareed Tomb








So what’s the big deal bout Maida’n Salah?  Why would someone wish to choose and visit there?  Maida’n Salah is one of the ancient and historical sites in the Kingdom.  It is located about 400 km from Medinah.  It was not only a major trade route during the times of ancient Arabia but it was also the home and stronghold of a group of people known as the Nabataeans.



Maida’n Salah not only lets one see magnificent terrain and scenic vistas but the area has been extraordinary preserved.  Ancient sites, ruins and tombs abound.  In visiting Maida’n Salah one can come and stroll and hike around the sites as well as learn the interesting history, culture and customs of the Nabatean people.  There are about 80 tombs identified at Maida’n Salah and most are grouped in clusters.  These tombs predominantly date between 1BC and 75AD.  The tombs will have carvings as well as some with inscriptions which provide information about the occupants, the families and even with some, their occupations.  Unlike though the tombs one may see in Egypt, the inside of the tombs are bare and simple with no carvings or paintings on the wall.





 The tombs of Maida’n Salah also indicate of a class structure.  The tombs which are higher and more grandiose and large indicate belonging to an elite family, whereas there are other tombs which were simply cut into either the sides of mountains or “floor” of the mountains which were where the poor were able to afford to bury their dead.  The area of Maida’n Salah is also divided in areas of where the Nabatean’s lived, where they worshiped and where they buried their dead.













It is worth noting that the Nabateans had their own language and script referred to as Aramic.  One can see this unique script on the outer walls of some of the tombs.  In some cases it will resemble Arabic but in other places it is evident it is a unique script unto itself.



The Nabatean people worshiped idols instead of Islam.  Some of the idols they worshiped have been found in today’s time by an archeological team from King Saud University.  However because of the unislamic nature this is considered sensitive.  In fact, some of the residents from Medina and Mecca view Maida’n Salah as a haram (prohibited) area because its ancient people did not conform to Islam.  There are those who believe the tombs should be destroyed and the area kept from public viewing.






 The tombs, while a major attraction, are not the only sites to visit when coming to Maida’n Salah.  Maida’n Salah is located in the town of Al Ula.  Al Ula is a quaint town.  Driving through the town one will see a collage of differing architecture.  The houses are an unusual blend of both Hijaz and Nej’d style.  Al Ula by the way is located in Hijaz.  However as I mentioned, one will see the mud houses in keeping with traditional Nej’d as well as homes made of stone and brick.  In some cases, houses will be a combination of all three.



Enroute to the Al Urac hotel where I stayed, one drives through the town of Al Ula.  Shortly before the Al Urac hotel there is an area where there is an ancient mud village on one side of the road with hundreds of ancient homes.  On the other side of the road is an area which one can distinguish plots of lands which was where the ancient villages had their lands and tended to cultivating and raising dates.  I had the opportunity to stroll through the ancient mud village.  Segregation was practiced in that the women visited each other and ran their errands traversing narrow covered alleyways from one home to another whereas the men had their own pathways via the roofs of the mud homes.  However when heavy rains occurred, the women would be isolated to their homes as the alleyways would be flooded with water.









Al Ula and Maida’n Salah is also home of the Hejaz Railway.  One will see the wooden railway stations which were constructed every 25 kilometers and can visit the original main railway station.  Several of the old wooden carriages remain.  The railway ran from 1900 to 1912 and is a modern piece of the history.









At the moment, Maida’n Salah is pristine and one can roam freely among the sites.  As tourism increases in the Kingdom, that may likely change.  Therefore I highly recommend anyone in or coming to the Kingdom to visit this piece of majestic history.  The Al Urac hotel will prepare customized itineraries and can be reached at the following:  966.04.884.0000 (fax) or email:  The guide during my visit was Ahmed who spoke excellent English and ensured we had a magnificent time.



I hope I have whetted your appetite to learn more about Maida’n Salah with this post as I now have a series of posts going into more detail and sharing some photos about my recent trip.

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