UNESCO’s 5 Saudi World Heritage Sites you need to visit

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Visit these 5 Saudi World Heritage Sites by UNESCO

History leaves its mark in the form of architecture, culture, and arts. Each of these forms asks for preservation. But one thing that still remains even after centuries is the art. Preserved in the form of these 5 Saudi World Heritage Sites.

Saudi Arabia is a relatively young country when it comes to history. Its history starts from the 1700s but history in Saudi Arabia dates back to 125,000 years.  

The places, architecture, Saudi heritage, and ruins of history are well preserved and well maintained so that the stories of the past could be passed on from one generation to the next, in its perfect form.

There are many historic and pre-historic places in Saudi Arabia. UN acknowledges 5 of these places and lists in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

Read about these 5 gems in Saudi Arabia…

1. Al- Hijr Archeological Site (Madain Saleh)

Saudi World Heritage Site - Madain Saleh

In 2008, Al- Hijr Archeological Site was the first Saudi destination to make the list of UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Located in the Hejaz region, Madain Saleh’s monumental tombs with decorated facades tell stories dating back to 1st century BC. It features 111 tombs and water wells. 94 of the tombs have inscriptions and cave drawings.

The ancient name of the site was Hegra. Nabataean Kingdom were the first inhabitants who lived from 1st BC- 1st CE. 

2. At- Turaif District (Ad Diriyah)

Diriyah's architecture

Right in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, Ad- Diriyah is the oldest city of modern Saudi Arabia. It was the first capital of the first Saudi dynasty (1744 to 1818). 

In 2010, the site was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the old Najdi architectural style buildings and forts, which is specific to this site only. The site also includes the remains of many ancient palaces on the outskirts of Riyadh- the current capital of Saudi Arabia. 

The site has mud-brick structures from the 15th century that are still intact. These places include Salwa Palace, Saad bin Saud Palace, and Imam Mohammad bin Saud Mosque.

Read about mysterious and unique places in Saudi Arabia here

3. Historic Jeddah

Old buildings in historic Jeddah

The city dates back to the pre-Islamic era as an important place across different civilizations. The gateway to Makkah, Historic Jeddah served as a major port with several trade routes, welcoming pilgrims. 

Located on the eastern shore of Red Sea, the history of these buildings date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Some notable buildings are Roshan tower houses and Ribats. 

The Old Jeddah Wall is the most distinctive structure in Historic Jeddah. The wall was built to protect the city from external threats.

Historic Jeddah was added to the UNESCO list in 2014.

4. Rock Art in Hail

Rock carvings in Hail

In the Hail province, two sites are archeological assets of the Kingdom.

The rock art of the Hail region is located at the Jebel Umm Sinman hill range. The site has large sandstones that have carvings and inscriptions on the faces of the rocks. There are human figures and animals drawing on the stones.

According to UNESCO, these drawings were made using stone hammers by the ancestors of today’s Arab population.

In 2015 this rock art became the fourth site from Saudi Arabia to make it to the list of World Heritage Sites. 

5. Al- Ahsa Oasis

Bird-eye view of Al-Ahsa Oasis

Al- Ahsa Oasis is the largest oasis in the world for its 3 million trees. 

The oasis has a number of gardens, canals, springs, wells, and a drainage lake. In addition to these natural resources, the site also has historical buildings and archeological sites. 

It’s the largest governorate in east Saudi Arabia representing 20% of the Kingdom’s area. 

The strategic, geographical, and historical location of Al- Ahsa oasis made it one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2018. This site also serves as a connection between ancient and modern Arab civilizations. 

Sites on UNESCO World Heritage Sites’ Tentative List:

These are the Saudi places UN is considering to nominate for the UNESCO World Heritage Site list.

1. Al-Faw Pre-Islamic City in Central Arabia

On the outskirts of the Empty Quarters, this site has strategic importance. It exists on the ancient trade route heading from south of the Arabian Peninsula to the Arabian Gulf.

2. Darb Zubayda

To visit the Islamic Holy Sites, people from all over the world came to Makkah through this route. Darb Zubayda was the most important ancient travel and trade route.

3. The Farasan Islands

The Farasan Islands consists of over 170 islands and islets of coral reefs. It’s 40- 90 km offshore the south-eastern coast of the Kingdom. 

4. Hejaz Railway

During Ottoman rule, Hejaz Railway was built for travel and trade.  It was built by Sultan Abdulhameed II in 1909. The purpose of the construction was to provide better transportation to the people visiting Islamic Holy Sites. A number of stations are located in the Kingdom but the most prominent stations are in Tabuk, Madain Saleh, and Madinah.

5. Bir Hima- a rock art site in Najran

Bir Hima is a rock art site in Southwest Saudi Arabia. The stone carving belongs to the stone age period (2500- 1000 BC). The area is known for ancient diverse rock art on the faces of the mountains and ancient writings in the Arabian Musnad script.  

In addition to the above-stated sites, ‘Uruq Bani Mu’arid Protected Area’, ‘Dumat Al-Jandal Historical Oasis in Al- Jawf Region’, ‘Egyptian Hajj Road’, ‘Rijal Almaa Heritage Village in Asir Region’ and ‘Syrian Hajj Road’ are also in the tentative list. 

Saudi Arabia is a historical country with modern infrastructure and technology. It offers you a fusion of the 21st century and the 1st millennium in one place. 

Visit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and experience history with a twist of modernity with Hala Yalla. Stay updated with the local community, book experiences, events and be part of Saudi’s culture.

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