Mada'in Salih Things to Do

  • Tomb Nº111 & its separate outcrop, Jan 2011
    Tomb Nº111 & its separate outcrop, Jan...
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  • Tomb Nº120 (121 on right), Jan 2011
    Tomb Nº120 (121 on right), Jan 2011
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  • Tombs Nº114-116, Jan 2011
    Tombs Nº114-116, Jan 2011
    by MM212

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    Jebel Khraymat: Tombs Nº87, Nº88 & Nº89

    by MM212 Updated Mar 12, 2011

    Far less grand than the tombs on the opposite side, façades numbers 87, 88 and 89 were carved in the simple "Single Row of Merlons" style. Despite their small size and simple style, Nº87 and Nº89 actually come with inscriptions, the only two in this area. Below is a summary of each inscription:

    – Nº87 has a very long legal inscription that is etched on the wall of the façade rather than in a plaque. It states that the tomb belonged to Hinat bint Abd'obodat and her descendants, given to them by her father. The inscription is dated 72 AD (2nd year in the reign of King Rabbel II), but the tomb was probably carved years earlier.
    – Nº89 has a much shorter inscription, which states that the tomb belongs to Amat bint Kamulat and her descendants. It also dates the tomb to the 4th year in the reign of King Rabbel II, i.e., 74 AD.

    Tombs N��89, 88 & 87, Jan 2011 Tomb N��87, Jan 2011
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    Jebel Ithlib: Niches of the Siq

    by MM212 Updated Mar 12, 2011

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    Several cult niches framed by aedicules are carved into the walls of the Siq. They are similar to those found in the Siq of Petra, but smaller in scale, and once contained statues of deities. In some cases, sculptures carved into the rock are still visible, such as the eagle in the main attached photo. One of the niches has a Nabataean inscription above it making a dedication to A'ra, the god of Bosra (in Syria), another Nabataean capital, clearly showing the extent of Nabataean influence and civilisation.

    Niche with eagle sculpture, Jan 2011 Empty niche in the Siq, Jan 2011 Niche with graffiti, Jan 2011 Nabataean inscription above left niche, Jan 2011
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    Area "D": Tomb Nº111

    by MM212 Updated Mar 12, 2011

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    Located south of Jebel al-Ahmar, Tomb Nº111 is the only one carved in this large rock outcrop. It is elevated from the ground and was designed in a style named by archaeologists as "Proto-Hegra 1", which consists of symmetrical half-merlons above an Egyptian-style cornice resting over two side pilasters with Nabataean capitals. The doorway is framed by an elaborately decorated pediment and small pilasters, topped by an eagle thought to represent the Nabataean god, Dúshara (or Thu'sh-Shara, ذو الشرى). According to the inscription on its façade, it was carved for a certain Mugiru and his family, and was the last dated tomb to be carved in Hegra, completed in the fifth year of the reign of the Nabataean King Rabbel II, thought to correspond to 75 AD.

    Tomb N��111, Jan 2011 Tomb N��111 & its separate outcrop, Jan 2011 Tomb N��111 from a distance, Jan 2011
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    As-Saneh Group: Tombs Nº103 - Nº106

    by MM212 Updated Mar 8, 2011

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    The rest of as-Saneh group of tombs, numbered 103 to 106, are simple tombs with no ornamentation. They were carved around a small rock outcrop separate from that of the tomb of Qasr al-Saneh, the elaborate façade carved on its own rock outcrop further to the west (the unpaved road runs between the two hills). These simple tombs would have been carved for less affluent inhabitants of Hegra who could not afford more elaborate tombs. The sandstone outcrop of these tombs has amazingly beautiful rock formations of a vivid yellow colour.

    Tombs 105, 104 & 103 as shown, Jan 2011 Tomb N��106 on the left, Jan 2011 Tomb N��106, Jan 2011 Inside Tomb N��106
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    Restricted Archaeological Area

    by MM212 Updated Mar 7, 2011

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    There are two fenced off areas at the centre of Mada'in Saleh, restricted for archaeological excavation. The town of Hegra, where the Nabataean inhabitants lived lies in these areas, but only small sections of it have been excavated. The many finds were swiftly transported to the national museum in Riyadh where they are on display, but the excavation work will probably continue for years.

    To view some of the excavation work, click on the Google link: Mada'in Saleh. In this Google satellite map, you will notice three areas where the excavations have uncovered the foundation walls of buildings, which is a contrast to the surrounding smooth desert landscape.

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    Hijaz Railway Station

    by MM212 Updated Mar 7, 2011

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    One of numerous stops along the defunct Hijaz Railway, the Mada'in Saleh Station lies within the archaeological site. The railway was laid out in 1900 under the Ottoman Empire to link Constantinople and Damascus with Medina, thus significantly cutting pilgrims' travel time during the important Haj season. Plans had been made to extend it also to Mecca, but the strategically important railway was blown up by T.E. Lawrence and his Arab allies during WWI in an effort to weaken Ottoman control over the Hijaz region (western Arabia). With the breakup of the Ottoman Empire by colonial powers following the war, the railway was never repaired and its tracks and stations remain a relic of bygone eras. Here in Mada'in Saleh, the red-tiled station and adjacent buildings are one of the attractions of the visit with the station now turned into a museum exhibiting the old locomotive cars. The attached photo shows the group of buildings from a distance. Quite frankly, I preferred to spend the little time I had discovering 2000 year old tombs, so I did not actually visit the complex. I've saved it for a future visit!

    Hijaz Railway Buildings from distance, Jan 2011

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    Jebel Ithlib: the Siq

    by MM212 Updated Mar 6, 2011

    Also known as the Siq, this natural crevice is reminiscent of that of Petra, albeit much smaller in scale and only 40 metres in length. There is no comparison, however, as here in Hegra it is not the entrance to the city, nor is it as deep and monumental. However, the Nabataeans probably found it adequate for the religious practices they had developed earlier involving the Siq in their original capital. Similar carved niches on the side cliffs are found in both with statues of deities and religious inscriptions. On the other side of the Siq in Hegra lies a natural basin with the ruins of a temple and a water canal that channelled water into a cistern. Beyond the basin are additional niches, altars, graffiti and a stele with a face carving, all clearly intended for worship.

    Hegra's Siq, Jan 2011 Looking into the Siq, Jan 2011 Rock formations above the Siq, Jan 2011 Jan 2011

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    al-Bint Group: Qasr al-Bint

    by MM212 Updated Mar 6, 2011

    Like Petra, Hegra has its very own Qasr al-Bint (Palace of the Daughter or Maiden). Whereas in Petra it is a free-standing temple, here in it is a grand tomb façade (Nº17), which gave its name to the surrounding cluster of tombs. It is the largest finished façade in the group, 16 metres in height, carved on the north-western side of the rock outcrop, and was designed in the signature "Hegra style", consisting of two large half merlons on an Egyptian style cornice, below which is an entablature resting on two pilaster with Nabataean-style capitals. The doorway is raised above ground level and is framed by aedicule with a triangular pediment, which is flanked by two urns and topped by an eagle sculpture, thought to represent the primary Nabataean deity, Dúshara (Thu'sh Shara). Inside the triangle of the pediment is a face sculpture flanked by two snakes for protection, thought to be of Hellenistic influence. The inscription plaque above the doorway states that this tomb was carved by the sculptor, Hoor ibn Ahi, for the family of Hani ibn Tafsy and his descendents, in the 40th year of the reign of the Nabataean King Aretas IV (al-Haritha), believed to correspond to 31 AD.

    Qasr al-Bint, Jan 2011 Qasr al-Bint from a distance, Jan 2011
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    Jebel al-Ahmar: Tombs Nº122 - Nº129

    by MM212 Updated Mar 6, 2011

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    This group of tombs is carved on the north-western and western side of Jebel al-Ahmar. They are relatively small and most are badly eroded. Tombs Nº127 and Nº128 carry Nabataean inscriptions on their façades, which are summarised below:

    – Nº127 is a short inscription stating that tomb belonged to Munat ibn Abiyyan and his descendants. It also dates the tomb to the 24th year of the reign of King Aretas IV Philopatris (al-Haritha, lover of his people), which is equivalent to 16 AD.
    –Nº128 has a longer inscription which states the tomb was made by Animu ibn Guzayat and Arsaksa bint Taymu, who was probably his wife, for her brothers Ruma and Kalba. It further states that Animu owned a third of the tomb and Arsaksa owned two thirds, and both they and their descendants were entitled to be buried within it. The inscription dates the tomb to the 45th year of the reign of King Aretas IV, equivalent to 37 AD, and attributes its carving to the mason, Aftah ibn Abd'Obodat.

    Tombs N��128 & 129, Jan 2011 Tomb N��129, Jan 2011 Tomb N��128, Jan 2011 Tombs N��125, 126 & 127, Jan 2011
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    Jebel al-Ahmar: Tombs Nº114, 115 & 116

    by MM212 Updated Mar 6, 2011

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    These three tombs occupy the south-eastern side of Jebel al-Ahmar (Area "C"). Nº116 is a simple burial chamber without a monumental façade. The other two come with medium-sized façades; Nº114 follows the "Double Row of Merlons" style, while Nº115 was carved in the "Half Merlons" style. None comes with an inscription.

    Tombs N��114-116, Jan 2011
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    Jebel al-Ahmar: Tombs Nº117 & Nº118

    by MM212 Updated Mar 6, 2011

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    These two adjacent tombs of different sizes, Nº117 & Nº118, were carved on the eastern side of Jebel al-Ahmar. According to the inscription on the façade of Nº117, it was carved in 61 AD, i.e. the 21st year of the reign of King Malichus II. It is a small tomb, measuring about 4.5 metres in height, decorated with a double row of merlons and an arched aedicular frame around the doorway. This was one of the tombs where archaeologists found significant remains of wood used in the funerary practices of the Nabataeans. The inscription states that it was carved for Hinat, daughter of Wahbu and her descendants. Tomb Nº118, by contrast, is silent with no inscription. The space for a plaque may have once contained a wooden tablet with an inscription, but no traces remain. The façade is larger than its neighbour, rising about 10 metres, and follows the "half-merlons design". This style of façade consists of two symmetrical large half-merlons, resting on a single Egyptian-style cornice, with no pilasters or other entablature used. However, Nº118 is made unique by the addition of two carved rosettes half-way up the façade.

    Tombs N��117 & N��118, Jan 2011 Tomb N��118, Jan 2011 Tomb N��117, Jan 2011
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    Jebel Khraymat: Fenced Off Tomb

    by MM212 Updated Mar 5, 2011

    This badly damaged façade is the only tomb in this small rock outcrop. Along with a large swathe of land around it, the tomb lies in a restricted fenced off area for archaeological exploration. It is said that this is the only tomb in Hegra where human remains have been found, hence the restriction.

    Note: I am unable to confirm this fact, so if you know anything different, please let me know! Thank you.

    Fenced off tomb, Jan 2011 Is this tomb N��48? (Jan 2011)
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    As-Saneh Group: Qasr as-Saneh

    by MM212 Updated Mar 5, 2011

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    Located at the southern end of the archaeological site, Qasr as-Saneh gave its name to the group of seven tombs in this area. Its name means the "Smith's Palace" and it is one of the first tombs encountered upon entering Hegra. It is similar to the famous Qasr al-Farid in that it is the sole tomb façade in its rock outcrop, albeit a much larger rock. The façade is one of the largest in Hegra, carved in the "Hegra style," which consists of two symmetrical half-merlons over an Egyptian-style cornice and an entablature resting on two pilasters with Nabataean capitals. The entrance is framed by a triangular pediment on two pilasters, but lacks any statues or figures, and above it is an inscription dating the tomb to the 17th year of the reign of the Nabataean King Aretas IV Philopatris, thought to correspond to 8 AD. It also states that it was carved by the mason, Abd'haretat ibn Abd'obodat, for Malkion ibn Hephaestion and his family, whose name suggests a Hellenistic origin. (ibn = "son of")

    Close-up of Qasr as-Saneh, Jan 2011 Qasr as-Saneh, Jan 2011 Qasr as-Saneh from the side - Jan 2011
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    Jebel Khraymat: Tombs Nº82 - Nº86

    by MM212 Updated Mar 5, 2011

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    This group in Area "E" of Jebel Khraymat includes four mid-sized, well-preserved monumental façades (the fifth is an incomplete work). All are 'silent' tombs with no inscription, and three were designed the "Proto-Hegra 1" style, while one follows the "Single Row of Merlons" style (Nº85). The main attached photo shows Tomb Nº86 with a rock formation above it resembling a mushroom cloud. These tombs were carved on the northern side of a cove which faces three other tombs, Nº87, Nº88 and Nº89 (described separately), and collectively they give feeling of a little village, by having tomb façades on all three sides.

    Tomb N��86, Jan 2011 Tomb N��82, Jan 2011 Tomb N��84, Jan 2011 Local tourists by the tombs, Jan 2011 Tombs N��85, N��84 & N��82, Jan 2011
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    Jebel Khraymat: Tomb Nº101

    by MM212 Updated Mar 4, 2011

    An unfinished façade, Tomb Nº101 would have been the largest in the Jebel Khraymat area. Only the upper part of the façade, consisting of the two half-merlon crown and the Egyptian-style cornice, was completed. Unusually, though, the tomb's entrance and interior were carved, and it was probably used for burial even before the full façade was finished. It is a good example of a work-in-progress and sheds more light on how the Nabataeans carved their tombs.

    Tomb N��101, Jan 2011
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