"al Ula - العلا" Al `Ula by MM212

Al `Ula Travel Guide: 42 reviews and 148 photos

Ancient Dedan

One of many oases in the Hijaz region of Arabia, al-Ula boasts unmatched natural beauty. Surrounded by red sand stone cliffs, the valley known as Wadi al-Qura contains endless green palm groves under near permanently blue skies. The natural wells in the valley, fed by the surrounding mountains, have created an oasis which has been cultivated since ancient times, and was an indispensable stop along the important incense trade route running from Yemen to the Levant. Ruins of the ancient settlement of Dedan have been excavated in al-Ula, including rock-cut tombs with lion sculptures carved by the Lihyanites some 2600 years ago. They were one of the valley's earliest settlers who created the powerful kingdom of Dedan. Various tribes settled and left the area thereafter, but al-Ula's more recent history began when the town was reconstructed in the 13th century AD using the ruins of ancient Dedan. Oil wealth in the last century brought rapid modernisation to al-Ula which led its population to abruptly abandon the picturesque mediaeval town for more modern facilities, leaving the village all but a ghost town ripe for tourist development.

Although itself rich in natural beauty and history, al-Ula will always remain in the shadow of the nearby archaeological site of Mada'in Saleh. Only 22 km north of al-Ula, the site contains the astonishing tombs and ruins of the 1st century AD Nabatean city of Hegra, which was recently inscribed as a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO. Al-Ula is the gateway to Hegra and the two together are the prime focus of the Saudi government's effort to promote tourism to the country (if reluctantly).

Six-day tour of the Hijaz region of Arabia in January 2011:

Jeddah; Medina - Khaybar - al-Ula - Hegra/Mada'in Saleh; Jeddah - Mecca - Taif - al-Hada

  • Last visit to Al `Ula: Jan 2011
  • Intro Updated Mar 10, 2011
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  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Mar 16, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Fine photos of this fascinating town! Too bad they have no plans to resurrect the railway or make use of the empty houses in the old town.

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