Explore the Ancient City of Hegra
Before we can explore the ancient city of Hegra, let’s look at the famous archaeological site of Petra in Jordan, well known for its buildings cut out from the stone mountains, resulting in a wondrous city with ornate architecture right in the middle of the desert. The ancient Arab people known as the Nabateans are often credited as the civilisation that established Petra as a main trade centre, growing the city in terms of its wealth as well as its development. The settlement of the Nabateans date back to the 4th century BC, but it fell into decline after falling to the Romans while at the same time the emergence of sea trade routes diminished the city’s importance. An earthquake in 363 destroyed many of its structures and it continued to be in decline throughout the Byzantine era and early Islamic era, when it was almost completely abandoned and erased from memory until it was rediscovered by Swiss traveller, geographer and orientalist, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt in 1812. Since then, the lost city of Petra has grown in popularity until it has become the icon of Jordan tourism.
Following the rediscovery of Petra, English traveller and adventurer Charles Montagu Doughty joined a Hajj caravan to seek out a similar city that he had heard existed in Saudi Arabia. Doughty reached the ruins of the city of Hegra in 1876, and documented his exploration in his journal, Travels in Arabia Deserta. Since then, several archaeological research had been conducted, before the area was officially identified as an archaeological site in 1972. However, since Saudia Arabia was never really welcoming to tourists other than for business and religious trips in the past, the city of Hegra was never a popular tourist destination. The government also wanted to document and preserve the heritage sites first before making it accessible to tourists.
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia finally launched tourists visas for the first time in September 2019, and now travellers can visit the country for leisure. And should you find yourself on holiday in Saudi Arabia – or perhaps have allocated extra time to explore the country after performing the hajj or umrah, be sure to visit the ancient city of Hegra, sister city to Jordan’s Petra that was also built and developed by the Nabateans.
Architecture Of The Ancient City Of Hegra
Not much of the residential and administration buildings of Hegra – also known as Mada’in Salih, in the county of AlUla – has survived, but you will be able to see four magnificent tombs carved out of gargantuan rock outcrops that are very much visible. Considered as cities of the dead, these necropolises are known as Jabal al-Mahjar, Qasr al-Walad, Jabal al-Khuraymat, and one location simply known as Area C. Altogether there are 111 tombs carved on the inside, with many that seem to be military graves, thus leading historians to speculate if Hegra had been a Nabatean military base.
How To Get There
Once it’s safe to travel again, you can get to Hegra by flying into Riyadh or Jeddah, and then taking a connecting flight to AlUla. Once there, there are tour guides and hop-on-hop-off buses that will bring visitors around AlUla, the Old Town, Hegra, and other interesting spots around the area. For more information, follow the Royal Commission for AlUla on Twitter.
From an avid magazine reader in her teens to a writer and editor today, Zurien honed her skills at various publications including CLEO, K-Zone, Prestige, The Malaysian Women’s Weekly, LISA Malaysia, MSN.com.my, GLAM Junior, Going Places, kayak.com, HerInspirasi.com, Harper’s Bazaar Malaysia, Tropicana Magazine and Convergence by Malaysia Airports. Zurien hopes to inspire readers to enjoy the best of travel and lifestyle experiences at Gadabout.