6 Amazing UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Saudi Arabia
Read up about all the cultural wonders the Kingdom is proud to be the home to….
Saudi Arabia is a veritable gem, blessed with natural spaces, stunning coasts, huge deserts, surrounding seas and high mountains. Whether it’s the greenery found in Asir’s Al Bardani Valley, the majestic mountains of Tabuk, the fascinating dunes of the Empty Quarter in the southeastern region or the turquoise waters of the Red Sea, the Kingdom undoubtedly has a lot to offer. Plus, of course, Saudi is now home to a seriously impressive number of acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Sites after its Cultural Rock Arts in Himã Najrãn were recently officially recognised as one during the 44th session of the World Heritage Committee in Fuzho, China.
World Heritage is the designation for places around the world that are of exceptional universal value to humanity. They have therefore been registered on the World Heritage List so they are protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy. Some of the 1007 natural and cultural places inscribed on the World Heritage List so far include the Pyramids of Egypt, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador. India’s Taj Mahal, the Grand Canyon in the USA and Greece’s Acropolis have also made the cut.
Here’s what to know about Saudi Arabia’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Hima Cultural Area
One of the largest rock art complexes in the world is found in Hima, situated in the mountainous southwest of Saudi Arabia. Positioned along an ancient trade route, Hima is comprised of 34 archaelogical sites that have inscriptions in a range of languages such as Arabic, Greek, Thamudic and Musnad which have been carved into the rock-face. The carvings, which depict hunting, fauna, and fauna, are a time-capsule that gives visitors an insight into the various cultures and peoples that have lived in this area throughout history.
Hegra, which is located deep in the desert of Saudi Arabia’s north-western AlUla region, is home to the prehistoric tombs of the lost civilisation of the Nabatean tribes. They are believed to have settled the area in the 1st century AD. Visitors can admire four surviving necropolis sites, which feature 131 rock-cut tombs and ornamental façades carved into sandstone outcrops.
Al Turaif, Diriyah
Diriyah’s Al Turaif is the original Al Saud family seat, which was founded in the 15th century. The history of the area dates back thousands of years and one can get an idea about how inhabitants lived from the relics of the mudbrick houses that were designed in the Najdi architectural style. Al Turaif was once a trading route, as well as one for pilgrimages, and a meeting point for voyagers and merchants from Europe, Asia and Africa.
Al Ahsa Oasis
Al Ahsa is the epitome of a lush desert oasis. What’s more, it has been declared by the Guinness World Records as the largest self-contained oasis in the world. Whether it’s the hot and cold springs, the ancient mosques or the all-encompassing panoramic vistas, this 6,000-year-old oasis is a miniature copy of Saudi Arabia’s archaeological and ecological features.
At the heart of Jeddah is the historic old town known as Al-Balad, where houses that are over 500-years-old and built from coral can be discovered. The old town has been the subject of increased attention in recent years, and conservation has been carried out to safeguard its unique history and architecture. According to local folklore, Al-Balad may even be the resting place of Eve.
Rock Art in the Al Hail region
Embark upon a trip to the northern Hail region of Saudi Arabia, and you will find yourself surrounded by ancient rock art in the middle of the desert. Jabal Umm Sinman in Jubbah boasts rock inscriptions dating back at least 7,000 to 9,000 years to the Pottery Neolithic period. It’s a spot to explore some of the most prominent Neolithic rock art in the Middle East, with various inscriptions and petroglyphs revealing human activities, clothing, animals and weapons of the past.