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Historical Significance

Amongst the most significant discoveries in all of AlUla is the city of Dadan, the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan kingdoms. The city, which was built meticulously from stone and astride the valley’s oasis, dates back between the late 9th and early 8th century BCE (Kingdom of Dadan) and 5th–2nd century BCE (Kingdom of Lihyan).

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Because of its proximity to incense trade routes, Dadan was one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities in northern Arabia. Outside of trading activities, inhabitants of Dadan also utilised the region’s fertility to grow multiple types of crops.


What You Can’t Miss

One of the most exciting displays is more than a dozen tombs cut into the red-rock cliff faces east of the city. From afar, these look like simple dark rectangles. A closer look reveals skilfully crafted funerary monuments, including the seated lion sculptures that mark the famous Lion Tombs. Lions symbolised power and protection and may have marked the burial of an elite member of society, perhaps even a member of royalty. These tombs are up to 50 metres above ground level — spurring the imagination of how they were carved without modern construction equipment.


Other Special Places to See

As a modern visitor to Dadan, you will discover evidence of defence, agricultural and water-management innovations. Even the date palms grown as crops can still be seen here today.

Inscriptions feature terms relating to agriculture, including the seasons, types of produce, water and parcels of land. Around this ancient valley, you can observe other inscriptions in Dadanitic. These writings detail the everyday lives of these once-great civilisations, from their religious practices and social activities to the laws and edicts that governed them.

Discoveries of sculptural items through archaeological excavations in Dadan suggests that a sculpture school or workshop may have existed in the area. Several statues are life-sized or larger, with some measuring up to 2.7-metres tall. They are all similar in appearance, depicting men with strong limbs, defined stomachs and broad shoulders, with hands clenched, the left foot forward and a stern gaze. Researchers do not know exactly who the statues represent, but it is likely they were carved for high-status members of society.


Visitor Information

Modern amenities, such as pathways and signs, have been added to enhance your experience when visiting Dadan. Be sure to stop by the all-new visitors’ centre, visual display hall and research centre. Within, you’ll discover findings, such as artefacts and sculptures, while learning more about AlUla’s remarkable past and the ongoing discoveries at Dadan.

Nearby, on the other side of the oasis, find an array of ancient inscriptions and rock art at Jabal Ikmah, another significant site of the Dadan Kingdom. Dadan will reopen at the end of October 2020.

Discover the wonders of Jabal Ikmah,
AlUla’s Open Library

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