For thousands of years, travellers on popular pilgrimage and trade routes in north-western Saudi Arabia often stopped in city hubs to do business and rest. Many of the visitors left messages, or inscriptions, carved and etched into stone to mark their journey through the extraordinary landscapes that now comprise AlUla.
Just like today’s authors sign their work, so did some of the inscription writers who made dedications, asked for blessings for crops and health, and gave offerings.
Those messages, so important to the people who etched them into stone, now bring a new level of appreciation to the ancient cultures of AlUla.
Because inscriptions are so important to learning about an area’s culture, places such as Jabal Ikmah
are known as open-air libraries, where knowledge is right before you instead of hidden inside the pages of a book. See hundreds of significant inscriptions in Jabal Ikmah, as well as AlAqra’a and Naqsh Zuhayr, which visitors will be able to experience in the future.
These writings at the sites of the ancient Dadan, Lihyan and Nabataean kingdoms give an incredible snapshot into the history of the region, which includes the designated UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, also known as Mada’in Salih. Visitors can also see inscriptions and rock art at the trails, and at Ashar valley. At numerous epigraphic points, see hundreds of inscriptions that show how languages evolved since the first millennium. AlUla’s inscriptions include those written in the ancient and historic languages of Dadanitic, Thamudic, Minaic and Nabataean.
When AlUla opens to visitors, local Al’Rowah tour guides will give skilful interpretations of what archaeologists and scholars have worked to excavate since the late 1800s, deciphering the age of inscriptions by looking at references to dates or rulers of the time.
Follow the Rock Art Trail with a guide to see inscriptions accompanying ancient carvings and the artistic stylings of animals, including dogs, lions, camels, goats and antelopes. Activities such as hunting, eating and worshiping are depicted in addition to common utensils. Other
AlUla Trails excursions can reveal these messages as well.