Visiting Mada’in Saleh: A UNESCO Site of World Heritage

Ever wonder what is concealed beneath the dunes of Saudi Arabia, a country renowned for its mysterious deserts and enigmatic past? 2019 saw Saudi Arabia unveil Mada’in Saleh, better known as Hegra, a gem that had been kept hidden from foreign non-Muslim tourists for generations. This Two millennia-old Nabatean city, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, provides a cultural and historical experience surpassing the marvels of Jordan’s Petra.

Discovering Hegra’s Location and the Journey to Reach It


Discover Hegra (Mada’in Saleh) in the Hejaz area of Saudi Arabia, conveniently close to an international airport serviced by Saudi Airlines. From AlUla, it takes about thirty-five minutes by car, providing quick access to Dammam, Dubai, Riyadh, and Jeddah. Furthermore, the In Maraya Concert Hall, the world’s largest mirrored structure, is only 11.6 miles away.

Is Petra the Same as Mada’in Saleh?


Mada’in Saleh (Hegra) in Saudi Arabia and Petra in Jordan are different but comparable. The Nabateans constructed Petra, the capital, and Mada’in Saleh, the second-largest, amid desert environments. They have over 600 carved stone structures in Petra and 111 in Mada’in Saleh, including elaborate tombs. Both locations had wells and cisterns, indicating the Nabateans’ proficiency with omgblog water.

Unlocking the Importance of Hegra: Mada’in Saleh’s Historical Marvels

Among the biggest and best-preserved Nabatean archaeological sites is Mada’in Saleh (Hegra) in northwest Saudi Arabia. The Nabateans left a legacy ranging from nomads to builders of Petra. From a city to a cemetery with 111 rock-cut tombs, one of which being the well-known 72-foot Qasr al-Farid. Cave paintings and pre-Nabataean inscriptions suggest the existence of previous humans.

Discovering Hegra: Saudi Arabia’s Inaugural UNESCO World Heritage Gem

2008 saw the designation of Hegra (Mada’in Saleh) as UNESCO’s first World Heritage site in Saudi Arabia. There are currently seven Saudi sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List:

  • Hegra Archaeological Site
  • At-Turaif District in ad-Dir’iyah
  • Historic Jeddah
  • Saudi Arabia’s Hail Region’s Rock Art
  • Ḥimā Cultural Area
  • Al-Ahsa Oasis
  • ‘Uruq Bani Ma’arid

In 2023, ‘Uruq Bani Ma’arid became the latest Saudi webpage to be inscribed by UNESCO.

Al-Hijr: Unveiling Saudi Arabia’s Ancient Marvel

Threats and Conservation

Historians and archaeologists regard the Al-Hijr site as a global treasure that must be preserved for future generations. Although there aren’t any current risks to this archaeological site, expanding human settlements may eventually threaten the structures. The Saudi government is already taking some action in this area, but more needs to be done to maintain and safeguard the Al-Hijr.


Al-Hijr’s desert climate and abandoned past have helped to keep it remarkably intact. Curse-related local superstitions discouraged relocation, which aided their preservation. Deep well drilling and oasis agriculture are two inventive methods that let the ancient Nabatean civilization survive in this hostile environment.


It’s easy to go to the Al-Hijr archaeological site with Saudi Airlines flights. With Assyrian, Hellenistic, and Egyptian influences, its sandstone sculptures display exquisite Nabatean artistry. Through its multilingual tombs, learn about agricultural methods, daily life in the first century, and cross-cultural interactions.


Due to severe Saudi Arabian admission procedures and the local belief that the place is cursed, there are few tourists at Al-Hijr. According to legend, worshiping idols resulted in divine punishment. There are air and road travel possibilities, but special permits are required for entry.


The first UNESCO World Heritage Site in Saudi Arabia is Mada’in Saleh, also known as Al-Hijr. Set in the Al-Ula area of Al Madinah, it was a major Nabatean settlement founded in the first century AD, second only in size to Petra. This historical treasure showcases the rich legacy of the Kingdom.

Unveiling the Historical Tapestry of Saudi Arabia’s Mada’in Saleh

The Nabateans created the rock-cut monuments at Mada’in Saleh, also known as Hegra, sometime between the first century BC and the first century AD. This pre-Islamic site demonstrates the region’s rich history and predates Saudi Arabia. Proof of human habitation in Saudi Arabia dates back 15–20 thousand years.

A breathtaking UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mada’in Saleh, or Hegra, reveals the world of the ancient Nabateans. It transcends old myths and is now accessible to all tourists. This site highlights the Arabian Peninsula’s rich history amid Saudi Arabia’s developing tourism industry.


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