Sunday February 25, 2018

UNESCO declares Al ‘Ula as Saudi’s First World Heritage Site: The 2,000-year-old town is made of mud and stone

The Incense Route which helped in transportation of spices from India, ‘lapis lazuli’ from Afghanistan, gold from Nubia, myrrh and resins from Saba, now suffers erosion and decay

2
//
683
Al Ula, an old town in Saudi Arabia. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Republish
Reprint
  • About 2,000 years ago, Al ‘Ula was once a flourishing city, bustling with life and activity
  • Al Ula or the ancient site of Al Hijr was the capital of the kingdom of Dedan, said an Saudi archaeologist
  • Dedanites were the lords of the land during the 6th and 7th century BC

Saudi Arabia might boast of a potpourri of architectural marvels and grand mosques, men and women dressed in modestly long gowns in the scorching heat of the desert, but going deeper inside the land of ‘Sheikhs’ might amaze one beyond measure.

Known for its stringent laws and moderated lifestyle, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is rich in historical magnificence. Located 110 km southwest of the town of Tayma, surrounded by thick walls and narrow corridors is the ancient capital of Dedanites – Al ‘Ula. The old city, representing a maze-like construction has attracted archaeologists and historians for a long time.  Al ‘Ula, surrounded by Maid –ain Saleh, crowns the desert as the first Saudi World Heritage Site declared by the UNESCO, said a Altasobscura report.

Follow NewsGram on Twitter: @newsgram1

Charles Doughty in 1876, discovered the city while he was travelling with a caravan of travellers on their way to Mecca and Medina. He studied the inscriptions found at the site and came across “Al ‘Ula, the chief town of the area.”

Further research revealed that the Dedanites were the lords of the land during the 6th and 7th century BC. Nabonidus, the king of Babylonia had once raised a military campaign to the north of Arabia around 552 BC to conquer Tayma, Dedan and Yathrib (the present-day Medina). The Nabateans in 106 AD had lost the region to the Romans who gained the entire kingdom along with Petra.

According to a well known Saudi archaeologist, Abdel Rahman al Ansary, “Al Ula or the ancient site of Al Hijr was the capital of the kingdom of Dedan, one of the principal settlements of Arabia established around the 6th century BCE, and mentioned in the Old Testament and Assyrian inscriptions as DDN.”

The complete geography of the region comprised of ‘Al Khurayba’, ‘Al Hijr’ and ‘Mada-in Saleh’, which are ruins of Dedans, and those of the Qurh. While many Europeans surveyed the site, it was only properly brought into light after an expedition by the Institute of Archaeology of the University of London, in 1968.

Follow NewsGram on Facebook: NewsGram

Al ‘Ula was once a flourishing city, bustling with life and activity, some 2000 years ago. Concretely built mud-houses and sand structures dotted the beautiful landscape of the oasis in the Arabian desert. Trading of silk, spices, luxury items thrived through this route between the Arabian nation and those in the Gulf, as far as India.

Al Sinya chariot and lion in Al Ula. Image source: saudi-archaeology.com
Al Sinya chariot and lion in Al Ula. Image source: saudi-archaeology.com

Once the hub of commerce and industry, Al ‘Ula also found mention in Islamic history as a city that the Last Prophet, Muhammad (S.A.W) had crossed in 630 AD en route to the Battle of Tabuk, fought between the Arabs and the Byzantines.

According to atlasobscura, most Arab writers have written accounts on how “in the 13th century with the fall of the Abbasid dynasty, and the spread of unrest throughout the peninsula, Qurh declined and eventually its name was forgotten.”

In  ‘Al-‘Ula (Saudi Arabia): A report on a Historical and Archaeological Survey’, Abdallah al-Nasif writes how “trade routes changed as dynasties grew and declined over the years.” The town, although it remained inhabited till the 1980s, is now decaying despite measures of reconstruction under the Royalty.  The last family to live here was in 1983 with the last mosque service in 1985.

The Incense Route which helped in transportation of spices from India, ‘lapis lazuli’ from Afghanistan, gold from Nubia, myrrh and resins from Saba, now suffers erosion and decay.

In spite of the huge popularity among tourists as a uniquely built Arab town, Al ‘Ula today lies in ruins under the brutally hot desert sun. Its’ structures that were once a major tourist attraction and its’ people who welcomed guests are now disappearing like the town itself.

-prepared by NewsGram team with assistance from Maariyah

ALSO READ:

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2016 NewsGram

  • Paras Vashisth

    This invention will be very helpful for understand many things.

  • AJ Krish

    These structures were once the pride of the nation and the center for culture. We not only need to preserve them but also make the people aware about its history .

Next Story

Western intellectuals’ overwhelming love for Sanskrit literature

Many famous scholars and scientists learnt Sanskrit or studied Sanskrit literature to strengthen their intellectual prowess and acknowledged the need to develop the Sanskrit language.

0
//
32
Sean O’Callaghan, a westerner, is seen doing a play
Sean O’Callaghan, a westerner, is seen doing a play "Battlefield" in Sanskrit in the western world. VOA

-By Salil Gewali

 It is for the astounding richness of the Sanskrit language a renowned linguist Sir William Jones first translated Kalidasa’s Shakuntala from the original Sanskrit into English in 1789. This stirred the minds and hearts of the top European intellectuals that include Johann Goethe, Gottfried Herder, Friedrich Schiller, August Schlegel, Wilhelm von Humboldt, et al. Very impressed by the language and its philosophical plot the father of the German literature (J. Goethe) learnt Sanskrit on his own. And, he plunged into this ancient play Shakuntala for the whole thirty years. He even wrote an insightful poem eulogizing this play. Again, George Forster translated this Kalidas’s work into German in 1791. In a span of some decades sprouted 46 translations into fourteen European languages.  On the other hand, the translation of the Bhagavad Gita by Charles Wilkin in 1784 and Upanishads by Anquetil Duperron in 1801 opened up unprecedented vistas for the philosophical regeneration hitherto unknown in the European literature. The doctrines of Vedanta such as ‘Oneness of the universe’, interdependence and interconnection of all entities and all particles seemed very plausible to the philosophically rational psyche of the western scholars.

Robert O. Johann was a western scholar.
Robert O. Johann was a western scholar. wikipedia

Again, one of the fathers of Modern linguistic Franz Bopp and a great philosopher Friedrich Schlegel, both from Germany, laid the revolutionary foundation of the comparative linguistic by freely borrowing from Panini’s “Ashtadhyayi ” which was later further developed by the language giants like Ferdinand de Saussure, Leonard Bloomfield, and Noam Chomsky. Panini, who was an enlightened sage of 4th BC India, was the first to systematically put down the comprehensive Grammar of Sanskrit language. This treatise consists of about 3959 sutras which can handle the nuances and intricacies of any languages in the universe, empirically and anatomically.

Having been too bewitched by the Sanskrit language a most renowned American linguist Leonard Bloomfield exclaims — “It was in India, however, that there arose a body of knowledge which was destined to revolutionize European ideas about language. Panini Grammar taught Europeans to analyze speech forms; when one compared the constituent parts, the resemblances, which hitherto had been vaguely recognized, could be set forth with certainty and precision.”  Yes, here at home we prefer to call Sanskrit a dead language, and instead, with enthusiasm and hubris choose to learn German.

Erwin Wilhelm Müller, a western scholar who acknowledged Sanskrit.
Erwin Wilhelm Müller, a western scholar who acknowledged Sanskrit. wikipedia

There are countless western scholars and scientists who have overwhelmingly acknowledged the exceptional richness of Sanskrit language wherein they saw an immense scope in the development of any area of studies. Voltaire, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, TS Eliot, Neils Bohr, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Oppenheimer, Mark Twain, Car Jung, J. D. Salinger and others learnt Sanskrit or studied Sanskrit literature to strengthen their intellectual prowess.

John Archibald Wheeler –a famous modern physicist who first coined Black Hole and Warm Hole and occupied the chair that had previously been held by Albert Einstein, enthuses –‘One has the feeling that the thinkers of the East (INDIA) knew it all, and if we could only translate their answers into our language we would have the answers to all our questions.’  With the same vigor bursts out another physicist Erwin Schrodinger, known as the father of Quantum Mechanics — “Some blood transfusion from INDIA to the West is a must to save Western science from spiritual anemia.”

Here are my few earnest questions — had all these rational thinkers, scientists, writers — whose theories, whose principles, whose literature, whose formulae and equations we study in schools and colleges and thus claim ourselves as academically qualified, gone crazy to heap high praise on Sanskrit and its literary treasure troves?  How can we claim to be INDIAN when we joyfully belittle and undermine our own heritage?  What is it that makes us to see only flaws in our Mother even without ever making a bit of genuine effort to know and realize her uncanny virtues?

François-Marie Arouet is a French writer who was also known as Voltaire.
François-Marie Arouet is a French writer who was also known as Voltaire. wikipedia

I don’t think we have ever seen any country in the world that its citizens speak ill of their heritage, their tradition and values — however archaic, rustic and crude they may be. Why does it touch our raw nerves when someone appreciates the values and culture of the native land? Sanskrit and the myriad scriptures produced in this grand language is as resplendent as the Sun ball over our head. Can you ignore the Sun? I don’t think François Voltaire was a big fool to announce with vehemence about 300 years ago  —- ‘Everything has come down to us from the bank of GANGA’ , ‘The first Greeks traveled to India to instruct themselves’, ‘India, whom whole Earth needs, who needs no one, must by that very fact the most civilized land’.  Should it not call for a dispassionate introspection and thus our self-correction and reawakening?

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter @SGewali.