Saturday, 28 Nov, 12.07 am East Coast Daily

Ancient city in Saudi Arabia opens for tourists after 2000 years. Know more.

The deserts of Saudi Arabia hold many important archaeological sites. One of the most important of these is the vast archaeological site at Hegra which has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Now the public can visit the site without restrictions and view the remains of a remarkable and mysterious civilization. Hegra is also known as Mada'in Saleh, is in the deserts north of Al Ula in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

Hegra was once a thriving city on a major international trade route. There are many tombs and funerary monuments from the 4 th century BC to the 1 st century AD. Despite being subjugated by the Romans, the city of Hegra continued to prosper until the 3 rd century AD. When the trade routes shifted, the caravans stopped passing through the city and it went into rapid decline. It was abandoned by the Middle Ages, but the Ottomans built a fort at the site during World War I during the Arab revolt which was instigated by Lawrence of Arabia.

In recent years, a joint Saudi and French project has excavated and restored the site. The Saudi government has now opened up Hegra to the public for the first time. Before this, special permission was needed to visit the sister city of Petra. Now it is possible to hop on a bus and visit the remarkable remains of the caravan city. Local storytellers (Al Rowah) have been employed to bring the history of Hegra to life. The opening of the archaeological site is part of a Saudi policy to diversify its economy.

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Tags Saudi Arabia tourists Ancient city Hegra sister city of Petra

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