The Awe-Striking Inscriptions of AlUla
Across the AlUla Valley lie thousands of inscriptions in Aramaic, Dadanitic, Thamudic, Minaic and Nabataean.
Thousands of pre-Arabic inscriptions across numerous sites make AlUla an important location in studying the Arabic language. A mountain north of the AlUla Valley, AlAqra’a, features more than 450 early Arabic inscriptions. Naqsh Zuhayr, to the east, features one of the oldest inscriptions of the Islamic era — dating back to 24AH (644 CE). But no such site is more significant than Jabal Ikmah, home to the highest concentration of and most varied inscriptions in AlUla.
Jabal Ikmah, a mountain near to the ancient city of Dadan, the capital of Dadanite and Lihyanite Kingdoms, has been described as a huge open-air library.
JABAL IKMAH: SAUDI ARABIA’S OPEN LIBRARY
In a beautiful desert landscape warmed by the sun, the largest “open library” in Saudi Arabia sits tucked away in a remote canyon valley.
Dadan was a caravan way station for many peoples, and one of the clues that AlUla was truly a crossroads of civilisations is Jabal Ikmah, which was visited by those wishing to leave their inscriptions and offerings en route through AlUla. Records kept here — in the form of hundreds of inscriptions and carvings lining the cliff faces and rocks — ensured that Jabal Ikmah would be remembered throughout the ages.
A visit to this magnificent site, with its inscriptions thought to date as far back as the 1st millennium BCE, is a glimpse into the past. Gazing at its rock art — of humans, musical instruments and animals — you can discover what was important in the daily lives of people in the Dadanite, Lihyanite and other civilisations of AlUla.
Long after AlUla’s ancient people walked this site, researchers and historians visited Jabal Ikmah to study its centuries-old inscriptions and imprints. Now you can visit too, and feel the power of this place.
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Religious pilgrims would have brought the offerings to their deities, leaving behind descriptions to commemorate their gifts and devotion.
Visiting the secluded site today, contemplate these clues left in relief by AlUla’s past residents, and imagine how high Jabal Ikmah’s status must have been: a place of ritual and spiritual significance in ancient times — and a place of discovery for you today.
To avoid disappointment, we recommend you book Jabal Ikmah tickets online before arrival.
Alternatively, you may purchase your tickets at the information desk located at Winter Park, before starting your experience at the Dadan visitor centre.
Staff and visitors alike are being prompted to wash their hands frequently with soap and water. You’ll find plenty of sanitisation stations at the main sites. Where handwashing facilities are not immediately available, sanitiser gel dispensers are provided.
A number of essential employees are on-site at any one time. Staff who come into contact with visitors are provided with masks and gloves. High-touch items and surfaces are disinfected frequently and areas are kept well ventilated.
A dedicated security team is on hand to help ensure the guidelines are observed. If you have any questions relating to travelling during the Covid-19 pandemic, please call the national helpline for tourism queries on 930, which is staffed around the clock.