Search form

Last updated: 4 sec ago

You are here

Saudi Arabia

Asham, the ancient city of gold south of Makkah

The excavation site of Asham in Qunfudah. (SPA)
A closer-up view of the excavation site of Asham in Qunfudah. (SPA)
AL-QUNFUDAH, Saudi Arabia: The village of Asham tells the story of the early times of Islam, and is considered an extension to Makkah’s civilization and historical events.

Convoys leaving Makkah or entering it used to pass through Asham. This village’s name has become associated with Makkah in history books, and it is today considered a historical and archaeological landmark.

Al-Qunfudah governorate of the Makkah province houses a great historical heritage that developed over many centuries, which qualifies it to be a unique tourist attraction visited by people from Makkah and beyond who wish to enjoy its rare relics and learn the stories of the people who inhabited it in the past.

Al-Qunfudah has many centers, including Al-Mazilif, which is located 25 km from the city and houses the heritage village of “Asham.”

Asham is located on the banks of Wadi Qarma (the valley of Qarma). Sheikh bin Marzouq, who was a wise man, realized the importance of this village, defended it, and contributed largely to preserving many of its inscriptions and artifacts.

Then came the historian Hassan bin Ibrahim Al-Faqih, who revealed many of this village’s secrets in his book “Mikhlaf Asham.”

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) implemented an archaeological excavation at the Asham historical site. This phase includes the resumption of excavation works launched in Hijri 1402 (1982) and other archaeological work that started in Hijri 1407 (1987).
Some of the artifacts recovered from the excavation site in Qunfudah. (SPA photos)


The current project is focused on verifying the extent of archaeological discoveries, and detecting mining tools and methods. Excavations were concentrated in the commercial market on the site.

Member of the Shoura Council and consultant at SCTH, Ahmed bin Omar Al-Zailai, believes the importance of Asham lies in the fact that it’s one of the Kingdom’s important Islamic archaeological sites, with its large number of written inscriptions — estimated at hundreds — and wide variety of decorations.

He said: “Asham is an Islamic Tihami village known since the pre-Islamic times and was destroyed in the 5th century (Hijri). It is located 300 km south of Makkah and links the Tihamah plain in the west to the mountains in the east.”

“Asham played a major commercial role as a crossing point for pilgrims who come to visit Makkah and merchants who moved between Yemen, Hijaz, and the gold mine,” he added.

Despite its importance, Asham is one of the least mentioned Islamic sites in Arab books and sources. Some Muslim geographers wrote about it with a few details. The first of these was Al-Yaqoubi, who died in 284 H. Other geographers who referred to Asham were Ibn Khordathaba and Al-Hamdani, who described it as a gold mine, as well as Al-Makdissi, Al-Bakri, Al-Sharif, Al-Idrissi, and others.

From what those geographers had written, we can see that Asham was not only a well-populated, prosperous city, but also a southern capital for Makkah, known as Mikhlaf Asham.

Al-Zailai also pointed out that Saudi Arabia currently houses 32 excavation sites. Excavation works at Asham started a month ago and will be resumed within two months.

MORE FROM Saudi Arabia