Asham, the ancient city of gold south of Makkah

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The excavation site of Asham in Qunfudah. (SPA)
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A closer-up view of the excavation site of Asham in Qunfudah. (SPA)
Updated 18 January 2018

Asham, the ancient city of gold south of Makkah

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.

Saudi Arabia praised for services and facilities for Hajj pilgrims

Updated 16 August 2018

Saudi Arabia praised for services and facilities for Hajj pilgrims

  • Guests laud King Salman’s efforts to unify ranks
  • Tatarstan’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Kamil Ismailov hailed the Kingdom’s efforts to ensure pilgrims’ comfort and safety

MAKKAH: King Salman received thanks from guests at Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Guests Program for welcoming and supporting pilgrims. They also thanked him for hosting them so that they can perform Hajj rituals. 

The king’s guests praised the services provided for them from the moment they arrived in the holy lands. This underscores the depth of the Saudi experience in dealing with crowds and successfully hosting millions of pilgrims each year.

Tatarstan’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Kamil Ismailov hailed the Kingdom’s efforts to ensure pilgrims’ comfort and safety.

“The expansion projects in the Two Holy Mosques and the holy sites, as well as the readiness of all medical and security teams, constitute strong evidence of Saudi Arabia’s capacities and ability to organize and manage the crowds with every Hajj season,” he added.

Ismailov pointed out that Muslims represent 70 percent of the population in Tatarstan, and that it is the first country in the region to adopt Islam as a state religion since 922.

Sheikh Mustafa Jusufspahic, the grand mufti of Belgrade, in Serbia, said that King Salman’s hosting of pilgrims from all over the world continues a tradition of the leadership of this blessed land assisting and unifying Muslims. It continues the path of good and giving by the Kingdom’s leaders toward Islamic work in the world, accounting for its prestigious position in the Muslim world, he added.

Jusufspahic expressed his thanks and appreciation to King Salman for his great gesture that enables Muslims to perform Hajj easily and conveniently. He praised all services offered in the program, which is supervised by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

Mohammed Amin, a professor from Ethiopia, who is making his first visit to Makkah, commended King Salman’s invitation to Muslims from all over the globe. He also saidthat the Ethiopian people were well aware of the financial and cultural support provided by the Kingdom.

The imam of the Central Mosque in Ethiopia, Ibrahim Khalil, expressed his admiration for the warm reception he and his delegation received upon their arrival, their speedy entry into the country and the journey to their residence.

Guinean Islamic preacher Mohammed Idris said the infrastructure and the scale of the preparations in Makkah reflect the tremendous efforts from all sectors there. “The Kingdom endeavors to develop organization and management of the Hajj season every year, a fact highly acclaimed among Muslims in Guinea, who consider Saudi Arabia to be the heart of the Islamic world,” he said.

Professor Bassim Berniavorates, from the faculty of medicine at the University of Sarajevo in Bosnia, said he was happy he had the opportunity to perform Hajj for the first time in his life, and was eager to meet Saudi people, to learn about their customs and traditions, and to visit popular markets that reflect the historical richness of Makkah.

He added that the Bosnian people were grateful for Saudi Arabia’s support throughout history, which has enabled them to overcome obstacles and crises and achieve their aspirations in building a civilized and democratic nation.

Bassim, a professor of anesthesia at the University Hospital in Sarajevo, noted that the program helped to extend bridges of communication with the world. “The Bosnians became more familiar with the Saudis and proud of this cultural fusion in the holiest parts of the earth,” said Bassim.

Dr. Mekhtbakh, from the Sports Academy in Kyrgyzstan, said that by visiting the holy land he had achieved a life-long dream. He expressed his thanks and appreciation to King Salman for his generous patronage and keenness to host Muslims from all over the world.