Historic Hima Well reveals the journeys of Arabia’s ancient caravans

Historic Hima Well reveals the journeys of Arabia’s ancient caravans
The site is made out of a series of seven fresh water wells, which includes more than 200 sites containing rock inscriptions, graves and stone circles. (Supplied)
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Updated 10 April 2021

Historic Hima Well reveals the journeys of Arabia’s ancient caravans

Historic Hima Well reveals the journeys of Arabia’s ancient caravans
  • Archaeological excavations carried out by SCTH discovered that the city of Najran is among the oldest inhabited places
  • The site contains numerous rock inscriptions and drawings that date back to before 3000 BC

MAKKAH: Hima Well, one of the most ancient and significant stops along the ancient trade routes of Arabia, untouched and unaltered, continues to fascinate researchers and archaeologists.

The site, about 140 km north of the city of Najran, is well preserved, and with its largely intact rock art depicting humans, animals, hunting tools, bows and spears and more, shows a picture of what was once an ancient route for caravans traveling from the southern regions of the Arabian Peninsula to its north.

Saleh Al-Muraih, a historical researcher specializing in the tourism and archaeology of Najran, told Arab News: “Hima Well is one of the most important historical sites in the Kingdom and contains numerous rock inscriptions and drawings that date back to before 3000 BC.”

“The site is made out of a series of seven fresh water wells covering an area of 30 km, which includes more than 200 sites containing rock inscriptions and drawings, graves, stone circles and historical wells,” he said.

Al-Muraih added: “Hima was the starting point for commercial caravans that gathered at the wells before taking one of two main roads. The firsts of these roads used to lead to Mesopotamia after passing through Al-Faw (also known as Qariah, an ancient city on the outskirts of the Empty Quarter), which is the archaeological site of the Kindah and Al-Yamama regions, known today as Najd. The second road used to lead to the Levant and Egypt after passing through the Hijaz region.”

FASTFACT

To date, 1,293 human drawings, 5,121 animal drawings, 3,616 Thamudic inscriptions, 2,775 Ancient South Arabian script inscriptions and three Nabataean inscriptions have been found in the region, while search and excavation operations are continuing in the Kingdom in general, and the region in particular, to uncover more monuments and historical cultural heritage.

Its dense rock art engravings are the legacy of the hundreds of caravans, departing from Al-Okhdood in the south, that passed by the well over the years. Ancient South Arabian script (Musnad), the South Arabian language or the Thamudic language can be found on these engravings alongside depictions of flora and fauna.

“The Saudi government took care of Hima Well, and there are fantastic fencing works taking place. This is coupled with continuous scientific research that has studied the site and we hope for the completion of the procedures that would see the addition of the site to UNESCO’s World Heritage List,” Al-Muraih said.

“There has been numerous land surveys and protection efforts exerted in the area. Fortunately, Hima does not have any violations or anything that could harm these monuments, while the people of the region are highly cultured when it comes to protecting these sites and therefore preserving these significant historical monuments,” he said.

As one of Najran’s 86 historical sites, Hima Well combines heritage and tourism in one area. Tour guides, a cooperative local community and cooperative government bodies are all on hand to speak about the historic significance of the well.

Dr. Salma Hawsawi, professor of ancient history at King Saud University, told Arab News: “The Kingdom has a great deal of archaeological sites and historical cities that have witnessed construction works over the course of thousands of years. They are truly worthy of preservation and development so that they can cope with the current requirements.”

She added: “Historical cities, regardless of their history and origins, are many. Among those worth mentioning is the southwestern city of Najran, which was mentioned by numerous classical historians such as Strabo, in his book ‘Geography,’ where he called it Negrana, as he talked about the Roman campaigns in the Arabian Peninsula in the years 24-25 BC, and Ptolemy, who referred to it as Negara Metropolis.”

“In his book, Yaqut Al-Hamawi, a Muslim historian, said that the city was named after the first person that inhabited it, Najran bin Zaydan bin Sabaa. What also confirms how old this city was is the mention of its name in the inscriptions of Sabaean rulers such as Karib’il, Samah Ali Yanuf and Yitha’amar Bayyin,” she said.

According to Dr. Hawsawi, the geographical importance of the Kingdom’s southwestern region stems from its location between Africa and Asia. This is coupled with the importance of the coastal region in terms of migration, and some settlements are found to date back from the first century BC to the Islamic era.

“Archaeological excavations carried out by SCTH discovered that the city of Najran is among the oldest inhabited places. It did so through archaeological evidence found at various sites belonging to different periods in history, starting with the ancient Stone Age to the Islamic era,” she said.

Hawsawi said: “Rock art and inscriptions are the elements that most distinguish the region’s monuments, as they provided us with a lot of information regarding clothes, accessories, weapons, stone stoves, rectangular and conical structures and tanks, especially around the Hima Well area.”

Most of the region’s rock drawings showcase camels, cows, goats and geese, along with some predatory animals such as lions and wolves, Dr. Hawsawi said. “Ostriches were given special attention in terms of their decoration and size, in addition to them being drawn in various positions, highlighting the significance of this animal.”

The drawings show horse battles, where knights used spears, and limited hunting scenes, where dogs were used to hunt goats, she said, noting that “there are drawings of humans that are larger than the normal size, while some of them had their heads covered. Men’s beards were shown clearly. Humans wore necklaces and collars, while some men wore anklets to produce sounds that suit the dance moves and music. Outfits were made out of short gowns that were wrapped around the middle. Other drawings showed people dancing with musical instruments that resemble the rebab.”

Dr. Hawsawi said: “Thamudic writings were found in the region in large quantities, followed by the Ancient South Arabian script and the Kufic script, which dates back to the Islamic era. The multiplicity of scripts found in the region sheds light on the succession of civilizations. In addition, Ancient South Arabian script inscriptions found engraved on top of Thamudic inscriptions highlights how old the Thamudic script really is.”

“Most of the inscriptions consist of names such as ‘Saad,’ ‘Awathat’ and ‘Rafadat,’ and of deities such as ‘Al’ and ‘Kahl,’ while inscriptions were usually found next to drawings of animals,” she said.

Dr. Hawsawi said that “among the long inscriptions is a 12-line one belonging to King ‘Dhu Nuwas,’ in which he described his victory over the Ethiopians in 512.”

To date, 1,293 human drawings, 5,121 animal drawings, 3,616 Thamudic inscriptions, 2,775 Ancient South Arabian script inscriptions and three Nabataean inscriptions have been found in the region, while search and excavation operations are continuing in the Kingdom in general, and the region in particular, to uncover more monuments and historical cultural heritage.


Saudi Green Initiative forum

Saudi Green Initiative forum
Updated 14 sec ago

Saudi Green Initiative forum

Saudi Green Initiative forum

The Saudi Green Initiative forum in Riyadh taking place on Saturday will discuss Saudi Arabia's environmental efforts with guests that include high-profile government leaders and international personalities.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is opening the forum to announce the Kingdom’s new “green” objectives. 

Other Saudi ministers will also be speaking at the forum, exploring specific themes around business and the environment, marine and ocean life, and the oil and gas industry. 

Big corporate icons, including Paddy Padmanathan of ACWA Power and Jasper Graf of Daystar Power US, are also participating in the forum.  


First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
Updated 23 October 2021

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques

First full Friday prayers at Two Holy Mosques
  • Worshippers return to holy cities as restrictions eased

MAKKAH: After more than a year and a half, Muslims worldwide were delighted to see Friday prayers at the Two Holy mosques return to full capacity.

Considered the two holiest sites in Islam, painful images of the mosques devoid of worshippers due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020 affected Muslims everywhere, but particularly citizens of Makkah and Madinah.

“It’s a blessing, to walk in the mosque’s pathways and you’re surrounded by people again,” said Abdullah Mahdi, a private-sector worker and longtime resident of the holy city. “Though masked still, it doesn’t really matter, the place is alive with movement and worshippers again.

“It’s truly a sight to behold and to see the Grand Mosque’s courtyard around the Kaaba filled with people on the first Friday after the easing of the restrictions is a sign that it’ll be alright, God-willing.”

Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

Deputy Secretary-General for the Affairs of the Grand Mosque Dr. Saad bin Mohammed Al-Muhaimid told Arab News that the Presidency of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques had used all of their human and mechanical resources to implement the plan to return to full capacity.

FASTFACTS

• Last Saturday, the Ministry of Interior announced the easing of restrictions across the Kingdom, including those affecting the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, which are returning to full operations and capacity.

• Those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

“They did so through an integrated plan of capabilities and services that were harnessed to preserve the safety of the Grand Mosque’s visitors and facilitate the performance of their rites in a spiritual, safe and reassuring atmosphere,” he said.

“Based on the directives of the president of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Sheikh Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, we have accelerated the pace of work and raised the level of readiness in an effort to provide the Grand Mosque’s visitors with better services and means of comfort.

“We have also doubled our efforts since we started implementing the plan to return to full capacity while achieving the highest-quality standards.”

The deputy secretary-general said that those working at the Two Holy Mosques had been asked to abide by and enforce the directives issued by the authorities concerned with fighting the coronavirus pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety.

The ministry and authorities stressed the importance of visitors adhering to the directives included in the Interior Ministry’s statement by wearing face masks at all times inside the Grand Mosque and booking their Umrah and prayer appointments through the official applications (Eatmarna and Tawakkalna).


Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change
Updated 23 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change

Saudi Arabia’s carbon-rich mangroves are key to combating climate change
  • Mangrove forests are vital for climate change, as highly productive and biodiversity-rich inter-tidal forests sequester carbon faster than terrestrial forests
  • Saudi Green Initiative starts on Oct. 23-24 and aims to assert the country’s work to achieve change domestically and regionally regarding climate change

JEDDAH: Plans to establish Saudi Arabia’s first national mangrove park are underway to enhance the Kingdom’s efforts in environmental protection and tourism development through vast green spaces.

The plans were announced by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture. They are part of the ministry’s initiative to add more green spaces and national parks in the country, which currently has 27 national parks.

Mangroves are mainly found off the south-western waters in the Jizan region. They help to protect marine habitats, seagrass, coral reefs, and more from harmful runoffs from passing boats and human waste. 

They are known to residents of the Farasan Islands and Jizan as shura trees, and the area is frequented by residents and visitors all year round.

To further protect mangrove forests, the ministry planted more than 875,000 mangrove trees in the southern regions of the Red Sea coast. 

The first is in a location dubbed Bahar1 and is near the cultural village south of Jizan city where 440,000 trees were planted. There were 435,000 mangrove trees planted in Bahar2 in the town of Al-Sawarmah.

Greenhouse gases drive climate change. 

Mangrove forests are vital for climate change, as highly productive and biodiversity-rich inter-tidal forests sequester carbon faster than terrestrial forests. The more CO2 the mangroves capture, the faster the greenhouse gases are removed from the atmosphere. The distinctive ecosystems also protect shores and can help prevent direct damage in case of storms.

More than a quarter of the world’s mangroves have been lost over the past decade due to artificial intrusions.

The Saudi Green Initiative starts on Oct. 23-24 and aims to assert the country’s work to achieve change domestically and regionally regarding climate change, to build a better future, and improve the quality of life. The country has made significant efforts to protect the environment and mitigate the effects of climate change. Reducing carbon emissions is crucial to slow the impact of climate change and restore environmental balance. 

Ten billion trees will be planted throughout the Kingdom to transform the desert into green land and rehabilitate 40 million hectares of land in the upcoming decades.


Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion
Updated 23 October 2021

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah, Jewel of the Kingdom: DGDA tour guides shine at Expo Dubai Saudi Pavilion

Diriyah Gate Development Authority’s talented tour guides are working hard at the Saudi Pavilion during Expo 2020 Dubai to share the history of Diriyah, the birthplace of the Kingdom, the land of kings and heroes where it all began.

The DGDA is proud that seven of the guides from its talented team are currently in Dubai to support the Saudi Pavilion, help drive the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and represent the spirit of Saudi youth.

The pavilion reflects the Kingdom’s past, present and shared future. It soars five stories high, covering an area the equivalent of two football fields, making it the second-largest at the event after the UAE pavilion.

Thanks to its dazzling design features that beam multicolored bursts of light over the surrounding areas, including 8,000 LED floor lights and the world’s largest digital mirror screen, visitors will enjoy a different experience each time they stop by. It is a design that honors four main themes: the Saudi people, the nation’s heritage, opportunity and nature.

The DGDA tour guides will be working in the pavilion for the duration of Expo 2020 Dubai, sharing with visitors the amazing history and culture of the Kingdom, and Diriyah in particular. Their duties include leading public tours of the entire pavilion, guiding school tours, looking after VIP guests and groups, and training the temporary staff and interns working at the pavilion.

Their extensive training in Diriyah has prepared them well for their participation in Expo 2020 Dubai, and their involvement is a unique recognition of their talent, knowledge and passion.

Rahaf Alharbi, one of DGDA’s rising stars and a passionate tour guide at the Saudi Pavilion, said: “It is a great honor for me to be here at Expo 2020 Dubai to represent Saudi Arabia and to tell the world about Diriyah’s rich history. I am looking forward to the whole world learning about the birthplace of the Kingdom, with its unique history and culture. I am proud to be part of this team and truly enjoy the new experiences we can make here.”

The DGDA is leading the transformation of Diriyah into Saudi Arabia’s foremost historical, cultural and lifestyle destination. The authority was established in July 2017 to preserve Diriyah’s history, celebrate its community, and develop the historic UNESCO World Heritage site of At-Turaif into one of the world’s greatest gathering places, at the heart of Saudi Arabian culture and heritage.

The protection and preservation of Saudi history and culture, including the stories of the nation’s forefathers and its physical heritage, is a key pillar of the work of the DGDA. It is running an extensive program to train specialist tour guides to share the rich history of the birthplace of Saudi Arabia. This training can last months or even years, during which trainees are taught about the Kingdom’s history, archaeology and hospitality.


Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command
Updated 23 October 2021

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

Saudi Arabia’s chief of general staff receives commander of US Central Command

RIYADH: Air Chief Marshal Fayyadh bin Hamed Al Ruwaili, chief of the general staff of the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces, received Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of US Central Command, and the accompanying US delegation at King Salman Air Base.

During the meeting they discussed aspects of cooperation between the two countries, especially in the defense sector, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

They reviewed the importance of strengthening military cooperation and also discussed issues of common interest with regards to regional security and stability.

The meeting was also attended by a number of senior officers from both sides.