JEDDAH: A Saudi scientific team has located the site of an ancient souq in the Makkah region that served as one of the most important Arab markets during the pre-Islamic and early Islamic eras.
Dubbed Souq Habasha, the site was discovered in cooperation between the King Abdulaziz Foundation for Research and Archives, the Ministry of Culture and its Heritage Commission.
Souq Habasha was an ancient seasonal Arab market and one of the largest in the Tihamah region west of the Arabian Peninsula. The souq was held every year for eight days starting on the first day of Rajab in the Islamic calendar, and was annually held until the Islamic year 197 (813 A.D.).
Fahd Al-Samari, secretary-general of the foundation and head of the scientific committee of Souq Habasha, delivered a statement in a video that was published on Darah’s official Twitter account.
He said: “Documenting historical information must be within a specific methodology. Therefore, the department has entered a number of experiences in documentation, such as documenting the Okaz market, and some sites from the Prophet Muhammad’s biography in the Kingdom. The Habasha market will be an ancient historical and cultural asset for the Kingdom.”
Abdullah Al-Zahrani, a member of the Souq Habasha scientific committee, said: “This collaboration project was made to locate the souq and it is a good example of joint cooperation between many parties as well as researchers, historians, geographers and prophet’s biography experts who will add a lot to verify this site.”
Studies and research projects have attempted to trace the location of the market for more than 40 years, with field sites proposed by the committee finally being inspected last year.
Abdullah Al-Welaie, another member of the Souq Habasha scientific committee, said: “We worked on drawing complete caravan routes, including the coastal road, the Tihama road, peaks of the Sarawat Mountains, as well as the Elephant road. Four tracks were drawn on accurate maps that really helped determine the location of the market and were then handed over to historians.”
Historians said that the market was mentioned in the biography of the Prophet Muhammad, who had taken part in the souq to trade before his mission.
The team conducted studies, verified sources and carried out an archaeological survey, following up discussions with qualified sources to determine the location of Souq Habasha.
Historical markets in the region were typically located in areas with an abundance of water, rainfall and grazing land. Accordingly, Souq Habasha was located on the southern bank of Wadi Qanuna in Ardiyat, a coastal city in the Makkah region.
It is positioned in the middle of a vast floodplain, bound by the Al-Durbat mountains to the east, Al-‘Irm mountains to the west stretching for five km, and Umm Al-Rimth mountains to the south, in a vast area where water sources and plant cover are prominent.
The market also passes through Al-Janad street, which served as one of the most important landmarks in determining the location of the souq.
Souq Habasha offers experts the chance to examine ancient economic, literary and cultural activity, with its integration into Okaz market — which has been revived — becoming a prominent cultural event in the Kingdom and providing benefits in the scientific, cultural and tourism fields.