MAKKAH: A Saudi historian has said the Kingdom’s rich archaeological and natural heritage should be used to entice more foreign tourists to come and visit the country.
Dr. Khalil Al-Muaiqil, a researcher in the antiquities of the Arabian Peninsula, said the area is the oldest known habitat of ancient man, with Al-Shuwaihatiya site in Al-Jawf, which is 1.3 million years old, recorded as the oldest archaeological site in West Asia.
Al-Muaiqil said most of the historical oases in the Arabian Peninsula still exist today outside areas such as Dumat al-Jandal, Taima, AlUla, and Khaybar, and that other oases disappeared a long time ago such as at Al-Faw and Al-Jarha.
He told Arab News that due to their historical, archaeological, and environmental components, the ancient oasis should be a significant tourism destination.
“Man settled in various regions of the Arabian Peninsula during prehistoric eras. Thousands of sites dating back to the paleolithic and mesolithic periods have been recorded,” he said.
Al-Muaiqil noted that during these periods, the region was characterized by dense vegetation and high rainfall. “This explains the recording of large numbers of Stone Age sites in the Empty Quarter and the Great Nafud Desert, which confirms that these deserts were covered by trees and vegetation before they turned into deserts due to major climate changes in the neolithic era, which dates back to the period between the tenth millennium and the sixth millennium BC.”
According to Al-Muaiqil, the pattern of settlement shifted from one of hunters seeking food to one of settled people making their own food. Digging wells, constructing reservoirs, water tanks, and crude dams allowed man to shift to agriculture, food production, and the establishment of agricultural towns and villages.
“This climate change, which led to the formation of the great deserts in the Empty Quarter, the Nafud, and the Dahna, prompted ancient humans to search for suitable settlement sites, in which sources of groundwater close to the surface and fertile lands suitable for agriculture were available. Some researchers believe that the period of the third and second millenniums BC was the period of the formation of oases in most regions of the Arabian Peninsula.”
He pointed out that the work of settlers and the network of roads they built over time “turned into routes for trade caravans starting at the end of the second millennium BC. These areas later became centers for Arab Kingdoms in the south, center, north and east of the Arabian Peninsula.”
According to Al-Muaiqil, the kingdom of Duma appeared in the north of the Arabian Peninsula, and the kingdoms of Dedan and Lihyan appeared in AlUla, with the kingdom of Taima in the north of AlUla, among others.
“These kingdoms contributed to the development of ancient Arab civilization and provided cultural products that contributed to influencing the regions located to the north of them, especially in Mesopotamia and the Levant,” he said.
“These influences appear clearly in the early periods that coincided with the human migrations that emerged from the various regions of the peninsula to those areas, carrying with them their culture. This is what happened when the Islamic armies went out to spread the call to Islam. The inhabitants of the Arabian Peninsula carried all their cultural reserves, which contributed to the crystallization of Islamic architecture and arts and the planning of Islamic cities.”