leisure: Al Madinah Al Munawarah

Al Madinah Al Munawarah

NATURAL ATTRACTIONS

Venturing 700 metres above the city will bring you to the Al Harra mountains, which offer breathtaking views of Mada'in Saleh and Al Ula. Situated within two parallel chains of high rocky peaks that are separated by a narrow canyon is Mount Ithlib, which is northeast of Al Hijr. Historically, the range was used by the Nabateans to carry out several religious rituals. A site of natural beauty awaits 5 km south of the Mada'in at the Elephant Rock. Sandstorms throughout thousands of years have carved the towering monolith from the soft, red sandstone. Campers wishing to settle for the night can do so in the area, providing it is not under the rock.

Ideal for: Part of full-day city tour
Group size: Two to 50
Timings: Each attraction can form part of full-day tour
Top tip: Take a tour guide

MADA’IN SALEH

Some of the inscriptions throughout the ancient city date back to 2,000 BC. Most other architectural elements in Mada'in Saleh, which is located 22 km from Al Ula in northern Hejaz, are from the first Millennium BC in the time of the Lihvan and Thamudi civilisations. The Nabateans were also once settled in the area after originally residing in Petra (during their time in Jordan, the tribe carved out the rock-cut architecture that has established the site as one of the new wonders of the world). Mada'in Saleh may not be as grand as Petra, but it shares many similar characteristics. It was the southern capital of the Nabatean Kingdom, with Petra its northern capital. Such is its heritage, Mada'in Saleh was proclaimed a site of patrimony by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in 2008. The burial graves combining Egyptian, Assyrian and Greek features observed by the Nabatean sculptors during their travels are some of the most fascinating aspects. Of the 131 tombs, 35 carry deeds written in Nabatean script over their doors. Historians date these 35 tombs back to 75 AD around the same period of the three Nabatean kings, Malichos II, Aretas IV and Rabal II.

Ideal for: All interested in ancient civilisations
Group size: Two to 50
Timings: Best to arrive early
Top tip: Take a packed lunch

HIJAZ RAILWAY SOUTH

Running from Al Ula to Madinah, this picturesque railway line has stations every 30 km against breath-taking mountainous backdrops. Along the way, passengers will also see the Husn Marab castle, Khaybar dam and several railway trailer wreckages.

Ideal for: Train enthusiasts
Group size: Two to 50
Timings: Will require full day to explore the whole track
Top tip: Arrange lunch at one of the stations

THE OLD CITY

Stone brought from the nearby archaeological site, Al Khuraiba, was used to build the enclave. Altars, blocks and lihyanite inscribed stones can still be viewed among the houses throughout the site. An outer enclosure wall protecting the city from attack has been established by lining houses up side by side.

Ideal for: Part of full-day city tour
Group size: Two to 50
Timings: Open Saturday through Thursday 10am to 3pm
Top tip: Take a tour guide

AL MABIYAT

This archaeological site dates back to the Umayyad and Abbasid periods. Excavations carried out between 1948 and 1985 unearthed buildings within what is thought to be a large Islamic city. Mud and firebricks were used to build the houses within the discovery. The site is located near Mugheira village, 15 km south of Al Ula.

Ideal for: Part of full-day city tour
Group size: Two to 50
Timings: Best visited in the morning before the mid-day heat
Top tip: Take a tour guide

MUSEUM OF ARCHAEOLOGY AND ETHNOGRAPHY

The museum is home to wonderful displays from local geology and pilgrim routes throughout the area. It also offers a good introduction to Nabatean society. Visitors will find the museum in Sikhairat in Al-Ula.

Ideal for: Part of full-day city tour
Group size: Two to 50
Timings: Open Saturday through Thursday 10am to 3pm
Top tip: Take a tour guide

AL KHURAIBA

Al Khuraiba is somewhat of a treasure trove, with altars, incense burners and statues containing Lihyanite inscriptions found in the area. Today, visitors will find several tombs and a circular basin carved in sandstone rock that is thought to be from a Lihyanite temple. Perhaps the best known tomb, Al Usud, has two lions carved into one of its sides.

Ideal for: Part of full-day city tour
Group size: Two to 50
Timings: Best visited in the morning
Top tip: Take a tour guide