Mada'in Saleh (Arabic: مدائن صالح, madāʼin Ṣāliḥ), also called Al-Hijr, el Hijr, and Hegra (so in Greek and Latin, e.g. by Pliny ), is a pre-Islamic archaeological site located in the Al-Ula sector, within the Al Madinah Region of Saudi Arabia. A majority of the vestiges date from the Nabatean kingdom (1st century CE). The site constitutes the kingdom's southernmost and largest settlement after Petra, its capital. Traces of Lihyanite and Roman occupation before and after the Nabatean rule, respectively, can also be found in situ. Accounts from the Qur’an place the settlement of the area by the tribe of Thamud after Noah but before Moses, which can be interpreted as the 3rd millennium BC.

According to the Islamic text, the Thamudis, who would carve out homes in the mountains, were punished by Allah for their persistent practice of idol worship, the non-believers being struck by a sound wave. Thus, the site has earned a reputation down to contemporary times as a cursed place— an image which the national government is attempting to overcome as it seeks to develop Mada'in Saleh, officially protected as an archaeological site since 1972, for its tourism potential.

In 2008 UNESCO proclaimed Mada'in Saleh as a site of patrimony, becoming Saudi Arabia's first World Heritage Site. It was chosen for its well-preserved remains from late antiquity, especially the 131 rock-cut monumental tombs, with their elaborately ornamented façades, of the Nabatean kingdom.


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