Jeddah Blog

Discover the best of Jeddah!

Zesty Zaatar Recipes to Awaken Your Tastebuds!


Some weeks ago, my neighbour gave me a wonderful gift of some fragrant zaatar (or za’tar) and olive oil. Zaatar is a very Middle Eastern flavour, and is a  blend of herbs (thyme), sesame seeds and salt. Other than dipping some bread into the zaatar and olive oil (which tasted delicious), and sprinkling some zaatar over hummus (gorgeous!), I didn’t really know what else I could do with it. I asked the nice ladies from aMuslima.com if they had any ideas, and they have been kind enough to send me some tried and tested zaatar recipes

The first recipe has been sent to us by UmmZaytun, and is a family recipe handed down to her by her mom-in-law.

“Zataar has some very unique properties – some have said it makes you smart and some say it makes you healthy”, says UmmZaytun. “This recipe handed down to me by my late mother-in-law (may Allah forgive her) is to help you relax and be healthy. It is usually taken if you aren’t feeling so well, or it can be taken to relax you or members of your family.”

Zaatar Milk (serves 2)

Ingredients

2 cups of milk (or soy, almond, lactaid milks are also fine)
2 table spoons of zataar
2 table spoons of honey (or more if you like it sweet. You can also replace with sugar if honey isn’t available)
1 table spoon crushed dry mint
**you can add other dry ingredients such as other types of dry mint, thyme – depends on if you like the flavor.

Method

1. Place all of the ingredients in a small pot.

2. Simmer on low heat until almost to boiling point.

**Don’t walk away from the pot because it will boil over! 🙂

3. To serve: strain the milk and pour into cups. Enjoy & relax!

Zaatar Pizza or Fathira Za'tar, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, KSA

Zaatar Pizza or Fathira Za’tar

Our second Zaatar recipe today has been sent in by Qathrun Nada Djamil. Pizza is a family favourite in many households. Why not try this Middle Eastern version of pizza using zaatar. A great recipe to make with your kids over the summer holidays, and for Iftaar during Ramadan.

Zaatar Pizza

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose flour

4 tbsp milk powder

2 tablespoons instant yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

Half cup oil

A pinch of salt

Half cup warm water

Cup of zaatar and half cup of olive oil, mixed together

 

Method

1. Combine flour, yeast and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in salt. Make a well in the center. Add water and oil.

2. Use a wooden spoon to stir the mixture until well combined, then use your hands to bring the dough together in the bowl. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place in the prepared bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draught-free place to rise for 30 minutes.

3. Flatten the dough and cut it in round circle (cutter circle shape).

4. Take 1 tea spoon of zaatar and olive oil and brush it (topping it) over the circle of dough.

5. Place it on a baking tray and bake them in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.

Ready to serve… You can eat hot or cold.

Enjoy!!

Do you have any recipes you’d like to share with us? Drop us an email and yours may be published on Jeddah Blog in a future blog post.

Education Seminar: Eastern Mediterranean University of North Cyprus


The Eastern Mediterranean University of North Cyprus is holding an education seminar in Jeddah on Thursday, 27th June 2013 at the Saudi German Hospital. Of special interest to students looking to study and work abroad, participants will be informed about the various academic programs, education in an international environment, accommodation, social and cultural activities, scholarships and much more.
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The seminar is open to men and women, and families are encouraged to attend. There are no entry charges.

Date: 27th June, 2013

Venue: Conference Hall of Saudi German Hospital

Time: 8:15pm-10:15pm

Contact aqsara@hotmail.com for any queries. Further information can also be gleaned from their Facebook Event page.

 

Help a Child Reach 5 – Sponsored Video


Every year 2 million children under the age of 5, die of infections like Diarrhoea and Pneumonia. For the past 10 years, Lifebuoy soap has tried to help prevent these deaths by teaching children the simple act of washing hands with soap.

Gondappa’s story follows a father’s journey to give thanks for his first child turning five: a landmark event given that every year, 2 million children under the age of 5 die every year of infections like Diarrhoea and Pneumonia. Lifebuoy has helped to prevent these deaths by teaching children the simple act of washing hands with soap. With 130 million people already reached, they now take their life-saving mission to Thesgora, an Indian village with one of the highest rates of Diarrhoea.

Gondappa’s story was shown to parents from all over the world, and they were invited to share their reactions:

– ”Sponsored by Lifebuoy”

Revisiting That Jeddah Podcast: An Interview with Diana, co-host and blogger.


We’ve written about That Jeddah Podcast before – about why they’re awesome and why we ‘like’ them. We ‘like’ them for their randomness, their charming quirkiness and their cast of characters. This time Anousha Vakani speaks to Diana, co-host and blogger, about the inception of the podcast, the process of recording each episode and much more! 

How and when did you start the podcast? Where did you get the inspiration to start a podcast and how did you launch the idea?

I’m a fan of podcasts. I especially like informative ones like Stuff You Should Know and Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk, and comedy ones like The Nerdist and (the now-defunct) The Exploding Sandwich.

In 2009, I recorded fake interviews with my friends in Jeddah, and later that year, posted them on my blog as a joke. Early 2010, perhaps also as a joke, Fayiz Melibary set up an iTunes account for a Jeddah Podcast, and this was what “forced” me to just go ahead, make it official and register it in the iTunes podcast directory.

What advice would you give someone who wanted to start a podcast in Saudi Arabia? Is it generally easy or difficult to set up and maintain?

Launching a podcast is extremely easy because of its nature. You record an episode, post it online whenever you like, for free, and subscribers can listen to it whenever and wherever they want.

Whether or not the process of maintaining a podcast is difficult really depends on the producers. I encourage Jeddawis to podcast, it’s an easy enough platform to use if you’re looking to express yourself.

If you can commit to learning how to do it, and you have a general topic you like to discuss with friends, I say go for it. That Jeddah Podcast ultimately wants to be a one-stop-shop place for people to find podcasts that cater to the Jeddah community. Contact us, maybe we can help you.

Who are your listeners and what feedback do you get from them?

When TJP first started out, I thought it would only attract my friends as listeners, mainly because it features them. In the past couple of years, though, it has attracted the attention of many other English-speaking Saudis and expats within the Kingdom, including other cities like Riyadh and Dammam. We also have listeners from abroad, some of them Saudis who want to get updates about home, some of them non-Saudis who just want to get an idea of what it’s like living in Saudi Arabia.

It’s one of the most awesome things about having a podcast, being able to connect with these people with whom I have something in common – a hometown.

Generally, the feedback is good. We get requests on topics they’d want us to cover, or we get asked questions about places in Jeddah, common practices, recommendations. We’re not “experts” on Jeddah, but it’s nice to be treated like one.

What process do you go through to record one episode?

Outside Saudi Arabia, a podcast is the lowest-maintenance project you can start, but in Jeddah, there are challenges. Some of the things I’ve had to do were: schedule guests and co-hosts to record with me, find a quiet venue to record in, learn some technical things about podcasting (sound editing, feeds, some HTML/CSS), write or brainstorm topics for each episode, and promote the podcast on social media platforms. It takes lots of time and hard work, like most anything, really.

But then also, the beauty of having a podcast is that it doesn’t have to be “conventional radio,” if that makes sense. Every now and then, I’d record a “rogue” unscheduled episode, where I just show up with a mic/recorder at a hangout with friends and record what’s being said. No need for formality.

How do you decide on topics? What topics do you think come up again and again? And what topics do you avoid?

As a general rule, we stay away from the topics of government and religion. We pick topics we know well. When in doubt, I always just think: “would I listen to this episode?” We like sci-fi, pop culture, fitness, the internet, music, the sciences, languages, literature; these things interest us, and we try to stay within the bounds of our interests. Otherwise, they come off as pretentious. Nobody wants that.

We always seem to come back to topics about Jeddah, which is a good thing. There are many episodes about our culture here, what it’s like to live here, what places we go to, what we do at certain social situations.

You were mentioned on BBC a few months ago, what was that like?

That was a nice spike in our traffic. I wish I could say it propelled us to celebrity status.

Do you think you are contributing to some sort of change in Saudi Arabia or in the way the rest of the world might view Saudi and its people? 

That’s huge. The quick answer is “no”. We’re not political. We like information, and we like entertainment, and that’s what we have to offer.

We’re implementing some (good) changes, or additions, to the podcast as we speak. We are going to introduce more team members, more podcasts and more segments. If this contributes some good to the society, hey, how about that.

Dog Rescue Appeal


Today we bring to you all an appeal from Ruga, an animal lover. Ruga came across a dog hit by a car near Jarir Mall. “We rushed it over to Happy Pet”, says Ruga “and it stayed there for a couple of days after surgery”.

Ruga is fostering the dog temporarily, and has even named the dog ‘Mystery’, but he hasn’t found anyone who is willing to take Mystery on as a pet. Ruga will be travelling in less than a month, and won’t be returning to the Kingdom, and unfortunately can’t take Mystery along with him.

dog 1

Mystery at Happy Pet.

Mystery is a desert/baladi/feral dog. She doesn’t belong to any particular breed. Ruga estimates her age at approximately 4-6 months, but he is not completely sure as she could just be a small-sized adult.

Mystery will be vaccinated next week as per the vet’s order, and the vaccine has already been paid for. Sadly, she will have to be put to sleep if no home is found.

dog 2

Mystery having a checkup at the Vet’s.

A condition for adoption is that the new owner sterilizes Mystery, so that she will not be used as a breeding tool. Also the adopter must microchip and vaccinate her against rabies in case he or she returns to his or her country. The food, toys, bowls, etc. will all be given to the adopter.

dog under table

Mystery taking a break.

If you would like to adopt Mystery, please email iheartba6areeg@gmail.com or call Ruga on 0594302488.

The Plus Size Fashionista: Swimsuits for Sizzling Summers


Hello high temperatures! The talk of the town is that we hit 52 degrees last week. That’s just one of those signs that call on summer’s arrival. Although Jeddah is known for its around-the-year warm weather, it is still nice to call out the different seasons. While the harsh summer is taking over the Kingdom, Hanane Fathallah, our expert on all things large and beautiful, talks to us about the ultimate estival must-have.

Whether you are staying in Jeddah or planning to go on a vacation, one of the key elements every woman should have in her closet/suitcase is a swimsuit. Being voluptuous and curvy does not mean that you can’t wear one and show off your assets. Never feel embarrassed just because you are different. For me, it is always a constant hunt to find the perfect size, fitting and style all in one package. I don’t like to settle for the ‘bland’ or ‘shapeless’. Here are a few shops and destinations I tend to check out that might be helpful.

Plus Size Swimsuits, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Debenhams (Mall of Arabia • Tahlia Street)

Swimsuits appear on hangers around end of April. I was able to take a look at their collection before traveling. A flow of one-pieces and bikinis in different colors and patterns invite into a tropical shopping spree. If I am not mistaken, sizes go up to 20 UK/22 UK. I also find their prices average to decent. Matching accessories and bags help you make a whole beach kit pleasant and lasting all summer – so are you ready to hit the water and those tanning sessions?

BHS (Red Sea Mall • Tahlia Street • Aziz Mall)

A kaleidoscope of swimsuits, cover-ups, flip-flops, bags, etc. I particularly love the branch on Tahlia Street. It always has the greater variety. Don’t hesitate to try on different styles. Since we don’t have fitting rooms in Jeddah, I recommend buying at least 2 to 3 pieces. Also, vary the sizes if you are not sure what size you are. Soon enough you will know your BHS size. It can be a hassle but all in the cause for the perfect swimsuit!

Marks & Spencer (Mall of Arabia • Tahlia Street • Haifa Mall)

Before traveling, the collection was very limited so it should probably be more varied by now. I bought mine for the summer from M&S. I was craving a one-piece black swimsuit. It has a gorgeous neckline and a perfectly convenient tummy control function. As a mom, I sometimes need practical choices, yet without sacrificing on my femininity or style.

Never feel embarrassed just because you are different.

If you are an online shopper, you should definitely check out these brands! (If you don’t already have it) I highly advise you to create a Shop and Ship account to shop online. And now, here’s my handy swimsuit list, whether you are looking for value for money, lots of designs to choose from, or because you want to look extra special:

Bargains

Forever21

Old Navy

Variety

Swimsuitsforall

Uniqueness

MonifC

 

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you enjoy the summer breezes, the sun-drenched beaches and pool sides, and quite simply your swim-suited body! I will continue my hunt and keep you updated. Have a good shopping dive!

Summer Clubs for Children 2013


The summer is upon us, and although the first few days of the summer vacation will surely bring welcome relief to children and parents alike, for many youngsters, boredom will begin to set in. Kids will fall into an all too relaxed routine, sleeping late and waking late. If parents are not worrying about how to prise their sons away from Minecraft and daughters away from the Disney Channel, they are fretting over the lack of use of grey cells for a whole three months. Summer clubs can be an excellent way to stimulate little people and get them using their minds and bodies constructively. The following are some of the summer clubs we have come to know about in Jeddah that are still open to registeration. We urge you to visit and do your research before taking a final decision.

If you would like your summer club activity to be listed here, drop us an email with all the details.

Barbie Chefs Jeddah

Get your young girls involved in their food by giving them the chance to make their own delicious baked goodies, pasta, drinks, and special ramazan food in Barbie Chefs Jeddah.  The club includes a special cake decorating session by RIFCREATIONS (specialists in baking and cake decoration). Each girl will learn how to bake a cake, brownies and numerous other delicious stuff which they get to take home, and will enjoy a great time making a mess that you don’t have to clean up!!! What a better excuse for moms to sit back and enjoy the food made by their princesses.Age: 9 -16 and above ( only girls)
Dates: 11th – 20th june 2013
Timings: 5 – 7 pm (2 hours daily)
location: rehab dist 5
Charges: SR 500 (all the equipment and supplies included)

Art Attack and Baby Chef

Kids art and craft activities and baby chef sessions is starting from 22nd June – 3rd July ( Thursday and Friday not included). It’s 10 days of activities full of fun.
Age : 4 -10 yrs
Date : 22 June -3rd July
Charges: SR 375 (including all the supplies)
Timings : 5- 7 pm
Location: rehab distt 5
Contact: huescollections@gmail.com
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Islamic Summer classes for Boys (Age 8 to 14)

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Summer Fun with The Light House Project

Kids summer camp for baking and decoration

Course includes:
How to make vanilla cupcakes
How to make chocolate cupcakes
How to make frosting
Decorating cupcakes
Making fondant cutouts
Thursday, 13 June 2013
11:00 until 14:00
Fee : SR 200
Age : 6 & above
Moms may accompany their kids in a workshop with payment
Kids Zone Summer Camp
Kids Zone is organizing Summer Camp for kids’ age of 4 yrs to 11 yrs which will be from 15 June to 3 July.We have Morning & Evening Sessions.
Morning Timings 09:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Evening Timings 05:00 PM to 08:00 PM
Registration closes on 14 June.
Fees Structure
Junior Age 4-8 yrs 400 SR
Senior Age 9-12 yrs 500 SRLocation: Al Aziziyah near Danube Amir Mitab Street.
Contact: Mrs. Rafiq (0563760513) from 08:00 am to 8:00 pm.

Summer Fun with The Lighthouse Project


A fun and productive Summer Club for kids starting 8th June, 2013. Not only varied activities, but very reasonably priced too. Activities include swimming, taekwondo and cooking for children aged 5-11. For more details or to make a reservation, call the numbers below.

Hope Summer Club

Learn French Faster!


Why not use the summer to learn a new language? The Alliance Française will be holding intensive French classes in June.

4 Weeks Accelerated Classes Start June 8.

Register Now
The Alliance Française Centre is organizing an intensive session
for women and men in its head office located
at Commercial Jamjoum Center in Jeddah.
 
Session starts on Saturday, June 8 and ends Wednesday, July 3
Registration starts now
 
For more information please call 02 661 22 80 – 0592 10 52 50
e-mail : info@af-ksa.com

Dorothy Boyer Fine Art Open House


The Dorothy Boyer Fine Art Open House will be held in Jeddah on Wednesday, 29 May 2013 from 11:00 am and Thursday, 30 May 2013 from 12 noon. All are welcome.

For venue details please e mail: arabianaccents@yahoo.com. Featuring new works from the Islamic Spain Series. To view the entire DBFA Collection please visit the Dorothy Boyer Site.

 

Saudi Women Scaling New Heights


The first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest has proved that anything is possible once you set your heart on it. Raha Moharrak, 25, made history by reaching the summit of the world’s highest mountain. She is also the youngest Arab to make it to the top of Everest. Moharrak was part of a four-person expedition that also included the first Qatari man and the first Palestinian man attempting to reach the summit.

Originally from Jeddah, Ms Moharrak is a university graduate currently based in Dubai. Their cause was to to raise $1M for education projects in Nepal.

“I really don’t care about being the first,” she is quoted as saying. “So long as it inspires someone else to be second.”

Raha Moharrak, first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest.

Raha Moharrak, first Saudi woman to climb Mount Everest.

In Saudi Arabia, where women have struggled to be heard and where the society imposes a lot of restrictions on women, Moharrak’s achievement is praiseworthy.

Khaled Almaeena, Editor-in-Chief of the Saudi Gazette, spoke exclusively to Jeddah Blog. “Raha is an example of many women in Saudi Arabia who are determined to carve a niche in society.” Almaeena went on to say, “She has set standards of endurance both physical and mental. It is an example to all women here that there is hope, despite man-made obstacles for Saudi women to reach the finishing line.” Reflecting on the contribution of Saudi women in society, the notable columnist and social activist said, “I truly believe that qualified, dedicated and determined Saudi women can not only be equal, but also outshine their male counterparts.”

Saudi women’s achievements have been gaining momentum since King Abdullah announced for the first time the names of the women he would appoint to the country’s consultative Shura Council, the closest thing the country has to a parliament.

“I really don’t care about being the first. So long as it inspires someone else to be second.”

The impact of their selection is yet to be seen but their representation is a milestone for them and their position in the Saudi society. Last year in London, female athletes also represented Saudi Arabia at the Olympics. And ever since the employment ban was lifted for women, they can be seen working in the malls as cashiers and sales persons. They have also replaced men at most cosmetic and lingerie stores throughout the city.

A woman's journey: Destination Mount Everest.

A woman’s journey: Destination Mount Everest.

Recently, Cabinet ministers issued a new law making national identification cards mandatory for all women. This move will grant them identities independent from their families.

Changes might seem slow to people living outside the Kingdom, but for the women in Saudi Arabia, positive changes are certainly on the way.

Zareen Muzaffar

Introducing The Plus Size Fashionista!


Hanane profile picI am very excited to introduce our newest columnist to you all. Hanane Fathallah is a full-time mom, a freelance graphic designer and a plus size fashion advocate. Hanane has been spreading awareness about the rising plus size fashion movement. Her aim is to start up a community in the Arab region for plus size fashionistas, plus size bloggers and just regular curvy women.

In her first column for Jeddah Blog, Hanane introduces the concept of plus size fashion and will apprise us of the latest developments in the market for gorgeous plus size women. She also discloses her handy tips for you to find the right size clothing to make you look your best!

womanwithin.com

Plus size fashion has become such a controversial issue. Some think it is a dishonest way of encouraging obesity, while others consider it as an opportunity for women of all sizes to glam up and feel beautiful. Regardless of what people think, it is not in any way, shameful to be a plus size woman who is simply proud of her curves. That being said, I never disregard the importance of health. Health, confidence and style go together to reflect a beautiful image of your femininity. One missing link in this equation would disrupt this equilibrium.

Plus size fashion is slowly becoming embedded in our Arab culture. Many brands have succeeded in standing tall in the market and providing a stylish solution to the once hopeless fashion cravings for curvier women. One of the brands that caught my eye, and I personally recommend, is City Chic – Australia’s leading high-end plus size fashion retailer.

City Chic at the Mall of Arabia

City Chic at the Mall of Arabia

So far, two branches are available in Jeddah to stoke your curiosity: one in the Mall of Arabia and another one in Aziz Mall. I was pleasantly surprised to find that their sizing was very accurate. Their sizes go from size 14 to 24 (Australia). Click here to see their size guide.

It could come in handy to check it out the size guide before going to the store, just to give yourself an idea about what size you might be. Of course, a size guide is also provided at the store and the saleswomen are quite helpful. Don’t hesitate to ask them for information as the sizes go from XS to XXL (equivalent to 14 to 24). For example, I am a size 18 so I go for M.

I particularly love their short knee-length dresses. They are long enough to cover decently, and short enough to flaunt your legs. No more of those tunic-length dresses that make you feel like you are wearing a top instead of a dress. And you always need to wear leggings underneath! City Chic has a variety of basics, tops, pants and also lingerie. For the lovely ladies who want to embrace their curves and take a leap into fashion, be sure to keep this store in mind. It will grant you a new perspective towards plus size fashion.

All woman should feel beautiful – no exceptions!

If you liked this article, leave a comment and let us know. If you have any questions for Hanane, don’t be shy. We would love to hear from you.

Summer Courses with Arabian Wings


Summer2

 

For more information on workshops and courses, click here.

Prayer Rooms


Ammar Al Attar Solo Exhibition
Opening: Tuesday, 14th May 2013
7.30 PM – 9.30 PM
Athr Gallery

Exhibition Dates: 14th May – 13th June, 2013

Ammar Al Attar surveys prayer rooms across Jeddah. Mandated in public buildings by national legislation, these informal worship areas are ubiquitous, providing the faithful a place for their five prayers a day regardless of their location.

The viewer experiences the artist’s perspective of these rooms as they are. Nothing is altered or staged, not even the lighting. The authenticity of the depictions allows the series to collectively describe an engagement with a space. This uncontrived honesty towards a subject is characteristic of Al Attar’s oeuvre.

The interiors are often humble, in line with Islamic tenets and in contrast to the region’s exterior architectural opulence. Serenity and stillness are prevalent in these makeshift rooms, elevating their spatial reality as industrial caravans or rooms in malls and business centers, to that of egalitarian spiritual sanctuaries. The prayer rooms mark the passage of time directly through the ever-present, often multiple occurrence of clocks, and more imperceptibly through the awareness of the movement of the sun.

Rituals that take place before entering the rooms are inferred – ablutions and perhaps even a call to prayer. One cannot help but wonder about the individuals in these very different spaces, performing the same rites. This sense of order and togetherness offers a reprieve from the bustling chaos of urban development. Even the demarcated rows in the carpeting are a comfort.

Al Attar chronicles his surroundings and contemporary landscape, going beyond mere documentation, and engaging with issues impacting the social fabric. These empty constructs where people meet are widely scattered evidence of faith, embodying the crossover between public and private space. The locales appear obscure, but upon closer inspection provide a visual history of the artist’s rapidly developing country by presenting a cultural continuity which is rarely visible amidst overwhelming change.

About The Artist
Ammar Al Attar (1981) was born in Dubai and lives and works in Ajman. He carries a Masters in International Business from Dubai’s University of Wollongong, and a Bachelors in Business Information Technology from Dubai’s Higher Colleges of Technology. He has taken part in photography courses, both locally and internationally.

Al Attar’s series of UAE Prayer Rooms was exhibited at the 2013 Sharjah Biennial, entitled “Re:Emerge: Towards A New Cultural Cartography.” He was selected for the 2013 Artist in Residence (A.i.R.) program, a partnership between Art Dubai, London’s Delfina Foundation, the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and Tashkeel. His work has been shown throughout the UAE, and in the Thessaloniki Museum in Greece. The artist was shortlisted for the International Emerging Artist Award.

Ammar Al Attar is represented by Cuadro Fine Art Gallery in Dubai.

The Wonders of Madain Saleh (part 1)


Saudi Arabia is home to many beautiful sites, but due to the lack of active tourism (or certainly not enough of it), these areas are generally unknown. Madain Saleh is one of those wondrous places which is a pre-Islamic archeological territory and Saudi Arabia’s first ever World Heritage Site.

Typically Madain Saleh is not easily accessible as permissions from relevant authorities need to be taken before embarking on the journey, but our regular contributor and intrepid traveler Naima Bashir was not to be discouraged. She made the journey with her family, and sent us a detailed report and pictures.

In this first blog post of the series, we’ll bring you her journey from Jeddah to Al Ula, and then on to Madain Saleh. In subsequent posts, Naima will tell us about her visit to the Hijaz Railway, the Castle of Moosa Bin Nusair, Old Al-Ula and the Hill Station.

We had Madain Saleh on our list for a very long time but could not gather the energy for a road trip with small children. But last month, we were determined to give it a try. It is 817 km north of Jeddah, around 8 to 9 hours drive from Jeddah. The journey is a lot easier if you go via Madina and stay the night there.

Entrance gate of the World Heritage Site (UNESCO).

Entrance gate of the World Heritage Site (UNESCO).

There is an alternative road through Yanbu, but it’s not very comfortable and safe. So we decided to choose the road through Madina, with our trusty GPS leading the way.

Did you know? Saudi Arabia has 4,000 archeological sites!

On our way we saw camel signs very frequently. This was to alert us to drive carefully, as these splendid animals are likely to walk into the middle of the road.

perfect view of the old and new Al Ula and the same time

View of Old Al-Ula city from Moosa Bin Nusair’s fort.

To reach Madain Saleh we needed to stay in a town called Al Ula, which is situated right next to the site. There are many furnished apartments and hotels available for tourists to stay. Al Ula is a small town and I found it very peaceful. We arrived around 7 p.m. and discovered that it is forbidden to go to the site after or around Maghrib prayer (sunset). We had to wait until the next day to go to Madain Saleh.

madain 1

Distant view of the tombs carved from the mountains.

The next day we left the hotel and were fascinated to see that the town was all rocks and mountains. We were excited to learn that not only was Al Ula host to the remains of Nebatean era, but also to remains of the mosque where Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) stayed for a night before setting out for the historial Battle of Tabuk. In addition, we were told that Moosa Bin Nusair’s Fort, the railway station of the Turkish Empire and remains of old Al Ula could also be visited.

madain 3

A closer view of the tomb. Initially, we thought it was a house made of bricks and plaster, but this is all carved.

In fact, this piece of land is full of historic places. Just to be clear, the Nabataen remains are of the same people of Thamud who have been mentioned in the Qur’an quite frequently.

every carved simbol represents and says some thing.

Every tomb had different carvings like flowers, birds and animals on top of the door. This one was decorated with a carved skull.

The World Heritage Site is out of town but easy to reach. I was told that you need to attain some kind of permission, but on arrival, we were told that for some reason we did not any permission for some days.

graves carved in side the tombs

Graves carved inside the tombs.

The Site is a combination of two eras, firstly the Nabateans around 160 BC and secondly the Turkish Empire. The remains of the Hijaz railway station from Turkish Empire that was used for trade and to transport pilgrims from Syria are still there.

Madain Saleh

Madain Saleh, also known as Al-Hijr, dates back to the Nabataean Civilization and is considered to be one of the most important archaeological sites in Saudi Arabia. It is called The Capital of the Monuments as it contains a huge number of diverse and multifaceted monuments. At first glance, it looks like a vast ground with a huge rock in it, but when you look carefully, those rocks have been carved into shapes of tombs and graves. The levels of these graves vary depending on the level of social and financial status of their owners. People settled in this area due to the suitable climate and the availability of fresh water in the area.

These houses did not have many carvings as they belonged to common citizens.

These houses did not have many carvings as they belonged to common citizens.

The monuments surround the residential area and contain 111 monumental tombs, ninety-four of which with decorated facades varying considerably in size. Thirty tombs bear a dated Nabataean inscription incised in a special frame above the door of the funerary vault. They define who was allowed to be buried within the tombs, and indicate the fine to be paid by those who did not obey the rules listed in the text. Inscriptions engraved on rocks, facades of graves and mountains allude to the existence of civilizations that had prevailed and fallen in the area where architecture and sculpture flourished. Every grave facet represents a cemetery for one family.

The Diwan.

The Diwan.

The Diwan, or the Muslim Council Chamber, is in and around Jabal Ithlib, in the north-eastern part of the archaeological park. Jabal Ithlib is the highest sandstone outcrop of the site and can be seen from as far as al-‘Ula. The internal part of the Jabal may be reached through a narrow passage between high rocks, some 40 m long which can be compared, although much smaller, with the Sîq of Petra.

The stream that poured water from the mountains into the well underneath.

The stream that poured water from the mountains into the well underneath.

At the entrance of this pass, to the right, is carved, the so-called Dîwân room, in fact a  triclinium where groups of people used to have meals together in antiquity. Around Jabal Ithlib, on the outside, are several carved small Nabataean sanctuaries.

Nabatean inscriptions detailing who the tomb was built for.

Nabatean inscriptions detailing who the tomb was built for.

Most of the niches, altars, betyls (carved sculptures) and other religious monuments are associated with Nabataean inscriptions, sometimes dedications, but most often signatures of the worshippers who came to worship their deity there during the Nabataean period.

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