On Wednesday, The Prince of Wales visited historic sites in Saudi Arabia.
Before leaving Riyadh, Prince Charles met with The Deputy Crown Prince, HRH Prince Mohammed bin Naif in Riyadh.
Upon Charles’s arrival in Al Ula, he was greeted by HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
Charles and The Prince began the day visiting the Islamic Fort and Hijaz Railway at Mad’ain Saleh.
Mada’ain Saleh was purposefully located on the ancient spice road and developed into a crucial trading centre during the Nabataean period. The Nabataean kingdom began as a vast merchant-trader realm throughout the first centuries B.C. and A.D.
Use of the trade route deteriorated after the fall of the Roman Empire. Though, the Prophet Muhammad passed Mada’ain Saleh on his way to Tabuk. After the increase of Islam, the old trade route passing through Mada’ain Saleh was revitalised by pilgrims coming from the north and Syria. These caravans stopped at the site for water on their way to perform Hajj.
The seventeenth-century fortress constructed to the north of the Syrian pilgrim route was a place of rest and refreshment for those travelling to Mecca. The set of buildings included two places of prayer, each of which contained a Mihrab.
A Mihrab is the ornamental indentation in the wall of a mosque, which indicates the direction of the qiblah (the direction that Muslims face when participating in ritual prayer). Mihrabs differ in size and colour but are typically shaped like a doorway and adorned with tiles and calligraphy to make it stand out.
The fortress fell into disrepair for some time but went under refurbishment during the constructing of the Hijaz railway. Destroyed in World War I, the railway has recently been restored.
The next stop on the historic site tour had the Prince’s visit The Archaeological Site of Mada’in Saleh is the first World Heritage property listed in Saudi Arabia.
Previously known as Hegra, it is the largest conserved site of the civilisation of the Nabataeans south of Petra in Jordan. It contains well-preserved monumental tombs with decorated facades from the first century BC to the first century A.D.
The site also includes nearly fifty inscriptions of the pre-Nabataean period and some cave drawings that are proof of human settlement in the area as early as the third or second century B.C.
Hegra was a key staging post on the main north-south Nabatean caravan route. In 106 A.D., it joined the Roman province of Arabia though slowly declined in significance. There is no noteworthy acknowledgement to surviving settlement of the site between the fourth and nineteenth centuries A.D.
In the 19th century, English scholar, Charles Doughty, was the first European to visit the region. Doughty was also the first traveller to write a comprehensive account of the site and lodged in the Islamic fortress nearby.
Charles and his host went on to visit the excavation of the ancient Lihyan site at Al Khraiba. Lihyan is an Ancient North Arabian kingdom. Situated in northwestern Arabia, it is well-known for its Ancient North Arabian inscriptions dating back to 6th-4th centuries BC.
Located to the northeast of Al Ula, Al Khraiba is one of the most significant archaeological sites in the area as it was part of the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Lihyan.
The site holds several important tombs carved into the mountainside and bearing inscriptions in the Dadanite, Lihyanite and Minaean dialects.
Additional remains found at Al Khraiba include the foundations of walls and buildings, potsherds, altars and inscribed polished stones.
After the archaeological site visit, a scheduled stop at the Al-Ula Heritage Village was next on Wednesday’s agenda.
Prince Charles and Sultan bin Salman went on a walking tour of the village. Whilst there, they viewed cultural activities and observed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities and the Turquoise Mountain Foundation.
Al Ula was a crucial trading centre situated on the main trade route connecting southern Arabia with Mesopotamia, Syria and Egypt. Its houses built during the thirteenth century A.D. of stones salvaged from the ruins of Al Khuraib nearby. Several of these stones display ancient inscriptions and decorations.
On Thursday, The Prince of Wales will travel to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. He has previously made five official visits to Qatar, his first in 1986. He last visited the country in 2014. In Doha, The Prince will meet The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani