A trip to Najran, Second Day The Great Ruins of Al-Ukhdood
On the second day, Ali had to take his mother to the hospital in the early afternoon; so he came to the Youth Hostel about 4pm to get me. He came with two of his children, Nadine and Abdullah. They were excited to see me because they remembered me from their visit to Jeddah. They climbed all over the beds in my dormitory, which I had to myself, complete with air conditioning.
This is the front court of the youth hostel. You can see the youth hostel regulations in Arabic and the door leading up to the dormitories. The youth hostel is in what is basically a modern house, typical of the kind of houses people are building in this part of Najran.
We went to the ruins of Al-Ukhdood, a great city dated about 500 BC. Ukhdood is mentioned in the Quran. The ruler of Ukhdood mistreated the believers in this city; so it was destroyed.
Today there are huge walls and houses with stone foundations in Ukhdood Antiquities Area.
In this picture, one can see the huge stones in a tumble under the mud brick or soil above them.
The Department of Antiquities has excavated some of the soil in places where the foundations are still preserved. In this picture, however, one can get an idea of how the city seems to have been destroyed rather suddenly.
Here you can get an idea of how the walls look, overgrown with trees.
Here's a picture of Nadine and Abdullah, Ali's children, on the top of the ruins of Ukhdood.
You can see Nadine's fingers are died with henna. She is going to an engagement party for women later in the day. The women decorate their hands with henna.
Here is a picture I took quickly on our walk through the ruins, as we promised the museum that we would finish quickly.
Here one can see some masonry of the walls surviving the alluvial deposit of the wadi below.
More of the walls in ruins at Ukhdood.
The highlight of Udkdood is a portion of the wall where there are Thamudic inscriptions. This is an early form of Arabic, a Semitic language.
In the picture above, you can see Abdullah, Nadine, and Ali, with the Thamudic inscriptions on the right.
Below, is a close-up of a carving of snakes, a horse, and a foot on the wall:
Detail of foot and Ukhdood, and what seems to be a sketch of perhaps a camel on the right.
The walls are quite tall in some places. The masonry is impressive.
The picture below shows what the area looks like after archaeological excavations have been made and then the river and rains have washed the excavations:
Here are Ali and his children walking across the top of a part of the mound of earth over Ukhdood that has not been excavated.
The picture below shows the mountains to the south of Al-Ukhdood.
We found some more walls with the inscriptions on them:
The picture is a bit more reddish than reality. Below is an area where one can distinguish houses and their interiors. Later, there will be a picture showing how the whole complex of houses seems to have been surrounded by a wall. This would very likely be the origin of the great palace cities that were later built by the Arabs, for example Fatimid Cairo.
Note how big the stones are on the left of Nadine in the picture below:
Some of the stones are formatted around the edges. This is called ashlar masonry, I think.
Nadine wasn't as wild about the archaeology as I was, but when Ali told his mother about how impressive it was, she expressed an interest in visiting Al-Ukhdood.
Al-Ukhdood: walls, mound, walls in background, and mountain: an artistic photo of the excavated area. All around this area at the top of the mound, there seems to have been a wall, as is seen in the picture below:
There seems to have been archaeological excavation in the foreground but little else than mud brick may have been here. However, behind, there seem to be walls with decorative towers poking out. This also is a descendant of the Medinet Habu temple in Pharonic luxor, which, itself is said to be influenced by the architecture of the Arabian peninsula. To me, it is quite exciting to see this "palace wall" reminiscent of the later "palace cities" of the middle ages, such as Anjar in Lebanon, Kasr Mushatta in Jordan, or Fatimid Cairo itself.
Museum of Archeology and Ethnology in Najran. This is very interesting, too.
After visiting Al-Ukhdood, we drove a little bit toward the dam, but didn't go actually to it. Ali showed me the little houses the French team that built the dam had built and then pointed out this castle which dominated the valley of Najran. It was used by a Yemeni prince who wanted Najran under his control.
Yemeni king's castle: telephoto.
On the way back, as we were driving through a village within Najran, Ali asked me to take a surprise picture of one of his relatives eating a mango. Then Ali got out and I heard the relative say "lei?"--why? Here you can see the picture I took and you can almost hear him saying "lei?" -why? in the next picture.
But we had to get going quickly because another car was waiting in front of us. Here one can see the little roads in this farming village
One last picture of our drive back from the Yemeni prince's castle is below. This is a big mud brick house. One can see how the necessity of sloping the mud brick would have led to the imitation in the great temples of Pharonic Egypt. The pylons of Karnac have the same sloping feature.
Behind the mountains is Yemen. We passed several border guard vehicles looking for Yemenis who smuggle themselves into Saudi Arabia in this area, looking for jobs. Doesn't the mud brick structure resemble the pylons of Pharonic Karnac, though!
I passed a pleasant evening on a carpet outside Ali's mother's house while the village went to the two evening prayers. I chatted a bit with Ali's brother, Hamad, who works for Saudi Arabian Airlines as a customer service agent. In the summer there are lots of travelers. People from Najran want to go to Jeddah and people from Jeddah want to escape the humidity and come to Najran.
Here you can see us on the carpet outside Ali's mother's house. There's Hamad, Ali's brother, Nadine, me(with the grey shirt), and a cousin of Nadine's. Ali took the picture
This trip was made Thursday, June 23, 2005
There will be a link to the next day soon.
A Trip to Najran Day One