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Qaryat al-Faw, A Remarkable Lost (and Found) Arabian Treasure

The Al Faw archeological site reveals various features such as residential houses, markets, roads, cemeteries, temples, and water wells.

The Al Faw archeological site reveals various features such as residential houses, markets, roads, cemeteries, temples, and water wells.

A once-forgotten town, dating back to between the 2nd century B.C. and the 5th century A.D., uncovered by 20th-century archaeologists in southern Saudi Arabia reveals its treasures.

Lost

Qaryat al-Faw lies in a gap in the mountain called al-Faw, and at the time it was situated on an ancient trade route named Najran Al-Jarfa. Its locals, dating back to the 4th century AD, belonged to the Kindah kingdom, and it is believed that al-Faw was the Kindite kingdom’s capital, as well as a point of trade and transit for traveling caravans carrying minerals, grains and textiles. It represents a vibrant and remarkable pre-Islamic Arabian city which could otherwise have been lost forever.

…And Found

Located 700 km southwest of the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Qaryat al-Faw was referred to by some Saudi Aramco workers in the 1940s, then followed by several official archaeological visits in the 1970s onwards. Although the excavation reports have not yet been made public, what we have today is a wealth of artefacts that have been uncovered.

The Qaryah (literally meaning town in Arabic) includes a residential area larger than all other contemporary caravan towns of the era, boasting over 17 water wells and, thus, local agricultural produce and trade.

Some other locations discovered in Saudi Arabia include Mada’in Saleh, Tarut and Kilwa. Awaiting for public access, Google satellite imagery provides a clear aerial view of the archaeological site.

Located 700 km southwest of the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Qaryat al-Faw was referred to by some Saudi Aramco workers in the 1940s.
Located 700 km southwest of the Saudi capital of Riyadh, Qaryat al-Faw was referred to by some Saudi Aramco workers in the 1940s.

Forward

Interest in uncovering the site’s riches has been expressed by Khalid bin Bandar bin Abdul Aziz (Riyadh’s Governor at the time) as well as King Saud University (in Riyadh), the latter of which signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage rehabilitating the site.

Fragment of mural painting with zodiacal motif (1st-3rd century AD).
Fragment of mural painting with zodiacal motif (1st-3rd century AD).

The site is currently sealed off to the public: 16 square kilometers are being developed to welcome audiences once ready. Work is also underway to make the site a UNESCO World Heritage Site.