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Saudi Arabia: The Secret Ancient Life that Stands in the Nafud Desert

Nafud Desert is still full of mysteries...

Nafud Desert is still full of mysteries...

In the heart of the vast Nafad desert, the Shuwaymis site has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2015. Many treasures of rock engraving have survived to the lava flows and offer a surprising glimpse of the lush life that once inhabited there arid lands…  

300 kilometers away from Hail, Jabals al-Manjor and Raat sites in Shuwaymis have not always been so desert. They are now only accessible if you cross a land that was once covered by lava and where twelve dormant volcanoes’ craters still remain. This rock carving site is the richest and the largest of the Kingdom and its region.

Then thousand years of history engraved in the rocks

Its volcanic stones present numerous rock engravings that tell the 10,000- year long story of peoples such as the Thamoudeans and Nabateans who inhabited the area before the Arab civilization. These peoples have left a fabulous testimony of the life they had then… Not only in pictures but also in words! With inscriptions engraved in very ancint alphabets, of a beauty as rare as precious.

The remains of region brimming with life that is now gone

At that time, the area wasn’t so desert and the chain of Umm Sinman overhung a lake of fresh water, from which a water course used to escaped to water men and animals.

The stones relate their ancient lifestyles by showing us men fishing, trading and leading caravans. They also teach us a lot about the evolution of their ways of living while the process of desertification gradually modified the environment. Moreover, animal species such as oxen or ibexes – for the oldest engravings – give gradually way to horses and camels. However, the mystery hasn’t been yet unveiled about the presence of lions engraved in their actual size… Indeed, for what we know, no lion would never have trodden upon these lands of Arabia…