A Changing Kingdom and the Saudi Petra

For those of you interested in archaeological sites, I thought this AP article mentioning an ancient Nabataean city called Madain Saleh, located in Saudi Arabia, was a good one.

Most anyone with any interest in the history of archaeology will be familiar with Jordan’s extraordinary Petra, “the rose red city half as old as time” discovered by Johann Ludwig Burkhardt, a Swiss traveling in disguise as an Arab, in 1812.  The city’s well-preserved rock-cut tombs, combining classical with Nabataean motifs, are simply extraordinary — one of the finest being the so-called “Treasury,” which is reached through a narrow gorge called the Siq. 

But I must admit I had no idea there was a similar Nabataean city in Saudi Arabia called Madain Saleh.

Part of the reason for my ignorance, as the author of the AP article explains, has been the hitherto Saudi practice of regarding pre-Islamic archaeological sites as manifestations of evil — and essentially ignoring them. 

However, in recent years, this attitude has begun to change.  Archaeologists are beginning to excavate Saudi sites that were previously off limits, and archaeological tourism is now being encouraged.         

If you’d like to read more about the forces currently shaping Saudi culture, the library’s holdings include several pertinent recent titles, such as:  Inside the Kingdom:  Kings, Clerics, Modernists, Terrorists, and the Struggle for Saudi Arabia by Robert Lacey (on order); The Battle for Saudia Arabia:  Royalty, Fundamentalism, and Global Power by Asad Abukhalil; and Saudi Arabia by Nicholas Buchele.  And this book, The Gold of Exodus:  The Discovery of the True Mount Sinai by Howard Blum, deals at least in part with antiquities in Saudi Arabia. 

The library also has a couple of older books on the ancient Nabataean city of Petra.  These are Deities and Dolphins:  The Story of the Nabataeans by Nelson Glueck (1965) and Petra by Iain Browning (1973).

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