Discover Tabuk #NEOM

History of Tabuk Province

In 2016 the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) announced that a joint research team comprising Saudi archaeologists and experts from Oxford University discovered the oldest human bone during an excavation in Tayma, an ancient oasis city located in the south east of Tabuk Province.

Numerous rock art sites, dating from different periods, in Tabuk Province prove that human beings first occupied the area 90 000 years ago, and people have remained active here for at least the last 10 000 years.

During the 1st millennium BCE the activity in Tabuk Province soared thanks to its location on the routes of caravans that traded frankincense and other valuable commodities. Those caravans originated from Yemen and traveled through Central Arabia towards the ancient empires of the Orient and, in particular, the Roman Empire which consumed great quantities of incense for its rituals. The wealth acquired by the northwestern oasis of Arabia even attracted the last King of Babylon, Nabonidus, who conquered six of those main oasis in the 6th century BCE, including Tayma (which is in today's Tabuk Province) where he is supposed to have stayed for 10 years.

The most iconic testimonial of this active period in Tabuk Province is the Haddah Well in the oasis city of Tayma, major stopover for caravans for centuries, and which was probably built by Nabonidus.

Al-Haddaj well in the ancient oasis of Tayma' (photo: Florent Egal)

The part of Tabuk Province which lays along the Gulf of Aqaba corresponds to the ancient land of Madyan where Allah sent his prophet Chu’ayb (also known as Abu Madian). The Province was part of the Nabatean Kingdom during the 1st century BCE, and then conquered by the Romans in 106 CE. It was later part of the Muslim Empire founded by the Prophet Mohammed less than 10 years after the birth of Islam. In the 16th century CE the Ottomans extended their empire into Yemen, including the western part of the Arabian Peninsula. At the beginning of the 20th century they built the Hejaz Railway through the region. The Province was then retaken by Abdul-Aziz bin Al-Saud in 1926.

The Arabia of the legendary Lawrence

Tabuk Region is home of some of the jewels of Saudi Arabia, both natural and historical. Some of the most prominent natural features of Tabuk Province are: the majestic sandstone formations originating from the Wadi Rum in Jordan and crossing the whole region towards the south; the Sarawat mountains peaking over 2500 meters above sea level; the volcanoes of the Harrat Al-Uwayrid; and the beaches and coral reefs of the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aqaba.

On the historical side, Tabuk Province is famous for its ancient rock art, its ancient oasis on the frankincense trade road, its glorious stories of prophets, its epic battles, its pilgrimage roads, and the Hejaz Railway whose fate was told in the book and the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”.

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