The recent unveiling of the 3D reconstruction of a 2,000-year-old Nabataean woman’s face from Hegra AlUla region has captured global attention, illuminating the little-known history of the Nabatean civilization in the area. This groundbreaking discovery paves the way for further discoveries and exploration of previously suppressed historical knowledge.
In 2015, the remains of an ancient Nabataean woman named Hinat were discovered in a 200-year-old tomb in Hegra (Madain Salih today), the 2nd most important city in the empire of the Nabateans. Last month, her reconstructed face was unveiled in Saudi Arabia, the first time such a reconstruction has been attempted. The project was funded by the Royal Commission for AlUla and completed with the help of historians and archaeologists. The face was reconstructed based on Hinat’s skull and skeleton.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman unveiled the Saudi Arabia Vision 2030, which aimed to transform the country into a global hub for trade and tourism connecting Africa, Asia, and Europe. However, in the past, little importance was given to history and tourism in Saudi Arabia.
Following the Makkah siege, religious people gained power and infiltrated every aspect of Saudi life, leading to changes in societal norms. The Mutawwas considered any non-Islamic rituals or practices “haram,” forbidden, and deemed infidelity. Thus, historical sites such as Madain Salih were not previously open to visitors.
The Nabataeans were a settled tribe that created a flourishing kingdom, spanning nearly 800 kilometers, with Petra as their capital city to the north and Hegra as their most important city to the south. Despite the importance of Hegra in the Nabataean empire, it is much less well-known than Petra.
Hegra’s rock-cut construction looks similar to Petra’s, and the site’s tombs, each exquisitely carved from the area’s soft sandstone and inscribed with Nabataean writings, still stand in remarkably preserved condition in the Saudi Arabian desert.
The Nabataean civilization was renowned for its trade routes between the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean world, and Asia, and Hegra was once an important trade route between these regions.
Today, Saudi Arabia is opening up every aspect of life, including tourism, and Hegra, which had been practically undisturbed for almost 2,000 years, has now been opened to tourists. Located less than 22 km from AlUla, Hegra is Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, showcasing the stunning setting that bears testimony to the Nabataean civilization.
The site offers valuable insights into the rich history and culture of the Nabataeans in AlUla. The Nabataean architectural legacy and inscriptions, including the reconstructed face of Hinat, are crucial in unlocking the secrets of an almost-forgotten civilization.
In conclusion, the historical site of Madain Saleh has been attracting visitors for over a decade, both locally and internationally. With Saudi Arabia opening up to tourism, it is expected that more people will be able to learn about the country’s rich history and culture, including the Nabataean civilization that once thrived in the region.
It is particularly noteworthy that Saudis themselves will have the opportunity to learn more about their own history, which was previously limited to the date of Saudi’s national day. Overall, the continued growth of tourism in Saudi Arabia has the potential to contribute to a greater appreciation and understanding of the country’s fascinating heritage.