Dadan and Jabal Ikmah

Take a journey through time to discover the ancient and powerful civilisations of the Dadanite and Lihyanite kingdoms and the world's largest open-air library.

Take a journey through time to discover the ancient and powerful civilisations of the Dadanite and Lihyanite kingdoms, which have built and shaped AlUla. After exploring the incredible ruins, visitors can discover an ongoing archaeology programme focused on excavating sites related to both civilisations.

The combined Dadan and Jamal Ikmah tour showcases the latter’s open-air library of inscriptions, rock art and petroglyphs set in a stunning desert canyon. Coach tours and Vintage Land Rover experiences are also available.

Dadan

The city of Dadan, the capital of the ancient, pre-Arabic civilisations of Dadan and Lihyan, is cut from spectacular sandstone mountains sitting astride a fertile oasis.

Archaeologists believe only four per cent of Dadan has been uncovered but this tip of the iceberg will enthral visitors nonetheless. The city dates back further than Hegra, to the late ninth and early eighth century BCE (Kingdom of Dadan) and fifth– second century BCE (Kingdom of Lihyan). The site of Dadan is a work in progress and there is much more to be learnt about this civilisation, including the reason for its mysterious demise. What is known is that Dadan’s proximity to and control of the incense trade routes which wound through the valley, made it one of the most developed cities in northern Arabia. 

The Lion Tombs Dadan
The Lion Tombs, Dadan

GUARDED BY LIONS 

Dadan’s tombs number more than a dozen and are markedly different to those of the Nabataeans at Hegra. From a distance these mountain graves look like dark rectangles drawn onto the rust-hued rock, but when you get up close you can see they are openings into the mountain, incredibly set about 50 metres off the ground. The Lion Tombs are marked by seated lion sculptures which symbolise power and protection, most probably the burial sites of elite and royal members of Dadan’s society. The Visitors Centre at Dadan reveals the meaning behind the inscriptions and theories about this advanced civilisation. 

Jabal Ikmah

This desert canyon is a vast open air library, where sun-warmed rock takes the place of pages, inscribed with enigmatic messages from the past.

Jabal Ikmah is a mountain, close to the lost city of Dadan, and its inscribed rocks offer the key to some the kingdom’s mysteries. The mountain was used as a place for those passing through ancient crossroads to leave their mark or pass on messages and sign posts for fellow travellers. Jabal Ikmah will captivate budding archaeologists and intrigue avid readers alike. 

Ikmah 4
A close-up of the inscriptions that paint the rocks in Jabal Ikmah

MEANINGFUL MESSAGES 

Jabal Ikmah features more than 450 early Arabic inscriptions, including one of the oldest inscriptions of the Islamic era which dates back to 24AH (644 CE). It is home to the highest concentration of, and most varied inscriptions, in AlUla. Visitors to this historic site will walk along an orange rocky valley path where the scrawl of ancient messages is all around. Some are written in the scripts of lost languages, including Aramaic, Dadanitic, Thamudic, Minaic and Nabataean, and others use pictures to convey meaning.

Gaze at ancient rock art depicting people, musical instruments, animals and more. These inscriptions and rock drawings have inspired researchers to trace the origins of modern Arabia and offer unique insights into the lives and customs of people from across the Islamic world and further afield. 

TAKE A TOUR 

A two-hour combined Dadan and Jabal Ikmah tour takes clients on a journey through time and is one of the best ways to fully understand the historical significance of these heritage sites. View the Lion Tombs and explore the excavation works at Dadan before discovering the extraordinary stories behind this open-air library of rock art, inscriptions and petroglyphs.

BECOME AN ALULA SPECIALIST

Extensive training material is available at alulaspecialist.com, covering historic sights, accommodations, sustainability, experiences and events taking place in AlUla. This one-stop shop for travel agents includes three training modules, a series of seven new short training videos, as well as imagery, agent perks, a directory of product suppliers and more.

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