AlUla 6: Dadan and Jabal Ikmah, Dec 2022

Another significant discovery in the oasis of AlUla is the city of Dadan, capital of the Dadan and Lihayan Kingdoms. Due to its proximity to the incense trade routes, it became a wealthy and important city from around 1200-100 BC.  What is left of Dadan are a dozen or so tombs carved into the rock face to the east of the city, some up to 50 meters above ground level. The most prominent of these tombs is the Lion Tomb with a pair of seated lion sculptures guarding its entrance. Archaeologists believe that this is the tomb of royalty or an elite member of society.  The site is still under excavation so there is not much to see. At the time of my visit, climbing up the stairs to the Lion Tomb was prohibited because we were told that railings have not yet been installed.
Not far from Dadan is Jabal Ikmah with its centuries-old petroglyphs that once functioned as an “open library”.  There are hundreds of inscriptions and carvings here in pre-Arabic languages such as Aramaic, Dadanitic, Nabataean, Minaic, Thamudic, etc demonstrating that the area was truly a crossroads of civilizations.  Religious pilgrims are believed to have come through Jabal Ikmah and left records of their devotion and offerings to their gods.  While some inscriptions are believed to be records of religious events, others are said to be names of visitors similar to modern day so-and-so was here graffitis.
The open library of Jabal Ikmah

Petroglyph of a musical instrument similar to the harp

Hunting scene

The only options to visit Dadan and Jabal Ikmah are by vintage Land Rover (private tour) or by bus tour.  Unlike Hegra, I think it is not a must.
In the blink of an eye, my long-awaited visit to AlUla came to an end.  It is hard to imagine otherworldly places like this exist and yet remain largely undiscovered for centuries.  After almost 3 years stuck at home, I needed this adventure, this sense of break from the groundhog days of covid.
Next post will be on my short stop in Abu Dhabi before returning home.  Stay tuned!

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2 Responses

  1. I remember watching on NatGeo an expedition to uncover the mysteries of Dadan and Jabal Ikmah. If I remember if correctly, there used to be a natural bridge connecting one tall rock to another one, from which a flight of stairs carved into the sandstone goes all the way to the top. Such a fascinating place!

    1. The guide didn’t point out a natural bridge and we weren’t able to go up and see the tombs up close. It was such a pity to go all the way there and not being able to see very much at all….

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