Monday, 18 June 2012

Made'in Saleh

Made'in Saleh is quite a special place. 

We went to Made'in Saleh (also writtein Madein Saleh) as part of an expat group organised by Cora, a lovely lady who, we understand, is not a travel agent or tour guide of any description.  She started putting together trips for her friends and her friends then asked her to keep doing it for their friends - so that's what she does under the name C3 - Cora's Classic Culture Tours.

The trip was not without a minor hiccup.  The airline, Saudi Air, which does receive some bad raps but is cheap as chips so take the good with the bad, bumped most of the group off the scheduled flight.  Being paranoid about missing planes, Hubster and I (along with the only other couple to make the flight) were there in plenty of time to check in.

We were keeping our eyes peeled for the rest of the group, none of whom we'd met before so we were profiling people for 'western looking' and 'part of a group', but it wasn't till we'd landed in Medina - the airport is in the part where non-believers are allowed to set foot - that we received a message that most of our companions were still on the ground in Riyadh.

Cora was duly rung.  Trouble shooting was undertaken - I can only imagine the phone calls.  The four of us were sent on our way in a van for 20.  Al Ula, the oasis town we were staying in, is a good three hours from Medina. It was a long ride in an empty bus with seats that don't recline.

The scenery, I have to admit, was much more interesting than that surrounding Riyadh.  There were hills. (yay).  Not forest clad, but definitely hilly.  And we had a police escort the whole way.

That afternoon the 4WD's carrying the rest of our group came flying in to the Arac Hotel carpark at a great rate of knots.  It was nice to finally meet them, travel weary though they were.

Arac Hotel was a nice hotel.  Bed was comfy, running water and flushing toilet. Large shared dining room. Lots of effective aircon. 

And a pool that we were able to take control of, and yes, in this gender segregated country having control of the pool so we could all take a dip in gender mixed peace and harmony, while surrounded by Al Ula's stunning sandstone formations, is always a good plan.  Gender segregating western tour groups at the hotel pool is just...wierd.

But back to Made'in Saleh. 

You can Google Made'in Saleh (or Madain Saleh - I'm not sure which is more correct)  to find detailed information but basically the place has been settled for numerous millenia by various peoples prior to the Nabeteans arriving and cariving elaborate facades in the soft sandstone as per their relatives further north in Petra.  The Romans arrived to take over, as they tended to do, and that, apparently, was the beginning of end for Made'in Saleh's economy.  The place fell into decline and was eventually abandoned.

The area has recently become protected as a historical site and the Tourism Ministry is encouraging Made'in Saleh as a tourist destination.  Prior to this Saudi's considered the place cursed and never went there - or if they did go their mission was to destroy or descecreate the place because at one point in its history Made'in Saleh and its unbelieving occupants were destroyed by God.   (Apparently many Saudi still consider the place cursed and you won't find them setting foot there, but hei aha (kiwi lingo for never mind or so be it!))

You can vsit Madein Saleh as part of an organised group (expats from Riyadh that I know tend to use Cora from C3 or Salwa from Haya Tours) or you can go on your own.  If you contact either Arac Hotel or Madein Saleh Hotel (there may be more Hotels but these are the only two I know of) in plenty of time (a couple of weeks) they can organise your tour pass (just rocking up to Made'in Saleh and expecting to get yourself in is not the best possible plan) and a tour guide if you would like one. 

Our tour guide was fabulous.

Our Guide
Here's some photo's of the tour we had:


Holes in Hills

Photographic stage

Colours of Al Ula

Elepahant Rock

Bowling Pin hole in the hill

Information board about...

....the old town

A private museum

The next day - Made'in Saleh

History class

Time to explore


Animals on rock


Partially reconstructed Hijaz railway

More tombs in hills

Iconic tomb carved into rock

The group

Visit to a historic dam

Our last stop for the day was the Antiquities and Museums office in Al Ula - aka the public museum in town. 

Having been to Petra and Made'in Saleh I have to say I prefer Made'in Saleh.  Although the carved facades are not as large or as spectacular as those you find in Petra, Made'in Saleh is definitely not as commercial - no-one is going to hassle you to buy, buy, buy my junky yet very expensive souvenir.  You can, at the moment, get the hands on experience...

...though some people can take that concept a bit far :)

If you don't like visiting tombs cause it gives you the Heebly Jeeblies then coming to Madain Saleh is not a good plan. However, if you want to see, up close a personal, how the Nebetians built memorials to their dead and garner the history of the area then definitely visit Made'in Saleh.


  1. This sounds great! One of my biggest complaints about being one of the few westerners at my company and not living on compound is that i don't often find chances to do things like this! I'm not in Riyadh anymore but in Dammam now, however I do have access to the airport just as easily. Could you pass along some info about how to contact c3? Maybe I could join up with another one of her groups...

    Thanks, Geoff

  2. Hi Geoff, If you send me an email through the Contact a Kiwi page I can send you Cora's contact details


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