'Al-Okhdood' — A historical treasure dating back to more than 2,000 years

June 23, 2018

By Maryam Al-Jaber

THE archaeological site of Al-Okhdood in Najran, in the south of Saudi Arabia, lie in a village carrying the same name and is considered an historical treasure dating back to more than 2,000 years.

The site is rich with artifacts and remnants of ancient drawings and engravings on stones, such as a human hand, a horse, a camel and snakes carved, in addition to remnants of a mosque.

Al-Okhdood witnessed historical events and wars 2,000 years ago, and consequently led to its burning with its residents leaving it in ruin and ashes, when the last king of that era wanted to take revenge on Christian residents who refused to convert to Judaism.

Considered a touristic attraction, travelers and enthusiasts can visit Al-Okhdood's many ancient sites dating to the Byzantine, Umayyad and Abbasid periods, proving that it was once a crucial area for trade and agriculture, along with a cultural touch.

Al-Okhdood, just over a 5 sq. km area south of Najran, tells the story of the people who lived there, referred to as “People of the Groove” and were mentioned in the Holy Qur'an in Surah Al-Burooj (The Constellations):

Cursed were the companions of the trench. (Containing) the fire full of fuel.

When they sat by it. And they, to what they were doing against the believers, were witnesses.

They had nothing against them, except that they believed in Allah, the All-Mighty, Worthy of all Praise! (Holy Qur'an 85:4-8)

Najran’s history witnessed important historical events and was subjected to many military campaigns at different times in history, leading to its siege and occupation and once to its complete destruction. One of these events is the incident of “Al-Okhdood”, which is mentioned in the Qur'an, when Judaic King of Himyar Dhu Nuwas chose to seek revenge on Christian residents for refusing to convert to Judaism.

The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has conducted many archeological works in this area. The excavations uncovered the remnants of a mosque northeast of the site that dates back to the first century of Islam.

Also uncovered inscriptions show that it goes back to 7000 BC to 1000 BC, portraying the way the residents of that era hunted dogs, camels and other animals, using various weapons including spears, sticks, arches and double-headed arrows.

The director of SCTH in Najran, Saleh Al-Marih, said it is considered a historical site not only in the region but also in the Arabian Peninsula because it tells one of the greatest stories of our time.

“This site has made Najran a touristic attraction, for both Arab and foreign tourists,” said Al-Marih.

The site is protected by a fence while indoor seating areas have been provided, as well as a walkway and a traditional café, he added.

The director confirmed that research work and excavations are still ongoing in the area and that it might take them years to unveil the many treasures and secrets underneath the surface.

He also said that since the excavations began in 1997, archaeologists have discovered many Islamic monuments, and several tombs dating back to the pre-Christian era.

Najran is viewed as a living historical museum, especially after the discovery of various artifacts. It includes calligraphy, ancient hieroglyphs, and Egyptian inscriptions as well as Kufic ones dating back to the Early Islamic period.

They have also unearthed drawings of horses, camels, ostriches and otters, as well as handicraft, which show the presence of humans in the region, during the Stone Age.

The most recent discoveries reveal that several ancient civilizations existed in the region. Researchers also discovered traces of ancient lakes. — Al-Arabiya English

June 23, 2018
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