Al- ‘Ula – A Ghost Town in Saudi Arabia

Al- ‘Ula was an oasis town in Saudi Arabia located on the old incense trading route. The prophet Mohammed is said to have passed through the oasis in 630 AD on his campaign to Tabuk. In the 13th century, the walled city of Al- ‘Ula was built and was inhabited until modern times. It was abandoned by its inhabitants for a nearby new town of Al- ‘Ula about 40 years ago and the old village of al-Ula is now a ghost town.

The abandoned village consists of a walled settlement of about 800 dwellings around the perimeter of the more ancient castle with narrow winding alleys, many of which were covered to shield the people from the heat of the sun in the Arabian desert. Most of the foundations of the buildings are stone, but the upper floors are made from mud bricks, while palm leaves and wood are used for the ceilings. Although many of these houses were probably rebuilt over time, their foundations are likely to be from the original construction of the town in the 13th century AD. The stones used, however, were extracted from the ruins of a very ancient settlement elsewhere in the valley and some still carry Lihyanite inscriptions on them. The specific location of Al- ‘Ula around the ancient castle was chosen because of its slight elevation relative to the rest of the valley, not only for defensive purposes but also for protection from occasional flooding of the valley. Some work has been done to preserve the old town for tourism purposes, but much more is needed to protect the buildings from collapse. A walk through the town is most fascinating and gives the visitor a feel for what life might have been like in Hijazi villages for centuries before modernisation wiped out the traditional way of life.

Location: Al- ‘Ula, Saudi Arabia

Category: Ghost Town

Abandoned: 1970s

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