Ancient inscriptions in Saudi Arabia

The mountain of Jabal Ikmah, located 5km north of the ancient city of AlUla in north-west Saudi Arabia, has just been added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, which recognises documentary heritage of international significance. This is a significant recognition of the site’s value as a record of the evolution of ancient Arabic languages and scripts.

Jabal Ikmah and the sandstone canyons that surround it are home to more than 300 inscriptions, most of which date to the second half of the 1st millennium BC. These carvings make up the largest collection of inscriptions from the Dadanite Kingdom, a powerful cultural and commercial centre on the Arabian Peninsula in the 1st millennium BC. The Dadanites developed their own alphabet and writing system, Dadanitic, and left records on sandstone rocks around AlUla detailing their religious rituals and daily activities, as well as documenting the Dadanite Kingdom’s relations with neighbouring peoples.

The greatest concentration of these inscriptions is found in the ‘open-air library’ of Jabal Ikmah. The site also features figurative engravings of people, animals, and everyday scenes. The site’s addition to the UNESCO register recognises the ongoing efforts of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) to study and conserve the region’s documentary heritage.

Text: Amy Brunskill / Images: Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU)
Please send your images to They must be high resolution (300 dpi) and in landscape format, ideally 20cm high by 30cm wide.