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Wadi Al Dawasir

is a town in Najd, Saudi Arabia, in the Dawasir valley. The town is the homeland of the tribe of Al-Dawasir.

Find out about this historic city and why it was an important economic and commercial center in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula. Main historical sites of Qaryat Al Fao are the Souq, the Palace and the Temple, which is the first temple, uncovered in Saudi Arabia in addition to the tombs of the King and the Nobilities.

History of Qaryat Al-Faw

Qaryat Al-Faw is just a few hundred meters from the highway south of Wadi Ad-Dawasir. It can't be approached by a two-wheel-drive car as the terrain is sandy.

The city of Paradise

In the South Arabian inscriptions, Qaryat al-Faw is referred to as “Qaryat dhat Kahl”, Kahl being the name of the town’s god, but it was also named: The City of Paradise (in reference to Dhat al-Jnan) as the palms and greenery must have created a vision of paradise in the middle of a desolated desert . The Red City (Qaryat Talu or Qaryat al-Hamra’), probably because of the red clay palaces that stood at the centre of the oasis.

A key role on a major trade route

At the beginning of the 1st millennium BCE the frankincense trade roads, originating from the ancient Yemeni kingdom, started developing across the Arabian Peninsula. For more than one and half millennia, caravans carried this priceless commodity along two main routes to the major empires of those times: the western one going to the Roman Empire and the eastern one going to Mesopotamia and Persia. If the western route could benefit from the numerous oases watered by the wadis of the huge Sarawat mountains, the eastern route crossed the desolate plateau at the center of the Arabian Peninsula along the largest sand dune desert in the world, the Rub' Al-Khali. It is on this second road that Qaryat Al-Faw developed from the end of the 4th century BCE, as the only major oasis city for more than 1000 kilometers between Najran, in the southwest, and Gerrha, on the east of the Arabian Peninsula.

An incredibly cosmopolitan oasis

It is unclear who and when the city was founded but an interesting aspect of the history of the city is told through the numerous temples that were excavated at the archeological site. The inscriptions they carry and the artefacts found in them show that the remote oasis was well connected with the whole Arabian Peninsula, and all the way to the Levant.

Two of the oldest remains of Qaryat Al-Faw - the temple of Shams and the altar of Aabit - seem to indicate that a city was built around the end of the 4th century BCE. Around the middle of the 3rd century BCE, the Mineans from Yemen, who were heavily engaged in the caravan trade, settled in Qaryat al-Faw and built a sanctuary as an offering to the divinity Athtar Wadd.

Another major ancient oasis of Arabia, from where settlers originated, is Dedan, capital of the kingdom of Dedan and later Lihyan, located in the northwest of the Peninsula. The Lihyanites that ruled Dedan for at least two centuries left in Qaryat Al-Faw two major inscriptions on a stela and a lintel. People from the Hanikain tribe, who were also present in Dedan during the first years of the reign of the state of Lihyan, settled in Qaryat Al-Faw at the same period.

During the 1st century BCE, the most important traders of northwest Arabia, the Nabateans, whose most important city in the Arabian Peninsula was Hegra (also known as Maddain Saleh) were present at Qaryat al-Faw at least until the 2nd century CE.

Another temple excavated in Qaryat Al-Faw showed strong links with Gaza in the Levant, meaning that despite its remoteness it was connected with the Mediterranean world.

The first capital of Central Arabia

During the first two centuries CE two tribes shared the power in Qaryat Al-Faw and their kings bore the name of both tribes with the title "King of Kindah and Qahtan". During the 3rd century Qaryat Al-Faw endured a series of military expeditions carried out by Sabean and Himyarites kings from ancient Yemen: first Sa'irum Awtar, and later Ilsarah Yahdub and his brother Ya'zul Bayn.

At the end of the third century Qaryat Al-Faw was a vassal city of Himyarites Kings and the leader of the city held the title of "King of Kindah and Madhij", showing that despite the political changes the tribe of Kindah still played a great role. From its capital in Qaryat al-Faw the famous tribe dominated the area of Central Arabia and reached its elevated status at the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th centuries CE.

The power of Kindah, along with the importance of Qaryat Al-Faw, weakened during the 4th century, but still attested to as allies of the Himyarites in the oldest inscription of Wadi Massal dating from the beginning of the 5th century CE. Kindah provided two of the most prominent pre-Islamic Arab characters: Hujr Bin 'Amr, considered as the first king of the Arabs, and his grandson, the famous poet Imru' Al-Qays.

The archeological site

It is often said that the presence of such a large city proves that the center of the Arabian Peninsula was once covered with lush vegetation thanks to much more humid weather. But if such a climate existed in the past, it was millennia before the foundation of the city of Qaryat Al-Faw that probably took place in the 4th century BCE, a time when the climate was quite similar to what it is today. Hence, the only way for the trade city to thrive was to exploit the underground water, which the population of that time did with great skill.

The Temples

Three temples and an altar have been found at Qaryat al-Faw. South Arabian inscriptions have revealed which divinities they were dedicated to, such as Al-Ahwar, Shams, Athtar, Wadd, and also dhu Ghabat of the kingdom of Lihyan.

The necropolises

One of the visual features of Qaryat al-Faw is its tower shaped tombs that were built for the most prominent residents like Ma‘sad ibn ‘Arsch. But the city hosts a great diversity of types of tombs, which correspond to the different periods during which the site was occupied.