Najran Province

At the crossroads of ancient civilizations

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Najran Region is a land between two worlds. On one side, as with the neighboring Aseer Province, it is located along the green Sarawat mountains where the monsoon still brings rain twice a year, but on the other side it hosts the southwestern part of one of the most arid deserts in the world, the Rub' Al-Khali.

Wadi Najran and the Sarawat mountains (photo: Florent Egal)

Wadi Najran and the Sarawat mountains (photo: Florent Egal)

Thanks to its special climatic conditions, the large wadis of Najran Province can become real rivers when they get flooded during the raining seasons.

The largest one, the  Wadi Najran is created by the confluence of many tributaries running through the Sarawat mountains and finishes its course in the first sands of the immense Rub' Al-Khali. The path of the Wadi Najran is somehow the natural link between the green and arid worlds of Najran Province

Najran Region is also a land between ancient civilizations. Indeed, it was crossed for centuries by some major routes of the caravan trade of frankincense, myrrh, and other valuable commodities coming from southern Arabian kingdoms heading for the Mediterranean World and Asia.

History of Najran Province

Najran Province is also a land of ancient civilizations. Indeed, Najran developed during the first millennium BCE, at a time when brilliant civilizations rose around it.

First, it is located on the northern part of what the Romans used to call Arabia Felix, meaning the ancient kingdoms of Yemen such as Sheeba (Saba'), Hadramawut, Qataban, Aksum, and Himyar.

Even the Romans came at least twice to the south of the Arabian Peninsula. First with a military expedition in 25-24 BCE that wasn't successful enough to allow them to keep control of the area, and during the 2nd century CE when they settled in Farasan Islands in the Red Sea in order to protect the maritime trade routes with India.

Map of ancient kingdoms of Yemen around 230 CE

Map of ancient kingdoms of Yemen around 230 CE

From the 5th century CE, after Himyar conquered the whole of Yemen, Najran saw several military expeditions from the kingdom of Himyar to conquer the Arabian Peninsula as far as today's Iraq. One of the tribes of Najran area, the people of Kinda and its legendary king Hujr bin A'mr, was even given the role of governing Central Arabia.

The Jebel Qarah, located less than 100 kilometers north of the city of Najran kept till today some tracks of these events through inscriptions carved in Sabean script, notably at the famous site of Bir Hima.

Inscription of Dhu Nuwas in Bir Hima (photo: Florent Egal)

Najran Province is also a land of ancient trade routes. Indeed, the ancient city of Najran and the Jebel Qarah used to be a prominent stopover for the caravans carrying frankincense, myrrh, and other valuable commodities from the ancient kingdoms of Yemen, including spices originating from India.

Sabean inscription in Al-Ukhdood archeological site (photo: Florent Egal)

Sabean inscription in Al-Ukhdood archeological site (photo: Florent Egal)

 From the city of Najran the caravans were heading towards the Jebel Kawkab, a sandstone massif located 100 kilometers to the north, which was the crossroads between the western and eastern roads through the Arabian Peninsula. It is believed that from Najran it took around 65 days to the travelers to reach the Levant (today's Palestine).

Thanks to its location, its strategical importance, and its wealth, Najran was a coveted place. Nowadays it is the link between today’s Saudi Arabia and the brilliant past of ancient kingdoms of southern Arabia that the Romans used to call Arabia Felix.

Traditional Heritage of Najran Province

With a very long agricultural tradition in Najran Province, it is not surprising that it has also a rich culinary history. As with its architecture, Najran cuisine is strongly attests to a strong Yemeni influence. The most famous dishes of Najran include:

  •  Al-Burr: a breakfast meal which consists of bread made from wheat and flour, it is mixed and given a round ball shape and a hole is made to put milk, honey, or date syrup on it
  • Al-Wafed: a thick kind of bread made of wheat, also made in a round shape, it is served in Al-Matrah beside Al-Marg
  • Al-Maasooba: made of ground corn flour and some soup added to make it soft, usually served in special ceremonies
  • Ar-Ruksh: a soft kind of bread which served as a slice, presented in a pot made of stone, and then mixed with soup
  • Al-Margoog: consists of dough which is cut into small slices and cooked with soup and vegetables

Places to visit in Najran Province

Some of the highlights of Najran Province are:

Abu As-Su’ud traditional village
The architectural heritage of Najran (author: Florent Egal)[...]
Najran City
A city of traditions and ancient History (author: Florent Egal)[...]
The Rub’ Al-Khali
The most mythical desert in the world (author: Florent Egal)[...]
Sarawat mountains with Yemen in the background (photo: Florent Egal)

Sarawat mountains with Yemen in the background (photo: Florent Egal)



At the crossroads of ancient civilizations (author: Florent Egal)

About the Author

My name is Florent Egal, I am a French national living in Riyadh since January 2010. After six years of exploration of Saudi Arabia I have decided to show with this website that KSA has much more to offer than the stereotype landscape of empty extends of sand dunes. I hope that after reading through these pages people will feel the same willingness and amazement than I have to discover this fascinating country