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Decision : 32 COM 8B.19
Examination of nomination of natural, mixed and cultural proprerties to the World Heritage List - Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih), (SAUDI ARABIA)

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-08/32.COM/8B and WHC-08/32.COM/INF.8B1,

2. Inscribes the Al-Hijr Archaeological Site (Madâin Sâlih), Saudi Arabia,on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iii);

3. Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

The archaeological site of Al-Hijr is a major site of the Nabataean civilisation, in the south of its zone of influence. Its integrity is remarkable and it is well conserved. It includes a major ensemble of tombs and monuments, whose architecture and decorations are directly cut into the sandstone.

It bears witness to the encounter between a variety of decorative and architectural influences (Assyrian, Egyptian, Phoenician, Hellenistic), and the epigraphic presence of several ancient languages (Lihyanite, Thamudic, Nabataean, Greek, Latin).

It bears witness to the development of Nabataean agricultural techniques using a large number of artificial wells in rocky ground. The wells are still in use.

The ancient city of Hegra/Al-Hijr bears witness to the international caravan trade during late Antiquity.

Criterion (ii): The site of Al-Hijr is located at a meeting point between various civilisations of late Antiquity, on a trade route between the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean world and Asia. It bears outstanding witness to important cultural exchanges in architecture, decoration, language use and the caravan trade. Although the Nabataean city was abandoned during the pre-Islamic period, the route continued to play its international role for caravans and then for the pilgrimage to Mecca, up to its modernisation by the construction of the railway at the start of the 20th century.

Criterion (iii): The site of Al-Hijr bears unique testimony to the Nabataean civilisation, between the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC and the pre-Islamic period, and particularly in the 1st century AD. It is an outstanding illustration of the architectural style specific to the Nabataeans, consisting of monuments directly cut into the rock, and with facades bearing a large number of decorative motifs. The site includes a set of wells, most of which were sunk into the rock, demonstrating the Nabataeans' mastery of hydraulic techniques for agricultural purposes.

The testimony borne by Al-Hijr to the Nabataean civilisation is of outstanding integrity and authenticity, because of its early abandonment and the benefit over a very long period of highly favourable climatic conditions.

The State Party has begun to set up an extremely comprehensive Local Management Unit, and this process is now under way. The announced management plan should enable satisfactory protection of the property. With this in mind, the plan should organise systematic monitoring of the conservation of the site, and prepare a project for the presentation of the Outstanding Universal Value of the property for the benefit both of visitors and of the population of the region.

4. Requests the State Party to:

  • a) implement the established management plan;
  • b) in the framework of the management plan and the Local Management Unit, conduct regular monitoring;

5. Recommends that:

    • a) the new framework law on the Kingdom's Antiquities and Museums be promulgated;
    • b) care be taken to ensure that the development of reception facilities at the property and future developments in the wider surroundings of the property do not impact on the expression of the property's Outstanding Universal Value.



Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: Saudi Arabia
Year: 2008
Decision Code: 32 COM 8B.19