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Darb Zubayda (Pilgrim Road from Kufa to Makkah)

Date of Submission: 08/04/2015
Criteria: (ii)(iv)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Northern Borders, Hail, Qassim, Madinah, Makkah Regions
Ref.: 6025
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The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries.

Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Al-Jumaimiyah Pool N3275894.87 E 364798.83
Al-Thulaimiya Pool N 3278032.44 E365701.37
Zabala Pool N 3252358.56 E 360364.63
Faid Site N 3002185.00 E 254404.13
Al-Rabadha Site N 2726024.07 E 731792.87
Al-Kharaba site N 2455251.21 E 689080.3

There were historic pilgrimage (Hajj) Roadsthat passed through the Arabian Peninsula to reach Makkah, connecting the Arabian Peninsula with the major neighbouring countries, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The Al- Kufi pilgrimage route, also known as "Darb Zubaydha", was one of the most important among them. Zubaydah trail runs from Kufa to Makkah, and is named after Zubaydah bint Jafar wife of the Abbasid Caliph Harun Al-Rashid for her charitable works on the numerous stations along the trail.

The origin of the trail date back to the pre-Islamic era, but its importance greatly increased with the dawn of Islam, and the route flourished during the time of the early caliphate. Zubaydah Trail reached its peak of prosperity during the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 C.E.), when markers and milestones were installed and the trail was developed with stations and provided with wells, pools, dams, palaces, houses, and pavement that made it more easily accessible. 27 major stations and 27 substations have been identified, the most prominent among them are: Al-Sheihiyat, Al-Jumaima, Faid, Rabadha, That-Erq and Khuraba.

Pre-Islamic and early Islamic periods:

"Darb Zubaydha" was once known as "Darb Al-Heerah", the most important ancient trail between Al- Heerah (Iraq) and Makkah. Parts of this roadwere already used by traders and travellers in Pre-Islamic times, and early Muslims geographers noted that the Persians created guarding posts and garrisons at Al-Qadisiyah and Al-Uthaib and connected them with a wall that stretches for six miles. However, the use of "Darb  Al-Heerah" was profoundly modified in the Islamic era, when its architecture was developed from Iraq to Makkah in a manner unprecedented in history.

The Early Caliphate:

After the death of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) some Arab tribes, like Usd, Ghtafan and Tai, rebound from Islam, under the leadership of Tulaiha Al-Asadi, who claimed prophethood and established military bases along the trail particularly in Semaira and Al-Rabadha. The Muslim Army led by Khalid ibn Al-Walid used this route and passed through Faid and Al Tha’labiyah. Historic sources report that by the end of the year (12 AH/early 634 AD) Khalid ibn Al-Walid returned from Iraq to perform Hajj, reaching That-Erq in less than two weeks, using this route that was the shortest distance.
During the era of Omar ibn Al-Khattab Basra and Al-Kufa were established and linked with safe land routes. Abu Musa al-Ash'ari governed Al-Basra in the year 17 AH/638 CE, then he dug wells along the road from Basra to Makkah.
During the succession of Othman ibn Affan, wells were dug in Faid area. Abdullah bin Amer governed Al-Basra and carried out countless works on the road from Basra to Makkah, creating the stations of Al- Nbaj, Qariyatain and Bustan Bani Amer.

The Umayyad State:

The Umayyad made great efforts to improve the route between Islamic countries, and is worth mentioning that Caliph Abdul Malik bin Marwan ordered the establishment Al-Tha’labiyah station. He travelled Al-Basri pilgrimage and on his return from the Hajj, he ordered the exposure of the best drinking water on the route, and they found Mawiyah water to be the best and light water on the trail.

The Abbasid State:

Since the beginning of the Abbasid State the Caliphs reinforced the pilgrimage route from Kufa to Makkah. In the year 134 AH/751 CE, the first of the Abbasid Caliphs “Assafah” ordered the installation of milestones, flags and lighthouses along the trail from Kufa to Makkah. The following caliphs and their wives, especially Zubaydah, completed the development of the route and provided it with all necessary amenities like water reservoirs, wells, palaces and rest houses all along the road. The Caliph Abdullah Al-Mahdi carried out great work in easing and paving the road, ice was brought to him in Makkah in 160 AH/776 CE through this road. He ordered the establishment of the first mail service between Makkah, Madinah and Yemen. During successive centuries, the Abbasid state weakened, and the last organized pilgrimage convoy along this route was carried out by Abbasid Caliph in 641 AH/1243 CE. In the following centuries, the trail lost its importance and was almost completely abandoned by the pilgrims and travellers.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The yearly Islamic pilgrimage to the Holy city of Makkah is one of the five pillars of Islam and one of the most important and most ancient religious pilgrimages in the world. Until today, millions of Muslim pilgrims visit Makkah every year to accomplish this religious duty. Pilgrimage (Hajj) is a spiritual and psychological journey, where feelings are mixed between joy and happiness, longing and nostalgia, far away from home, family and friends, winning and suffering, hope in Allah’s mercy and mixed Human feelings. For centuries, the Muslim pilgrims crossed the Arabian Desert in long caravans that followed traditional paths and routes to reach the Holy City of Makkah. Pilgrimage routes were not only religious axis but also commercial and trade links facilitating movement across the ancient world and the cultural and commercial exchanges with continuity over a long period of time. 

The Hajj land routes leading to Makkah from the neighbouring countries materialized on the land of Arabia for centuries, represented deeply rooted cultural and religious tradition, and constitute one of the most important material vestiges of the Islamic civilization in Saudi Arabia. 

Zubaydah  roadperfectly  embodies  the  cultural  significance  coming from  exchanges  and  multi- dimensional dialogue across countries as it permitted to bring together Muslim pilgrims from different ethnic groups and regions, creating the cultural, religious and scientific exchanges among the people of various parts of the world. Zubaydah road illustrates the interaction of movement, along the route, in space and time from the pre-Islamic period to the end of the Abbasid Caliphate in the 13th century CE. Many ancient geographers, historians and travellers wrote about Zubaydah Road. Among them, the most important are: Ibn Khordadbah, ibn Rustah, Abu Al-Faraj, Al-Yaqoubi, Al-Maqdisi, Al-Hamdani, Al- Harbi, Ibn Jubair, and Ibn Battuta, but in the last century also western travellers wrote about the track and had the opportunity to travel along this ancient pilgrimage route.

Criterion (ii): This roadExhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time extending from the early Islamic to the Late Abbasid and ottoman periods or extending from major cities in Iraq through the northern and central regions of Arabia linking the states and kingdoms through Mesopotamia to the Holly lands in Makkah and Madinah, witnessing developments in architecture ranging from simple tent camps to fortified Palaces and water administration technology to large masses of travelers either pilgrim or trade caravans, including monumental works of arts in the form of memorial inscriptions and milestones, with outstanding landscape works in easing and facilitating travel along the trail.

Criterion (iv): The pools, canals and wells, water reservoirs along the route represented outstanding example of architectural and water administration technology which illustrates significant stages in human ingenuity;

Criterion (vi): The route is directly associated with the Pilgrimage ritual (Hajj) engaged by Muslims from all around the world  either  rich  or  poor,  with  the  idea  of  facilitating  and  easing  travel  through  the  vast  desert wilderness of Arabia, this ritual forms the fifth pillar of Islam, many memorial inscriptions are found along the trail, and literary was described by early Muslim Geographers and later by Western travellers making Darb Zubaydah of an outstanding universal significance.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: The stations and forts, combined with their routes and commercial markets, provide a very complete picture  of  the  Arab  desert culture strung along a trade route. Remains of all the elements that comprised the stations (dwellings, forts, caravanserais, and markets) are still found along the trail. The limited recent development of these sites has given them considerable protection from urban encroachment and none of their attributes are now under threat.

Authenticity: Zubaydah road remained active for many centuries. The remains of the stations, forts, caravanserais and the desert landscape surrounding them reflect and exemplify the relevance of the Hajj Route and the prosperity it brought to the area.

Comparison with other similar properties

From Islam's earliest years, the desire to perform the Hajj set large numbers of people travelling to Makkah and to Madinah, the heart of Islam. As a result, certain existing trade roads took on new importance  and  new  routes  developed  that  crisscrossed  the  Muslim  world.  To  ease  the  pilgrims' journey, rulers and wealthy patrons built caravanserais, supplied water and provided protection along these roads to Makkah and Madinah. Individual Muslims, in the name of charity, helped others to make the journey easy safe. So beyond the meaning of each pilgrim's spiritually, the Hajj developed great importance as a social phenomenon, contributing enormously to forging a melded Islamic culture and a worldwide Islamic community whose shared characteristics bridged differences of nationality, ethnicity and custom. Villages and mosques from the Atlantic shores of Africa to the Iberian Peninsula and from the Pacific coast of China to Zanzibar in the south to the Caucasus and central Asia in the north. The stream of pilgrims passed even the most distant parts of the Islamic world, and everywhere everyone knew someone who had been on the Hajj. Each passing pilgrim was a tangible reminder of the scope of the faith and the witness of the amalgamation of various cultures. Hajj was the heartbeat of the Earth's first genuinely transcontinental culture. The Islamic World, for nearly a millennium, was a composite Afro-Eurasian free-trade zone through which not only pilgrims but also traders, merchants and bureaucrats travelled with relative freedom and ease. By creating and nurturing this commons, the Hajj expanded the possibilities of science, commerce, politics and religion. Commerce was supported by the system of caravan and sea routes. The closer one got to Makkah, the more the Hajj roads were the main arteries of this system, swelling with pilgrims from all points of the compass. No traveller came to the Holy Cities empty-handed, for some carried goods to pay their way, others bore local news that they carried among the provinces, and more learned ones brought the latest concepts and ideas, essential nutrients for the intellectual life of the Islamic World. The Hajj likewise affected many who were not on the road. The desire to assist the pilgrim's orientation, observation and movements spurred Muslim advances in mathematics, optics, astronomy, navigation, transportation, geography, education, medicine, finance, culture and even politics. The constant flow of pilgrims turned the route into channels of cultural and intellectual ferment.

Other pilgrimage and religious routes of other world religions inscribed on the World Heritage List

Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France

Santiago de Compostela was proclaimed the first European Cultural itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1987. This route from the French-Spanish border was – and still is – taken by pilgrims to Santiago de Composte Some 1,800 buildings along the route, both religious and secular, are of great historic interest. The route played a fundamental role in encouraging cultural exchanges between the Iberian peninsula and the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. It remains a testimony to the power of the Christian faith among people of all social classes and from all over Europe. Santiago de Compostela was the supreme goal for countless thousands of pious pilgrims who converged there from all over Europe throughout the Middle Ages. To reach Spain pilgrims had to pass through France, and the group of important historical monuments included in this inscription marks out the four routes by which they did so.

Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountain Range

Set in the dense forests of the Kii Mountains overlooking the Pacific Ocean, three sacred sites – Yoshino and Omine, Kumano Sanzan, Koyasan – linked by pilgrimage routes to the ancient capital cities of Nara and Kyoto, reflect the fusion of Shinto, rooted in the ancient tradition of nature worship in Japan, and Buddhism, which was introduced from China and the Korean Peninsula. The sites (495.3 ha) and their surrounding forest landscape reflect a persistent and extraordinarily well-documented tradition of sacred mountains over 1,200 years. The area, with its abundance of streams, rivers and waterfalls, is still part of the living culture of Japan and is much visited for ritual purposes and hiking, with up to 15 million visitors annually. Each of the three sites contains shrines, some of which were founded as early as the 9th century.

Route of the Franciscan Evangelisation

The Route have 26 churches, some chaplainries and oratories built during the time of Spanish dominance (1524-1821) under the direction of the order of Preachers of San Francisco, for the religious teaching and the local natives' castellanización, descending of the Mayan. This circumstance explains the stylistic unit of the buildings, as well as the presence in the same of great quantity of works of art, used with didactic purposes and religious that still charge life in the region like fundamental elements inside the local ideological unit.

Incense Route - Desert Cities in the Negev

The four Nabatean towns of Haluza, Mamshit, Avdat and Shivta, along with associated fortresses and agricultural landscapes in the Negev Desert, are spread along routes linking them to the Mediterranean end of the incense and spice route. Together they reflect the hugely profitable trade in frankincense and myrrh from south Arabia to the Mediterranean, which flourished from the 3rd century BC until the 2nd century AD. With the vestiges of their sophisticated irrigation systems, urban constructions, forts and caravanserai, they bear witness to the way in which the harsh desert was settled for trade and agriculture.

The Cuenca Mirador

Some of the cities that form this route, present very old dates about that 1000 A.C goes back a year. The cities are composed by several architectural groups that communicate by roadways that were used like roads that also were connected in to complex net among the cities of Nakbé, The Mirador and Wakná. Another special characteristic of the buildings is the use of stuccoed mascarones and associate stelaes, as well as the use of big fortifications. Rich tombs of important characters exist with paintings murals and hieroglyphic inscriptions.

Silk Route (Also as Silk Road)

Silk Road on the territory of Kazakhstan is divided into several main sections (parts). Represented and marked by monuments of history and culture these sections (roads) are original and have distinct features distinguishing them one from each other. Most probably, it was the natural environment and adaptation of human to existence in definite climatic conditions that has shaped the originality of a definite section. It can be affirmed with full confidence that the Silk Road is a phenomenon of unification of diversity of regions with the help of universal system of exchange of human values which was created, developed and maintained by people of different ethnical, linguistic, religious beliefs during more than two thousand years of existence of the Silk Road.