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Al-Faw Pre-Islamic City in Central Arabia (Qariah)

Date of Submission: 08/04/2015
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(vi)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Riyadh Region, Wadi Addawasir Province
Coordinates: N 2187375.97 E 515511.15
Ref.: 6029
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


Latitude and Longitude, or UTM coordinates:





The Residential Area


38 Q

515511.15 m E

2187375.97 m N

The Market (Souq)

515789.56 m E

2187557.44 m N

Royal Tombs

515302.84 m E

2187604.81 m N


Al-Faw or "Qarriyah" is located on the outskirts of the Empty Quarter, 700 kilometres south-west of Riyadh; it was named Al-Faw relative to the intersection point of Wadi Addawasir with Tuwaiq Mountains at the mouth of channel stream called Al-Faw.

"Qarriyat Al-Faw originated as a result of its strategic location on the ancient trade route heading south of the Arabian Peninsula to its north towards the Arabian Gulf and north-west of the Peninsula and from there to Mesopotamia and the Levant, which gained its economic, religious, politic, and a cultural importance in the center of the Arabian Peninsula, to become the capital of the Kingdom of Kinda. Archaeological excavations done in "Qarriyat Al-Faw uncovered an integrated city organized and facilitated architecturally and services as well as other movable artifacts that reflected the extent to what the city reached in economic, political and social status The general layout of the city reflected by is division into three main areas: the residential area, the commercial area (Souq) and the funeral area. This as well as the inscriptions, writings and drawings that are spread 0n the site, that uncovered large number of finds, which reflected the progress made in the city and its role played during that period, in the  developing  wood and metal industries, textiles, coin minting, jewelry, pottery and stone utensils.

Geographic Frame of Al-Faw

The village of Al-Faw is situated to the south-west about 700 kilometers from Riyadh, and to the south- west of the town of Al-Sullayl at about 100 and 150 kilometers to the south-east of Al-Khamaseen capital of Wadi Addawasir Province, and 280 kilometers to the northeast of Najran, in the area where the Wadi Addawasir overlap and intersects with Tuwaiq Mountains at the mouth of stream channel called Faw, and from there came the new attribute to Faw definition and its distinctive from the rest of the neighbouring villages. And "Qarriya" supervised on the northwestern edge of the Empty Quarter (Al- Ansari, Abdul Rahman Tayeb. Al-Faw and the image of Arab civilization before Islam. p. 16).

Thus it is located on the trade route linking the southern Arabian Peninsula, to its east and north, where the journey starts from the Southern kingdoms of (Sheba, Maen, Qataban, Osan, Hadramout) toward Najran and then into “Qarriyat to Al-Aflaj, Al-Yamamah and then heads east to the Arabian Gulf, and north to Mesopotamia and the Levant through Udaiya station within the current political boundaries of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is   very famous in ancient history   as a center of culture and economic significance in central Arabia, despite what is believed that the climate in that part of the world was moderate and helped to accomplish the development of a major civilization that played an important role, even when it is  believed to be an old pagan pilgrimage road,  and a place of pilgrimage. Thus historians and researchers called it “Qarriyat al Kahl” for being mentioned in an inscription that name.  This is further proved by the evidence of Al-Faw’s political, cultural, economic and religious role. It is what is known as (Qarriya) to the Arab Muslim geographers, and perhaps the lack of information about it goes back to the end of its role as a trading centre or civic habitation since the advent of Islam, as no evidence was found for indwelling of Muslims there, therefore, it did not draw the attention of Muslim writers.

In brief, we cannot overlook the role of the early Muslims especially the geographers, such as: Al- Hamdani, Al-Asfahani, and Al-Asma'i who were involved in the documentation and analysis of physical evidence of settlements in the same era and beyond.

In addition to the recent geographers and historians such as Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah A Belehid, Sheikh Abdul-Quddus Al-Ansari, Sheikh Hamad Al-Jasser, who deeply involved in dealing the early history and study of different parts of the Arabian Peninsula did not talked about Qarriyah in detail.

The Historic Frame of Al-Faw: It is known that any nation’s civilization is measured by several important aspects of  religious belief, political method in dealing with the friendly neighbours or remote rivals, which may result in their own cultural concepts, and the reason for this is due to the nation and overlay of people in culture and influence between different ideologies governed by customs and traditions and religious ideas based on the worship of idols, or the sun and the moon (so-called Astrolatry) and other types of worship. Perhaps the famous Kingdom of Kinda developed Al-Faw a commercial centre, a political and civic centre in the heart of the Arabian Peninsula, being the first of that characterized as such. What emphasized research and excavations results is the succession of settlement, which began in the mid-first millennium BC, and lasted until before the Islamic era, the results indicated also the cultural ties with Hellenistic, Parthian and the Sassanids; in addition to the civilizations of southern Arabia (Annu’aim, Nora Abdullah. The Economic situation in the Arabian Peninsula in the third century BC to the third century AD, p. 55 has been highlighted in detail. Perhaps the influence of Kinda included also contacts with known trading cities such as Najran and (Jurash, which also developed at that time to represent a direct communication link between southern Arabia and the rest of its parts. However, the quality of civilization, cultural, intellectual and its ideological legacy is of the most important base features to produce a clear picture of the civilization, obviously the political, economicor religious nature, and may be the religious in nature is the most important aspect in the formation of a clear and distinct image of any civilization anywhere in the world. And not forgetting that civilization does not born momentarily, but is the product of many years of effort, innovation and development of mixed variables that occur on the civilization itself orneighbouring civilizations.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Trade Relations in the Pre-Islamic Arabia was one of the most important and most ancient forms of relation building between civilization centres of the world. Travelling in Trade Caravans is a spiritual and psychological journey, where feelings are mixed between joy and sadness, 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 Trade Roads crossed the Arabian Desert in long caravans that followed traditional paths and routes to reach the civic centres of the ancient world. Al-Faw Oversees north-western edge of the Empty Quarter is so located on the trade route that connects the southern Arabia, to its east and north, where the convoys start from the Kingdom of Sheba Maean, Qataban, Hadramout and Himiar towards Najran and from there to Al-Faw and from there to Al- Aflaj (Centeral Arabia) Al-Yamama then heads east to the Gulf and north to Mesopotamia and the Levant. Al-Faw form a part of the ancient civilization of Kindah through their dwellings, markets, shops, clothes, food, utensils, ornaments and system of security and defense with fortresses, towers that preserved their culture, economic and social activities in addition to ancient temples, which date back to 300 years BC or more .

Criterion (ii): For several centuries the Al-Faw served as a centre of economic and cultural interchange between South and East Arabia, and this is vividly demonstrated by the surviving remains.

Criterion (iii): The culture of the Al-Faw and Kinda evolved and flourished in a special political and economic environment, which gave its culture a unique quality.

Criterion (vi): The sites of Al-Faw village constitute an exceptional example of an indigenous form of nature and worship in the pre-Islamic and Al-Jahiliyah periods.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: In Al-Faw there are numerous houses, palaces, and shops and related assets in which four sites in Al-Faw complex are located, three related monuments, and one cultural landscape are included as component parts of the property. Each of the individual component parts of the property is an outstanding representative of the religious and secular beliefs and activities unique to the Arabian traditional culture. Moreover, they are self-contained with their own boundaries and buffer zone. They embody not only in the geographical and historical characteristics but also the political, economic, and cultural uniqueness of the kingdom of Kinda firmly maintained the absolute top-quality and integrity of the property. 

Authenticity: The entire archaeological site of Al-Faw suffered considerable damage due to its fragile nature and archaeological excavations taken place on many of the component parts. The authenticity of the form/design and materials/substance of each part of Al-Faw remains at a very high level, as the site have been fenced and protected under strict rules for more than 30 years. Authenticity of location/setting has been maintained in that none of the component parts of the property has been moved from its original location, and traces of buildings discovered through archaeological excavations have been preserved underground.

Comparison with other similar properties

Gusuku Sites and Related Properties of the Kingdom of Ryukyu

Five hundred years of Ryukyuan history (12th-17th century) are represented by this group of sites and monuments. The ruins of the castles, on imposing elevated sites, are evidence for the social structure over much of that period, while the sacred sites provide mute testimony to the rare survival of an ancient form of religion into the modern age. The wide- ranging economic and cultural contacts of the Ryukyu Islands over that period gave rise to a unique culture.

Ruins of Kilwa Kisiwani and Ruins of Songo Mnara

The remains of two great East African ports admired by early European explorers are situated on two small islands near the coast. From the 13th  to the 16th  century, the merchants of Kilwa dealt in gold, silver, pearls, perfumes, Arabian crockery, Persian earthenware and Chinese porcelain; much of the trade in the Indian Ocean thus passed through their hands.

Cilento and Vallo di Diano National Park with the Archaeological Sites of Paestum and Velia, and the Certosa di Padula

The Cilento is an outstanding cultural landscape. The dramatic groups of sanctuaries and settlements along its three east–west mountain ridges vividly portray the area's historical evolution: it was a major route not only for trade, but also for cultural and political interaction during the prehistoric and medieval periods. The Cilento was also the boundary between the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia and the indigenous Etruscan and Lucanian peoples. The remains of two major cities from classical times, Paestum and Velia, are found there.