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Dûmat Al-Jandal Historical Oasis in Al-Jawf Region

Date of Submission: 08/04/2015
Criteria: (ii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Al-Jawf Region, Dûmat Al-Jandal Province
Coordinates: N 3298292.62 E 583797.13
Ref.: 6034
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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:





Al-Der’ Quarter

37 R

583797.13 m E

3298292.62 m N

Omar Mosque

37 R

583835.40 m E

3298260.70 m N

Marid Fort

37 R

583816.68 m E

3298196.75 m N

The Old Wall

37 R

582270.00 m E

3298752.00 m N


Al-Der’ district is located in the traditional town centre of Dûmat Al-Jandal, along with Qasr Mâridcastle and Omar Mosque, the most important district of Dûmat Al-Jandal, the largest area and eldest in history. Al-Der’ district is a unique architectural planning model, and one of the most important cultural centers in the Arabian Peninsula since pre-Islamic era, it is Dûmat Al-Jandal, which played a major cultural role on the political and economic level since pre-Islamic times and during the Islamic eras, Al-Der’district in its current plotting pattern reflects the Arabic Islamic city in terms of the unique urban fabric. Al-Der’ district illustrate an important example that shows the civilization succession in Dûmat Al-Jandal, as archaeological excavations and studies carried out at the site revealed the civilization progression during the Nabataean period (1st century BC and the 4th century AD), from the architectural remains, water installations, writings and movable objects from pottery, coins and others.

Domat Al-Jandal: Geographical context

Dûmat al-Jandal is located in Al-Jawf region near the southern end of Wâdî Al-Sirhân (52 km) from the city of Sakaka.In view of its location on the borders of the Wâdî Al-Sirhân linking southern Syria to the desert Arabia, the oasis of Dûmat al-Jandal constitutes one of the few points of settlement on the east- west traverse of the Arab peninsula. Situated at the intersection of caravan trails linking Mesopotamia, the Arabian Gulf and desert Arabia, the geographical isolation of the region of Dûma actually favored its development and fame in the Pre-Islamic era. The archeological site in Dûmat al-Jandal is one of the most important archaeological sites in the Kingdom, and near it there are numerous rock art inscriptions and drawings. In the 13th century the Arab geographer Yâqût stated that Dûmat Al-Jandal measured 5 farâsikh, and that “from the west the Tatij spring irrigates what there is in the way of palm groves and crops”. Today the oasis takes the form of a vast shallow depression about 8 km in length and 3.5 km across. An artificial lake about 2.90 km in length, created in the early 1980s east of the valley, now serves as a reservoir for the crops. A vast, highly saline plain, certainly the bed of an ancient lake, stretches away beyond the artificial lake in the east of the valley bottom.

The caravan trails:

The location of the main caravan trails and gates giving access to the oasis in ancient times may be surmised by combining the accounts left by Western explorers in the 19th and 20th centuries, prior to the layout of the modern road network. These trails were documented by Shakespear, Wallin,Musil, Blunt,Huber,Wallin and Guarmani.These routes fed into the better known trail to Damascus along Wâdî Al-Sirhân. The main stations with water as mentioned by Wallin: Nabk, Mureira, Ghurab, Kurikir, Albazim, Azrak, Bisrd, Hureira, Ruzdaly on the pilgrim road, Al’awig, finally Damascus. Towords the south the  trail  was  also  well  known  between  Dûma  and  Hâ’il,  cutting  across  Nafûd  as  mentioned  by Shakespear, Wallin and Huber. From Hâ’il it was then possible to plunge down into the heart of Arabia in the direction of al-Yamâma or else make for the Arab-Persian coast and Al-Gerrha. Towards east and north,It seems that the most favored route to the Arabian Gulf involved a large detour through the north of the peninsula, through Sakâkâ then ‘Ar’ar to the north-east from Bi’r Jâwâ, passing through little irrigation channels. The walls along these channels formed a network of unpaved alleyways.

Historic Background:

Dûmat al-Jandal was of the most important commercial centers in the north of the Arabian Peninsula since ancient times, and important station on the trade routes.Dûmat al-Jandal was known as “Adummatu” in Assyrian sources (eighth century BC), and was described as a stronghold of Arabs, and was the capital of a number of Arab Queens in that period, such as: Zabiba, Shams, and Telkhu which was allied with the tribe of Qedar.Dûmat al-Jandal was one of the Arab markets before Islam. In the early days of Islam Prophet Mohammad r invaded Dûmat al-Jandal in the 5th year AH/626 AD, in addition he sent Abdul Rahman bin Auf in 6 AH/627 AD to subdue the tribes living to the south-west of Dûmat al-Jandal, including the tribe of Kalb. The Prophetrlater sent the Khalid ibn Al-Walid in 9 AH/630 AD to Dûmat al-Jandal, as Khalid succeeded in imprisoning its ruler Al-Ukaider and brought him to Medina where he was assuredby Prophet Mohammad r and provided him refuge and later released him to return to Dûmat al-Jandal.

Al-Der’ district in Dûmat Al-Jandal:

In the middle of the 19th century, G.A. Wallin no longer speaks of Dûmat al-Jandal as separate villages but of twelve contiguous quarters. Alder’ or Souk Ibn al-Der’ was the oldest, around the mosque of Umar. Al-Der’ quarter is located next to the Omar Mosque and Qasr Mârid Castle as the oldest quarters in Dûmat Al-Jandal.Al-Der’ quarter is considered one of the remaining districts of the ancient city of Dûmat Al-Jandal that survived demolition, which affected the historical Souk Ibn al-Der’ market about 25 years ago.It is noteworthy that the quarter structures belong to the Mid Islamic era, but founded on archaeological layers and foundations dating back to the middle of the first millennium BC. The quarter is distinguished with its stone arches and stone buildings and narrow alleys and its location among orchards and water canals, which provided life for the residents of the quarter from the nearby springs.It is worth mentioning that the quarter was established on the ruins of an earlier district, this is evident by the multiple layers as well as the emergence of the district’s old roads under the existing buildings.

Archaeological and Cultural importance of Al-Der’ Quarter:

Al-Der’ quarter is located within the modern urban boundary of the city of Dûmat al-Jandal. It is dominated by the famous Omar Mosque from the north-eastern side, and overlooked by Qasr Mârid castle from the east.Al-Der’ qarter is one of the oldest districts of Dûmat al-Jandal and is the most important archaeological site in Dûmat al-Jandal province and Al-Jawf region in general.Stones from the remnants of the archaeological site were used to build the residential dwellings.Dûmat al-Jandal is surrounds by an Old archeological Wall from two sides.

Al-Der’ Quarter Components:

The Quarter consists of a set of stone houses linked by narrow corridors (allies). Evidence show that the quarter was built on one side of Adummatu archaeological site, and the houses in Al-Der’ quarter dates back to the Mid Islamic era.The dwellings are established on older building foundations, some of which dates back to the first century BC.The quarter covers an area of about 30,000 sqm. Its dimensions are (200 m × 150 m).Al-Der’ quarter consists of a group of houses (Door) with more than 40 dwellings with different sizes, as theyaredividedinto a group of residential clusters.

The Surrounding Environment:

Al-Der’ quarter is surrounded on its the northern and eastern sides with date palm plantations and the quarter represents the remaining part of the residential districts of the 7 quarters of the Islamic Dûmat Al-Jandal mentioned by G. A. Wallin, later known under the name of Al-Der’ quarter.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Dûmat Al-Jandal in Al-Jawf developed mainly in the Ashur period, and inhabited during the Islamic periods was organized in a homogenous way, preserving heritage elements and traditions that characterize it. The preservation of the traditional techniques of The Al-Der’ quarters in Al-Jaf, the local use of materials and forms, as well as the historic architecture, village structure have been maintained. The palm plantations, orchards and gardens have been preserved; the ecological balance has been maintained even in the desert and historic environment, taking special care to respect historical authenticity. Thus, The Dûmat Al-Jandal in Al-Jawf is not a museum village devoid of any traditional activity, but a living community whose conservation includes farming.

Criterion (ii): In its layout and architecture the Traditional quarter of Al-Der’ is an outstanding example of anEarly Islamic town admirably adapted to the climatic, geographical and cultural constraints of Arabia. This is demonstrated by the urban plan adapted to the topography, the architectural features and layouts, materials and building techniques.

Criterion (iv): The Traditional quarter of Al-Der’ represents the evolution of a form of urban structure and architecture characteristic of the Islamic settlements of Arabia, making full use of local materials and techniques, and conserving its exceptional setting. It is the one of the two last remaining example of the Islamic town planning in Saudi Arabia, as it was practiced till the early20th century. The Traditional quarter of Al- Der’is characterized by the harmony of its architecture, due to the proportions and types of buildings.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: The Traditional quarter of Al-Der’ went through a long period of activity in the mid-20th century until recent times. Its townscape was preserved and subject to any major changes. Otherwise, it is a good example of the appearance of the Pre-Islamic and Islamic commercial town, including its natural environment, which has remained intact.

Authenticity: Dûmat Al-Jandal and the Traditional quarter of Al-Der’ and its hinterland bear a rich cultural tradition that includes not only architecture and construction techniques but also folklore, poetry, gastronomy, and popular events. Many of these traditions continue and form a substantial part of the cultural identity of Dûmat Al-Jandal. The Traditional quarter of Al-Der’ has an important meaning for the local community, not only on account of its urban and architectural values but also for its rich social and cultural life. The relatively modest development of tourism reinforces the genuineness and authenticity of these cultural manifestations. For that reason, the Traditional quarter of Al-Der’is considered to have well preserved its historic authenticity.

Comparison with other similar properties

Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso:

The  colonial  city  of  Valparaíso  presents  an  excellent  example  of  late  19th-century  urban  and architectural development in Latin America. In its natural amphitheatre-like setting, the city is characterized by a vernacular urban fabric adapted to the hillsides that are dotted with a great variety of church spires. It contrasts with the geometrical layout utilized in the plain. The city has well preserved its interesting early industrial infrastructures, such as the numerous ‘elevators’ on the steep hillsides.

Historic Centre of the Town of Goiás:

Goiás testifies to the occupation and colonization of the lands of central Brazil in the 18th and 19th centuries. The urban layout is an example of the organic development of a mining town, adapted to the conditions of the site. Although modest, both public and private architecture form a harmonious whole, thanks to the coherent use of local materials and vernacular techniques.

Historic Centre of the Town of Diamantina:

Diamantina, a colonial village set like a jewel in a necklace of inhospitable rocky mountains, recalls the exploits of diamond prospectors in the 18th century and testifies to the triumph of human cultural and artistic endeavour over the environment.

Historic City of Trogir:

Trogir is a remarkable example of urban continuity. The orthogonal street plan of this island settlement dates back to the Hellenistic period and it was embellished by successive rulers with many fine public and domestic buildings and fortifications. Its beautiful Romanesque churches are complemented by the outstanding Renaissance and Baroque buildings from the Venetian period.

Historic Centre (Old Town) of Tallinn:

The origins of Tallinn date back to the 13th century, when a castle was built there by the crusading knights of the Teutonic Order. It developed as a major centre of the Hanseatic League, and its wealth is demonstrated by the opulence of the public buildings (the churches in particular) and the domestic architecture of the merchants' houses, which have survived to a remarkable degree despite the ravages of fire and war in the intervening centuries.