If you are anything like me, Saudi Arabian images rarely come within your eyesight. Yes, we’ve all seen the throngs of people at the Muslim shrines at Mecca and Medina, but that’s about it, apart from the odd camel race you may have seen in the news. I mean, honestly, what else have you seen of the Desert Kingdom?
Well, here is your chance to fill the gap. What follows is a set of astonishingly striking images taken in Saudi Arabia by John Stanmeyer for National Geographic Magazine. You will see, among other things, the entrance to a palatial tomb, hewn more than 2,000 years ago right into the sandstone, at least 50ft high, by the Nabataean people in Madain Saleh.
Oh, and it turns out that, at its peak, the pre-Islamic Nabataean empire, of which I’d never heard, included parts of Jordan, Israel, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. Many more empires and religions were destined to pass through the eternal sands of the Arabian Desert… Amazing! (Scroll down for the video.)
1. A man stands at the entrance of a palatial tomb, created more than 2,000 years ago by the Nabataean people in Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia.
2. A rusting locomotive lies on its side under the stars. Built by Ottoman Turks by order of the Sultan in 1900, it once transported pilgrims on the Hejaz Railway, which ran from Medina to Damascus.
3. For centuries, the Al Bad oasis, near the Gulf of Aqaba in Tabuk, nourished camel caravans and religious travelers — and according to folklore, Moses watered his sheep there.
4. In the small city of Duba, in Tabuk, water is a precious commodity. Above, a Bangladeshi attendant fills up jugs for drive-by customers. The water is trucked from wells up to 100 miles away and then purified.
5. Archaeologists have long marveled at the Nabataeans’ skill as architects, engineers, stonemasons and artists. Above, travelers rest, with some of the rock tombs in the background.
6. As an armed guard keeps watch, Governor Mosaad Al-Saleem (at far right) entertains guests during a regatta near the Red Sea port city of Yanbu al Bahr, much of it built in the 1970s.
7. For a young Saudi man with a degree but no job, the corniche in Al Wajh is a playground at dusk for pulling wheelies on his motorbike.
8. A Red Sea beach provides a soft, breezy spot for a family picnic in Jeddah.
9. There’s nothing worth retrieving in a field of dead date palms in Yanbu an Nakhl, where development in nearby coastal cities has sapped the water table.
10. In the crumbling old quarter of Jeddah, a Somali immigrant collects pieces of discarded bread and cans for recycling. The bread will be sold for animal feed.
11. Weekend nomads, SUV-driving camel owners from Yanbu al Bahr pray at a deluxe desert camp. The vanishing ways of Bedouin herders maintain a grip on nostalgic Saudi city dwellers.
12. At her Jeddah home, single mom Yasmin Gahtani dresses casually to help her boys with homework. In public, even in one of the most liberal Saudi cities, she wears an abaya, or robe.
And here is the video:
Source: National Geographic Magazine.
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