AlUla has been capturing the imaginations of countless travelers and dreamers for centuries. The ancient desert city is now a barren landscape. But it’s also home to a myriad of historical sites.
It’s not surprising then that Saudi Arabia is set to host an archeology summit in AlUla in September. The World Archeology Summit is set for September 13 to 15. It will be held at AlUla’s Maraya under the auspices of the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU).
The summit is fitting considering the exploratory studies happening in this old city. One such study shows a captivating connection between the sky and AlUla. It displays an ancient link between the stars and civilization. What’s more, it’s still influencing this desert region now.
Ancient Connection with the Cosmos
One can find AlUla’s archeological sites northwest of Saudi Arabia. The area provides a unique glimpse of how critical astronomy was in its history. There are many stories shared by guides about this. But the long-gone civilizations in the region also provided evidence of this.
What it boils down to is the idea that the stars and the desert sky play a vital role in guiding travelers. The starry canopy also guided commercial caravans. It helped them navigate this vast expanse through the centuries.
Majed Al-Zahoufi is one person who embraced the desert’s connection with the sky. He’s passionate about astronomy and a dedicated guide. Al-Zahoufi’s enthusiasm for AlUla’s starry sky began 10 years ago. His interest developed through his personal observations and readings.
Al-Zahoufi said his research on AlUla and its connection to the sky is all based on reality. He also pointed out that his interest isn’t uncommon for people living in the area. Al-Zahoufi drew on his prodigious astronomy and Arabian history. Through this, he was able to point out one consistent and critical pattern. He noted that the civilizations that flourished in AlUla controlled trade routes. These civilizations included the Dadans, Lihyans, and Minaeans. The Nabataeans are also included in this group.
Al-Zahoufi said among these trade routes were those used for trading incense. Traders from Oman’s southern region traveled to the north of the Arabian Peninsula. The bustling crossroads of trade paved the way for diverse cultures to interact. These would include the Assyrians, Babylonians, and the Greeks.
These civilizations had several things in common. One, they were all in a good position to trade. This helped their ability to communicate with people from other cultures. Many of these cultures were also influenced by astronomy to a large degree. Some were even star worshippers.
History shows many cultures understand the connection between the Earth and the sky. Celestial bodies were always used for navigation. They’re also used to determine seasons and guide different cultural practices.
This profound connection is clear when you look at AlUla’s rich past.
Al-Zahoufi said he saw a close relationship between Nabataean artifacts and the sky. His personal observations have already been validated by many scientific studies. These showed how ancient Arab people believed in the constellations and their influence.
Secrets Revealed to the Modern World
The connection between the cosmos and civilizations has always drawn attention. of scholars and scientists. It has now attracted the interest of today’s experts. A group of archaeo-astronomy experts commenced a field study inside AlUla.
The group aims to discover why ancient civilizations chose specific locations in AlUla. They also want to decipher the inscriptions found on tombs. One of their goals is to decode the AlUla culture’s perception of the cosmos.
The archaeo-astronomy researchers plan to do this by probing architectural details. They also plan to analyze decorative patterns and calendar indications. They want to put together a detailed picture of how the sky influenced these cultures.
One astrophysicist already made some initial observations. Juan Antonio Belmonte said he found a close correlation between the sky and the Earth. An expert from Spain’s Institute of Astrophysics saw it in early data from Nabataean tombs. He said analytical studies in the coming months will further clarify this link. It will prove how intertwined Arabian civilization was with the universe.
One area that could shed more light on these mysteries is Gharameel. It’s regarded as one of AlUla’s treasured locations. It’s also an ideal oasis for stargazing. Its distance from the city and the bright lights means the stars become more visible.
Al-Zahoufi revealed that one can see as many as 6,000 twinkling stars in Gharameel. The awe-inducing sight can only manifest when there’s less light pollution.
Its importance and place in history means Gharameel needs special attention. The RCU is now working to lower light emissions coming from the city. It’s one way to protect this stargazing haven. Visitors are also encouraged to go on midnight excursions to Gharameel. They can lose themselves in constellations under AlUla’s untouched night sky.
The stars that blanket AlUla’s sky aren’t the only thing enchanting in the area. There are also many geological marvels to see. Geologist Abdullah Al-Shammari said there are rock formations unique to Gharameel. These rocks are reportedly made of sedimentary layers shaped by ancient rivers. He also emphasized how these geological features are also echoed around the world. He noted that you can also see them in the Ennedi Plateau in Chad. The desert of Saudi Arabian desert also has similar rocks.