Petroglyphs and inscriptions
Since prehistoric times, humans of different cultures have inhabited the Wadi Rum desert. And they left something behind for us. You can find their petroglyphs and inscriptions all around in our desert. Petroglyphs are images created by removing part of a rock’s surface by incising, pecking, carving, and abrading with something like a stone chisel. Inscriptions are characters. They made these in the same way as petroglyphs. Most petroglyphs and inscriptions in our desert were made on cliff faces, big rocks, and boulders.
Wadi Rum desert is a big, open-air library
The petroglyphs and inscriptions illustrate the 12.000 years of human occupation in the Wadi Rum desert. They tell us stories about the history and evolution of human activity in the Arabian Peninsula. With 25,000 petroglyphs and 20,000 inscriptions, mostly Thamudic, the Wadi Rum desert is a truly unique place on earth. It was one of the reasons for UNESCO to put our desert on the World Heritage List.
The petroglyphs are drawings of humans and animals. The illustrations of people show human figures holding bows and arrows. There also are drawing of animals like camels, ibex, and horses. And alongside all these figures are symbols like lines and circles. Experts concluded that they are instructions and messages left by the people for one another. Some of them are about giving directions to find hidden springs. And others are about updating each other on things like who visited the area last. Altogether, these engravings provide an insight into the development of human thought. They show a pattern of pastoral, agricultural, and urban human activity. And they tell us more about the climatic change. From the mildly humid climate to the semi-arid environment we have today.
The numerous inscriptions found in Wadi Rum are in four different North-Arabian scripts. Thamudic, Nabatean, Islamic, and Arabic. They show the very early development of alphabetical writing among the societies in the peninsula. According to UNESCO, Wadi Rum is ‘a critical site for the study and understanding of the evolution of aesthetics, writing, and literacy’.
Inscriptions prove: Wadi Rum is mentioned in the Quran
Quran 89: 7-8: ‘7 Iram – who had lofty pillars. 8 The likes of whom had never been created in the land?’. Thanks to numerous inscriptions in various alphabets, desert scholars were able to identify Wadi Rum with ancient Iram. The Quran tells about Iram being buried under the sands of the desert. As an example of divine punishment over people who refused to worship Allah.
The Thamud people, who lived in Wadi Rum from around 800 BC, are said to be annihilated by Allah. The engravings they left behind give an essential insight into their tribe’s history.
Seeing petroglyphs and inscriptions during your visit
When putting together the trip plans for our tours, we had in mind to show you the variety of our beautiful homeland. So, we not only admire the high cliffs, the extraordinary columns and niches, and shaped rocks and arches. We also enjoy the vast red and yellow desert valleys. And of course, we pay a lot of attention to our cultural heritage. In places like Khazali canyon, Lawrence spring (Ain Abu Aineh), and Anfishiyyeh, we show you the petroglyphs and inscriptions. Some of the engravings are in perfect condition. Others got severely damaged over time. But overall you can enjoy seeing a lot of them up close. Will you join us for a spectacular tour to create desert memories for life?