The petroglyphs and inscriptions of Wadi Rum

August 21, 2019
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August 21, 2019 Beduin Guide

The petroglyphs and inscriptions of Wadi Rum

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The petroglyphs and inscriptions of Wadi Rum

Until now we wrote quite a lot about the stunning landscape of Wadi Rum desert. But this is not the only thing our desert is famous for. It is also famous for its unique collection of petroglyphs and inscriptions. Where ever you go, where ever you look, if you look closely you will find petroglyphs and inscriptions everywhere in our desert. In this blog we will tell you more about them.

Petroglyphs and inscriptions

Ever since prehistoric times many humans of different cultures inhabited Wadi Rum desert. Their petroglyphs and inscriptions can be found all around in our desert. Petroglyphs are images created by removing part of a rock surfaces by incising, pecking, carving and abrading with something like a stone chisel. Inscriptions are characters. These are created 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 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, Wadi Rum desert is a truly unique place on earth. This was one of the reasons for UNESCO to put our desert on the World Heritage List.

The petroglyphs are drawings of humans and animals. They show human figures holding bows and arrows. Other figures are the ones of animals like camel, ibex and horse. And alongside these figures are symbols like lines and circles. They are thought to be instructions and message left by the people for one another. They are believed to be about showing hidden springs. And about updating each other on things like who visited the area last. All together these engravings give an insight on the development of human thought. They show pattern of pastoral, agricultural and urban human activity. And they tell us more about the climatically change. From the mildly humid climate to the semi-arid climate we have today.

The numerous inscriptions found in Wadi Rum desert are made in four different North-Arabian scripts. Thamudic, Nabatean, Islamic an Arabic. They show the very early development of alphabetical writing among the societies in the peninsula. According to UNESCO Wadi Rum desert is ‘a critical site for the study and understanding of the evolution of aesthetics, writing and literacy’.

Inscriptions prove Wadi Rum to be 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 who lived in Wadi Rum desert from around 800 BC are said to be the ones annihilated by Allah. The engravings they left behind give an essential insight into their tribe’s history.

Petroglyphs and inscriptions during your Wadi Rum desert tour

All our tours are put together to show you our beautiful homeland. We not only admire the high cliffs, the extraordinary columns and niches, and shaped rocks and arches. We also enjoy the wide red and yellow desert valleys. And of course we pay a lot of attention to our cultural heritage. In place like Khazali canyon, Lawrence spring (Ain Abu Aineh), Ain Shalaaleh, Anfishiyyeh and Rakhabat canyon we show you the petroglyphs and inscriptions. Some of the engravings are in perfect condition. Others got badly damaged over time. But overall you can enjoy seeing a lot of them up close. Will you join us for a spectacular tour you will never forget?

See you in Wadi Rum desert.

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