If you get the chance to visit Saudi Arabia, you need to visit the Mada’in Saleh tombs. The tombs are similar to the ones found in Petra, but unlike Petra, they currently don’t get a lot of visitors, which means there isn’t much security (actually no security that I could see). And at the moment, you are free to wander around inside and nothing is roped off.
That might change as the country prepares for tourism, but for now, it’s kind of cool.
The tombs are located about 22 kilometers from al-Ula and according to my guide there are 108 of them in total over a 14 kilometer area — although I also found reference to there being 111 tombs in the area so I’m not sure which number is correct. But both references agree that they were carved by the Nabataean people out of the Quweira sandstone.
At the time, they were built (between 1BCE and 74 CE), there was a nearby town called Hegra. There are only ruins left of Hegra which I thought was strange as the tombs are so intact. I was told the reason for the extravagant tombs and why they lasted and the village huts did not, is that the people in this area believed in a second life (or life after death) so they made the tombs so they would last forever.
Mada’in Saleh has been s a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008.