Saudi developing antiquities sites to woo global tourists

 Tuesday, February 5, 2019 


Saudi Arabia has begun to woo tourists with its famous antiquities sites, which are ‘supposedly’ haunted by djinns (spirits) ! In an isolated region of Al Ula (a Saudi city) lie remnants of a bygone civilisation and the Saudi government is now working on turning the city into an international tourism destination. The plan is to encourage more non-Muslim tourists to visit the country and preserve pre-Islamic heritage sites along with strengthening the identity of the nation.

Billions of dollars have been poured into restoring the site (in a French cultural partnership) and the authorities now expect it to attract travellers from across the globe. While there is no doubt that the gigantic rocks tombs of Madain Saleh look magnificent, locals also believe that the entire region is haunted by djinns and is unsafe.

Another prominent tourist site here is the 2,000-year-old city of Madain Saleh, also a UNESCO World Heritage site that was carved into desert rocks by the Nabateans. They were the pre-Islamic Arab people, who were also behind the building of Petra in Jordan.

The common superstition here is that the place is jinxed. The story goes back to a hadith (a collection of traditions containing Prophet Muhammad sayings) that says Prophet Muhammad once warned Muslims not to enter the site “unless you are crying … lest you suffer the affliction”.

However, people in the region ignored the passage and constructed a school here but it was soon shut down after a student claimed to see a djinn in the region.

Incidentally, locals do not speak about any djinn or such jinx. They are tight-lipped when it comes to such stories as it might hamper tourism in the region. Surprisingly, they are now happy and planning to open restaurants, shops and hotels for the convenience of tourists.

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