Initially the site in al-Jawf was thought to be 2,000 years old. New research found life-size images of camel carved in red sandstone to date back 8,000 years. Increasingly focusing on tourism, Saudi Arabia plans to build a 50,000-square-metre resort in the al-Baha region. The goal is to reach 10 per cent of GDP.
Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Saudi Arabia plans to kick-start its tourist sector following the COVID-19 pandemic by literally digging into past.
New research found a series of life-size relief images of camels carved into red sandstone in al-Jawf province that older than the pyramids of Giza and the standing stones in Stonehenge.
The research notes that the carved animals found at the so-called Camel Site date back 7,000 to 8,000 years, rather than 2,000 as initially thought when they were first found in 2018.
With such a site, the Saudis will be able to showcase their country’s ancient artifacts and technological development as part Saudi Vision 2030, a plan by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil.
The latest findings, published in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports, are based on chemical analysis and an examination of tool marks found at the site.
“They are absolutely stunning and, bearing in mind we see them now in a heavily eroded state with many panels fallen, the original site must’ve been absolutely mind blowing,” said Maria Guagnin, an archaeologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
“There were life-sized camels and equids two or three layers on top of each other,” she added.
Ancient artists carved the images into three rocky spurs, noted Ewelina Lepionko for Albawaba. In addition to about a dozen camels, the artwork depicts two animals that may be donkeys, mules or horses.
Some of the camels depicted in the reliefs have bulging necklines and round bellies – typical features of the animals during mating season. This suggests that the site was tied to fertility or a specific time of year.
“Communities of hunters and herders tend to be very dispersed and mobile, and it’s important for them to meet at regular times during the year, to exchange information, spouses and so on,” Guagnin explained.
“So whatever the symbolism of the sculptures, this may have been a place to bring the whole community together.”
Meanwhile, the Saudi Tourism Development Fund (TDF) recently signed an agreement with the Seera Group to develop a tourist site in the al-Baha region, one of the country’s most popular destinations, expanding the offer in tourism.
The plan involves area of 50,000 square metres, with a luxury hotel with 200 guest rooms and family houses, plus restaurants, shops and facilities for outdoor activities.
In the past, the Saudi kingdom was exclusively a destination for Muslim religious pilgrimage, but since 2019 the government, prodded by the crown prince, has adopted a vision of innovation and development focused on 2030.
This also involves the construction of a futuristic city (Neom) on the Red Sea, a project worth half a billion dollars, which will include a nature reserve, coral reefs and archaeological sites, plus mega-facilities for sports and entertainment.
The goal is to create a million jobs in the tourist sector and have the latter cover 10 per cent of the GDP, well above the current level of 3 per cent.