Najran is located in the southwestern region of Saudi Arabia, close to Yemen. It is one of the most important archaeological locations of the kingdom, one whose history dates back to the 7th century BC.

Najran played a commercially significant role as it was at the crossroads of the old trade routes. The Frankincense Trade Route from Yemen crossed Al-Ukhdood (present-day Najran) en route to Makkah, Madinah and then on to Palestine, Syria, the Arabian Gulf, and ancient Iraq.

Being the most important trading city in Southern Arabia, the Najran region was most prosperous between the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. The wealth of the region was seen by the high quality construction of the main buildings. You can see the remains of dressed stone and ornate bronze drain spouts in some areas.

The significance of Najran declined when the Indian sea route was discovered. Around the same time there was a decline in demand for frankincense when Christianity became Roman Empire’s state religion in 395 AD.

Al Ukhdood Archeological Site

Al Ukhdood is considered as one of the most important archaeological sites in the Najran region. A castle built of stones and mud represents the main period of settlement in Al-Ukhdood, which may have continued till the end of the third century. The structure consists of more than 25 buildings. Al Ukhdood was surrounded by a wall, 220 x 230 meters, built of square stones with defensive balconies. There is also a cemetery south of the external wall.

Excavations of this site have uncovered glass, metals, pottery, and bronze artifacts. Rock carvings from those days and human bones can also be seen. The Al Ukhdood museum has in display a bronze lion head. One of the famous landmarks includes a 2-meter-high granite stone called Rass.

One of the most important events in history of old Najran is the famous Ukhdood (meaning trench or ditch) event that is mentioned in the Holy Quran. Najran city was known as Al Ukhdood as it was the site of massacre of Christians in 525 AD. Yemen’s Jewish King Dhu Nuwas captured Al Ukhdood centuries before Islam was born. When the town surrendered, the town’s citizens were given the option to convert from Christianity or die. They chose certain death over converting, and thousands were thrown into a burning ditch. The ditch is still visible, and archaeologists have found evidence of burning which supports the written accounts of the tragedy.