What is Qasr al-Farid, and Why Was it Abandoned?

In the middle of the vast desert landscape of northeastern Saudi Arabia, you’ll find a rock standing tall, but once you look around, you’ll see a tomb carved on that very same rock. Also known as the “lonely castle,” Qasr Al-Farid is one of the well-known monuments of the Madain Saleh archeological site. Archeologists, hoping to uncover the mystery around the place, studies the ancient structures carved on these huge rocks. The connection between other tombs and how it was carved will serve as key points to discover and piece the puzzle together one of the strangest things on earth.

The Ancient City: Madain Saleh

Hegra, or also known as Madain Saleh, was once an international trade hub. Primarily, Nabataeans ruled over the area, allowing them to control the trades around the whole Arabian Peninsula. This upper hand helps the Nabataeans to grow as a civilization for many years. With the wealth they were clearly getting from the trades, they became well-known and influential, thus increasing their kingdom further. However, since their downfall, it was remained untouched for almost 2000 years; fortunately, Arabians opened Madain Saleh’s doors for the first time to the public, allowing us to see and discover this majestic ancient city. With the hopes of ultimately preserving the ancient city, UNESCO tagged the area as one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The Lonely Castle

The Lonely Castle was estimated to be around the 1st Century; it’s clear that the carved castle was never finished. Though being named a castle, it’s a tomb that ancient civilization of Nabateans. The Nabateans were known for their unique construction technique of carving their fully furnished tombs straight on the rock. Though other carved tombs around Madain Saleh are seen, the Lonely Castle stood out due to its positioning. Tombs like this were a symbol of wealth and social status back then; that is also why there are at least over 100 carved tombs scattered around the Madain Saleh. One other note about the Qasr al-Farid is the number of pillars it has. Typically, tombs around Madain Saleh only have at least two pillars, but for Qasr al-Farid, Nabateans built it with four pillars. This point is one great indication that the owner must’ve been highly wealthy amongst the others. Evidence also shows how Nabataeans built the Qasir al-Farid; based on how it was left; it was carved from top to bottom since the bottom part is still rough and looks jagged. There is also no evidence that the Lonely Castle had a tomb inside since it’s been left unfinished and untouched for a little less than 2000 years. That’s why it’s shrouded with mystery why Nabateans weren’t able to finish the said tomb.

A Place Where Time Stood Still

For a little less than 2000 years, the Qasr al-Farid stood the test of time, literally and figuratively. The façade remained clean and somehow well preserved, despite meeting with many calamities throughout its lifetime. That’s why the researchers were in awe just by seeing and discovering how time and environment went kind to the isolated tomb. The discovery, however, opened new doors filled with mysteries. Researchers are still baffled by this specific tomb in the middle of the desert, where time simply stood still for a very long time. Nabateans were a thriving civilization throughout their lifetime; that’s why they created the magnificent city of Petra in Jordan from dust. Plus, they could develop agriculture, politics, art, and engineering, allowing them to grow more as a civilization.

Preserving an Ancient City: the Connection to the Past

While this ancient city has opened its doors to the public, we still need to do our part to preserve these archeological structures fully. With hopes of discovering what hides behind the Lonely Castle, it must be left appropriately maintained. The discovery will serve as our link to the past; that’s why we need to dig deeper into what lies on the unfinished tomb of Madain Saleh. But until then, it will remain shrouded in mystery, allowing us to mesmerize and stand in complete awe with the majestic structures carved on the rocks of Madain Saleh – mainly living its name, “The Lonely Castle.”