Al-Ula – A massive archaeological survey has been launched in Al-Ula county, in north west Saudi Arabia, as the Kingdom prepares to develop the area and open up to mainstream tourism. Covering nearly 9000 square miles (22,500 sq km), Al-Ula county has a dramatic desert landscape.
Al-Ula valley – Much of the survey is concentrated in Al-Ula valley, a historical oasis where date palms flourish.
Ancient Dedan – These tombs are carved into cliffs near Dedan -- the first major city built in Al-Ula valley. Now called Al-Khuraybah, Dedan prospered thanks to passing trade in valuable commodities including frankincense, myrrh and precious stones. It had its heyday around 500 BC.
Lion tombs – The lion carvings above these tombs near ancient Dedan indicate that high status people were buried here.
Mada'in Salih – The Nabataeans established their major southern city just north of Al-Ula valley. They carved spectacular tombs into rocky outcrops at Mada'in Salih, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Al-Ula Old Town – Occupied from at least the twelfth century right up until the 1980s, Al-Ula Old Town contained around 900 houses and 400 shops made of stone and mudbrick.
Al-Ula Old Town – The labyrinthine streets were protected by a defensive wall.
Rock formations – Carved by the elements, some of Al-Ula's rocks have taken on surprisingly sculptural -- and human-like -- forms.
Elephant rock – Known locally as Jabal Al-Fil, Al-Ula's iconic elephant rock looks just like ... an elephant.
Cairn – The most common man-made structures are cairns -- piles of stones arranged on top of a grave, often surrounded by a circular wall. "When I first saw them from the air, I thought they must be only hundreds years old because they were so well preserved," says archaeologist David Kennedy. "But when we landed, we realized they were built thousands of years ago. They were built with such care that they are still intact."
Cairn – The cairns in Al-Ula's hinterland measure up to 65 feet (20 meters) in diameter.
Cairn and triangle – Some of the cairns have one or more associated triangular structures which point towards the grave.