Nestled under the limestone cliffs of the Jebel Tuwaiq Escarpment on the western fringe of the Empty Quarter, Al-Faw was once a great trading centre, as well as a staging post for camel caravans crossing the desert between Yemen and the Gulf.
Al-Faw was at the height of its prosperity from late in the 2nd century BC until early in the 1st century AD. It was evidently a large city (1.5km by 1.7km) surrounded by 20m-high walls, beyond which lay fields of irrigated wheat. The city appears to have had a fortified two-storey souq, a palace, temple, domestic houses and a number of tombs.
The outlines (in the form of beautifully hewn stones) of many of these buildings are still evident in the remarkably atmospheric and extensive ruins. Within some of the tombs are some startlingly beautiful and well-preserved inscriptions, though you’ll need a guide to find them.
A permit is required to visit the site. There are no official opening hours, but a guardian and his family live there. Photography is not allowed.
Though the site has been closed for the time being, Professor Ansary, the distinguished Saudi archaeologist who spent 25 seasons at the site, is currently finishing four volumes about it, which should be published in the near future.