An American-Saudi Wife Shares her Visit to Najran, Saudi Arabia



Mary Ann McHenry is a dear friend of mine.  She is an American married to a Saudi and has resided in the Kingdom for more than 25 years.  She recently took her first trip to Najran and kindly shares her impressions and views.  I had written earlier about Najran, here, but have yet to make my own trip there.  Therefore I am pleased Mary Ann has been kind enough to share her firsthand view and experience:



Trip to Najran


We stayed in one of the local hotels and traveled by bus with a police escort.  Najran is located about a half hour north of Yemen by car or about 10 hours on foot…..and as the tour guide joked…30 days by camel.  He sang us “Oh Suzanna”  on the bus and also an old traditional love song about a man waiting for the next time he’d see his true love and how he was looking back as she left him….blah, blah, blah. 


On the first morning, our tour guide took us to  an old uninhabited villa.  The owner and his young daughter were there to show us around the house and explain all of the different rooms.  Apparently, the older adults were given the quarters higher up in the house as they aged.  As it is more difficult to walk as one gets older and manage steps, I found this information quite interesting.   The views from this particular home’s rooftop were fantastic …especially for picture taking. I never realized that Najran was such a  beautiful city.  


Traditional drummers were also there playing for us.  I have only seen them play a few times….and never this close up.  It was very exciting to feel such a part of  this thrilling cultural event.   We watched arabic coffee being made over a charcoal fire after the beans were crushed and mixed with water. 


From there, we went to the Emirate Palace Ruins.  The palace was much larger than I expected.  The huge outside gate had a very small door which could allow people to walk through while keeping the interior secure.  We saw many of the different rooms, including one for slaughtering sheep as well as other animals.  I never realized that the face of the animal needed to be facing toward Mecca while it was being killed for the food to be Halal.



The following day, we went to Najran Dam, which had no water in it, but was a fabulous site to see.  Along the way, we traveled through two fairly long tunnels.  It was thrilling to see different landscapes in the Kingdom for a change, from the very flat lands that we’re used to here in Jeddah. 


After leaving the dam, we stopped at a type of  date tree oasis which had beautiful tall trees reaching high in the sky.  There were also bats flying overhead to give some added entertainment to those of us trying to film them.



Then, we visited the Museum of Najran.  I was truly amazed that it had so many artifacts and so much information on the carvings on the stones and old pottery jars.   Before seeing the artifacts, we toured behind the museum and saw some of the carvings first hand.  We also walked through an area called ‘Okdood’  which is an ancient burial ground where many people in the area were put and burned.  While walking through the area, we noticed bits of bone and we were discussing that perhaps an area should be cleared for walking to give the dead more respect.


We also got a chance to visit King Fahd Park just to relax and enjoy the views of the trees. But, it’s dangerous to sit in the grass without a mat, as the grass is full of burs that stick to you.


It was a beautiful day, and we were happy when we saw the ice cream truck.  There were a few traditional Saudi families who were also picnicking and enjoying the weather.  They all waved farewell to us as we were leaving the park.



Later,  we visited the local market.  There, we found it  filled with lots of home-made traditional baskets, daggars, and miniature Najran homes to take with us.


It was really an amazing trip.  The local people were very, very charming and polite.  I never dreamed that traveling around the Kingdom here could be so interesting. 


I think that tourism in the Kingdom should be developed here more to help give everyone a better understanding of this part of the world, the culture and the religion.


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