By the Editors of the Madain Project

al-Bad'a (البدع), also spelled as al-Bed'a is a small town in the province of Tabuk in modern day Saudi Arabia. It is identified with the ancient land of biblical Midian also known as Madayan in Arabic. There are some nine major archaeological sites that date back to the most important historical periods and civilizations going back some five thousand years. The open air museum is spread across the Wadi Efal which runs through the oasis from north to the south.


The site is also called the Madain Shuaib (city or dwelling of Jethro), or Madayan (biblical Midian). This site is believed to be the site where prophet Moses (Musa in Islam) saught refuge when he fled from Egypt.

This area is known for Neolithic petroglyphs carved into the arid volcanic rock.

The Jabal al-Lawz, which is sometimes identified with the biblical Mount Sinai, is located in the north-east of the modern town of al-Bad'.

Though, an ancient oasis inhabited by human beings since prehistoric periods, there has been no direct archaeological discovery in terms of artefacts. However, a large number of such items were discovered in the nearby prehistoric sites of Jabal al-Jauz and Hisma. The nearest of these sites to al-Bad'a is Misr al-Kharaj, and Maqna. In these sites the stone tools lke splinter blades and arrowheads, dating back to the Neolithic period (circa 4500-9000 BCE), can be seen spread right on the earth's surface.

It was one of the most important cities in the north-west of the Arabian Peninsula during antiquity, more specifically during the Midianite and Edomite kingdoms that existed in the second millennium BCE. It was also a major township on the trading route linking the north west of the Arabia with the Levant, Egypt and Palestine during the Dadanite, Lihyanite and Nabataean kingdoms, which persisted in the al-'Ula region, its immediate surroundings and the north coast of Hijaz during the first century BCE. With the emergance ofIslam, te oasis became the meeting point of Hajj pilgrimage and a cross roads for trade routes leading from Egypt and Levant to the holy places in Hijaz and beyond.

Historically speaking, the site of al-Bad'a is the only place in the north-west of Arabai that has continuously maintained its name of Midian during antiquity, medieval/Islamic and modern periods. The same name of Midian has been mentioned on ancient maps, for instance the Ptolemy's map, written in the second century BCE, also mentions the city by its name.

The transition from oral to written tradition occured majorly during the early Islamic period. A number of scholars are known to have mentioned the ancient city of Midian in their writings, including al-Yaqubi in ninth century CE, al-Istakhri and al-Maqdisi in the tenth century CE and al-Idrisi in the thirteenth century CE.

Notable Structures

circa 100 CE

Caves of Shuaib
The Caves of Shuaib, located on the west bank of Wadi Efal, are a group of Nabataean (first century CE) tombs. Although the decorative carvings on the tomb facades are similar to the tombs of Madain Saleh (al-Hjr) and Petra, but these are not as grand or elaborate. Earliest mention of these

The facades of these tombs are adorned with architectural elements executed in a prominent sculpting, including; columns in Corinthian, Ionic and Nabataean styles, crowns, friezes and crow steps.

circa 100 CE

al-Suaidani Well
The al-Suaidani well is located on the eastern bank of the Wadi Efal, some two kilometers east of the al-Malhah and the Caves of prophet Shuaib. The water well is dug in the bed rock similar to the Nabataean wells pattern.

The ancient water well was the main source of water in al-Bad'a oasis, it seems that it has been rebuilt or restored during the Nabataean period, and it may date back to period before the Nabataeans. SUbsequently it was also repaired during the Islamic period as well.

The early Muslim geographers, who described the oasis of Midian, modern day al-Bad'a, in the early Islamic period, called which tradition continued. Considering that the oasis was called Midian during the period, it is possible this tradition originated from the oral tradition of the locals.

circa 100 CE

Mamluk and Subsequent Era Cisterns

See Also


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