Sadd al-Khanaq (Sadd Mu'awaiyah)

By the Editors of the Madain Project

Sadd al-Khanaq (سد الخانق) or Sadd Muʿāwiyah (سد المعاوية) is an early Umayyad dam situated about 15 kilometers east of Medina. The dam was built in a very narrow gorge or passage in Wādī al-Khanaq. The wadi runs from the south-east of Medina to the north-west where its water floods into a natural basin caused by the lava flows and earthquakes that hit the region of Medina and Hijaz in successive years (654/1256, 690/1291, 727/1326 and 734/1333).


The wall of the main dam (illustration) rises from the level of the wadi bed to the highest spot on both shoulders of the rising mountain. Two sections of the main dam remain intact while its central bulk has been badly damaged, perhaps because of the pressure of the water against the wall of the dam and also as a result of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


circa 622 CE

At the narrowest part of the wadi a massive dam was erected, forming a large lake. This main dam was built to block the course of the wadi flooding through the gorge. A second dam (inspect) appears to act as a support to catch the surplus water running through a small branch of the wadi. The second dam is located west of the main dam behind a high mountain. Its central section is also damaged, leaving two remaining segments showing the original construction.

circa 622 CE

Arabic Inscription
An inscribed stone fixed on the highest spot of the wall of the main dam, was also discovered during the excavations. The stone contains very valuable information regarding the date of the building of the dam by the Umayyad caliph Muʿāwiyah bin Abi Sufyan (41 Hijri/661-60/679 CE). The registration of the dam and the recovery of the inscription provide us with valuable knowledge of an early masterpiece of water engineering, which will lead to the study of several existing dams in the Hijaz province.

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