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      Najd, the Heart of Arabia



            Throughout history and up until the middle of the twentieth century, available information about Najd, the vast central region of the present-day Saudi Arabia, had generally been scarce, especially in languages other than Arabic. Najd of the past had a unique and distinctive culture that deserves to be known in the West. This article aims at briefly examining available information concerning Najd from antiquity up until the middle of the twentieth century, showing that more than one factor participated in the shortage of information concerning Najd of the past and its culture. The objective of this article is to define the physical features of Najd in order to show how these features had participated in its external isolation and eventually the lack of information encompassing the unique culture of Najd of the past. A brief review of the history of Najd provides the necessary information on how Najd had suffered from neglect, misunderstanding, and underestimation of its culture. This article ends by referring to the fact that time, with its change of circumstances, has brought and is still bringing more on the past of Najd and its inhabitants and culture.


            Author and article information

            Arab Studies Quarterly
            Pluto Journals
            Summer 2015
            : 37
            : 3
            : 282-299
            © 2015 The Center for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

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            Social & Behavioral Sciences
            location,Najd,geography,culture in Najd,the inhabitants of Najd,the explorers of Najd,topography and history of Najd


            1. (1904: 1).

            2. George Aug. Wallin says in his Notes Taken during a Journey through Part of Northern Arabia that not only Arabia in general but that the region of Negd [Najd] itself commences on the vast plain of northern Arabia lying between the Syrian mountains and the river Euphrates, 330. For more on the subject, see Notes on Bedouins and Wahabys (1831: 1–49). The above argument is most likely based on the fact that for centuries the nomads of those tribes consider those territories their own by agreement of the unwritten laws of the Arabian deserts among them. In addition, to get another view on the geographical location of Najd, see (1865: 176).

            3. The borders of Najd, as the borders of the whole of the Arabian Peninsula, vary in accordance with sources and political dominations. In this article, I will adhere to the present Saudi borders of Najd. For more on the borders and historical divisions of Najd, see (2002: 7–31); (2002: 23–35); (1992: 40–52).

            4. (2002: 3).

            5. (1991), in page 104, explains that F a l a j a, ج ل ف the root of both the ancient and modern names of the area, connotes spouting out of water through a crack in the ground, which contributes to the fact of the abundance of ground water in the area.

            6. (2002: 24).

            7. (2002: 159).

            8. (1992: 68).

            9. (2002: 38).

            10. (1987: 28).

            11. (1991: 107); , (1942: 73).

            12. (1991: 34).

            13. In page 29, (1992) states that “by the late 2nd and early 1st millennia BC, trading cities were springing up on the overland trade routes from south-west Arabia …” The availability of water in certain locations, however, was what made those locations/cities parts of trade routes. For more on how the availability of water has shaped the demographical map of central Arabia, see (2002: 13–27); et al. (2010: 92).

            14. (2005: 331).

            15. (2005: 331).

            16. (1987: 31).

            17. For opposing views concerning this point, see (2002: 41); (2002: 3–5, 36–37).

            18. Charles Montagu Doughty, an English writer and explorer, has written a book with the title Travels in Arabia Deserta which was published in 1888. The title of the book reflects the common knowledge about Najd as an all desert place.

            19. Those were products from the south coastal regions of Arabia and not from the western or central regions.

            20. (c. 22 CE, Book XVI, Chap. iv, 1–4, 18–19, 21–26).

            21. : History of Rome , Book LIII. xxix, 3–8 (c. 220 CE).

            22. (2005, Book I . xix, 1–16, 23–26; xx, 1–13).

            23. (1957: 4).

            24. (1957: 4).

            25. (1957: 4).

            26. et al. (2010: 85–86).

            27. et al. (2010: 86).

            28. (2005, Book I. xix, 17–24).

            29. et al. (2010: 76–77).

            30. (2005: 367).

            31. (2005: 367).

            32. (2005: 367).

            33. Both books were translated into Latin during the early nineteenth century.

            34. See above page 7.

            35. To the Western world, the most famous of early Arabic poetry is Al Mu’aallaqat (the Hanged poems) which were translated into English in 1782.

            36. (1904: 98–99).

            37. (1904: 99).

            38. For more on the situation in Najd during the beginning of the eighteenth century, see (2002: 15).

            39. (1965: 1–2).

            40. (1984: 18).

            41. For more on the early travelers to Najd, see (1904: 112–118); (2008: 3–10).

            42. (1904: 75).

            43. (1904: 113).

            44. With further excavations, the future may reveal more evidence on relations between central and other parts of Arabia.

            45. “Slow Food” is a global growing and acting authority that concentrates on preserving the environment through bringing attention to unique local foods and techniques.


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