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Elephant Rock

Morgan Oliver-Allen


Behind the Shot

In the Medina Region of northwestern Saudi Arabia is an area that was first settled by the Lihyan Kingdom more than 8,000 years ago. Located along the “Incense Road,” this oasis had fertile soil and an abundance of water, and for thousands of years acted as an important way station on the journey between India and Egypt. The biblical city of Dedan rose and fell in this spot between the 5th and 2nd century B.C. The Nabataeans, who built the city of Petra, constructed their second capital near here around 107 A.D. The prophet Muhammad passed through Al-Ula in 630 AD. In the 1200s, the great walled city, which is now known as the old city, was built from the stones of Dedan and Lihyan ruins, and remained inhabited for more than 700 years.

In the mid-20th century, a new town center was built outside the walls of the old city, and the new city of Al-Ula was established, with modern conveniences, including an airport, government center, shops, schools and apartments. The last family finally moved from the old city in 1983.

Morgan was invited to promote Al-Ula and nearby sites such as Elephant Rock, which is considered one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Arabia.

“It is one of the most incredible, most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I was photographing my companion, and the men on camels were there. Then a couple of dune buggies appeared and were ripping donuts around us. The dust worked in our favor, though, bringing the light to life. She was backlit, and the dust added so much.”