Al Shinanah Historical Tower – Ar Rass, Saudi Arabia - Atlas Obscura

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Al Shinanah Historical Tower

Ar Rass, Saudi Arabia

This tower has survived the times despite being composed of mud and camel hair.  


About 217 miles (350 kilometers) northwest of Riyadh, Ar Rass is the largest urban center in Al-Qassim Province by size and third-largest by population. Ar Rass (الرس) translates to “old well,” and refers to the source of water that made it possible for people to settle in this area. It also made the area one of the most important trades and pilgrimage routes. At first sight, Ar Rass is nothing more than a cluster of modern buildings surrounded by the desert, but its history dates back to settlements like this and the Al Shinanah Tower.

Located on the southwestern edge of town, Al Shinanah Tower has a truncated conical shape measuring 88.5 feet in height, 20 feet in diameter at the base, and five feet at the top. Its interior is divided into eight floors, which can be accessed through a low, narrow door at the base. There are three windows on different floors.

Constructed in 1699 using mud and camel hair, Al Shinanah Tower is an outstanding example of Qassim architecture. It was built as a watchtower, which explains why it is located on a slightly elevated plain.    

The tower played a role in numerous intertribal skirmishes, but also in battles between Ottomans and Arabs. The most recent use of the tower as a military outpost dates back to the Battle of Shinanah (1904) hiswhen Rashidi and Saudi forces clashed in the Qassim Province. It is, therefore, quite surprising that this structure survived to this day, especially considering its slender shape.

Know Before You Go

Al Shinanah Tower is now fenced in, but the gates are open for most of the day. Within the perimeter of the compound are also a mosque, an administration office, and a semi-permanent tent where the custodian can be found.

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April 27, 2022

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