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Saudi Arabia

The Lonely Castle

The remote tomb known as Qasr al-Farid is carved right into a giant Saudi Arabian boulder. 

Among the dozens of ruins located in the archeological playground of Mada’in Saleh, one literally stands alone. Carved into a massive boulder, Qasr al-Farid, or “The Lonely Castle,” is a stunning ancient structure that rivals the majesty of any carved architecture in the world.

Created around the 1st century CE, the tall facade was never actually finished. The description of the site as a “castle” is misleading, as the grand carving is actually a tomb that was built as part of the ancient Nabatean site of Hegra. The Nabateans had a unique construction technique that saw their tombs being chiseled right out of the rock from the top down. Such is the case with Qasr al-Farid, although the monument appears to never have been completed, so the craftsmanship and precision of work slowly deteriorate closer to the base of the structure.

Generally speaking, this may be seen as a strike against the site in terms of its beauty or its archeological importance, but the tapering finish on the facade has actually turned out to be a boon. The incomplete portion of the tomb is a terrific window into the steps taken by the ancient carvers before the rougher work was polished away.

Archeological importance aside, The Lonely Castle stands out as a starkly unforgettable wonder in a region that is crowded with them.