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October 10 2012

Saudi eases access to long-hidden ancient ruins


Fully draped in a black veil, Irish blonde Angela Miskelly stares out in awe as she strolls through Al-Hijr, the ancient Saudi city of tombs carved into rose-coloured sandstone mountains. "Spectacular... wonderful... breathtaking," she says. "But where are the tourists? If we had a site like this in my country, we would have millions of tourists!"

Dating back to the second century BC, the Nabataean archaeological site, also known as Madain Saleh, has long been hidden from foreign visitors in this ultra-conservative kingdom that rarely opens up to tourists.

Saudi Arabia is thought to have been wary of archaeologists and scientists seeking to study its ancient ruins for fear their findings could shine the spotlight on pre-Islamic civilisations that once thrived there.

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