Hejaz

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Map with the Saudi region outlined in red and the 1923 Kingdom in green

al-Hejaz, also, Hijaz (Arabic: الحجازal-Ḥiǧāz, literally "the barrier") is a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. Defined primarily by its western border on the Red Sea, it extends from Haql on the Gulf of Aqaba to the borders of Asir. Its main city is Jeddah, but it is probably better known for the Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. As the site of Islam's holy places, the Hejaz has significance in the Arab and Islamic historical and political landscape. The region is so called as it separates the land of Najd in the east from the land of Tihamah in the west.

Contents

History

Evidence suggests that the northern part of Hejaz was part of the Roman province of Arabia Petraea.[1]

The Biblical story of the Garden of Eden is in Genesis 2:10–12: "And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone."[2]

Havilah is usually associated with either the Arabian Peninsula or north-west Yemen, but in the work associated with the Garden of Eden by Juris Zarins, the Hejaz mountains appear to satisfactorily meet the description. The Hejaz includes both the Cradle of Gold at Mahd adh Dhahab (23°30′12.96″N 40°51′34.92″E / 23.5036°N 40.8597°E / 23.5036; 40.8597) and a potential source of the now dried out Pishon River that used to flow 600 miles (970 km) north east to the Persian Gulf via the Wadi Al-Batin system. Archaeological research led by Farouk El-Baz of Boston University indicates that the river system, now prospectively known as the Kuwait River, was active 2500–3000 BC.[3]

Due to the presence of two holy cities in Hejaz, the region went under numerous empires throughout its modern history. Hijaz was later at the centre of the Caliphate, before its capital was moved to Damascus. The region was then under the control of regional powers such as Egypt and the Ottoman Empire through much of its later history, after which the Hejaz had a brief period of political independence in the early 20th century.

In 1916, Sharif Hussein ibn Ali proclaimed himself king of an independent Hejaz, as a result of the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence. The ensuing Arab Revolt overthrew the Ottoman Empire. In 1924, however, ibn Ali's authority was usurped by Ibn Saud of the neighboring region of Nejd, uniting it into what became known as the Kingdom of Hijaz and Nejd and later the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

People of Hejaz

People of Hejaz, who feel particularly connected to the holy places of Mecca and Medina, have probably the most strongly articulated identity of any regional grouping in Saudi Arabia. Their place of origin affords them the feeling of being a chosen people and also provides them with special status in the eyes of other Muslims; but it also alienates them from the Saudi state, which invokes different narratives of the history of the Arabian Peninsula. Over the centuries, the inhabitants of Hejaz also created many rituals and ceremonies which further enhance their sense of superiority. Most of the official Salafi clerics look down on these rituals and in many instances consider them to be un-Islamic. Thus, they experienced tensions with people of Najd.[4]

The people of Hejaz have never fully accommodated to Saudi and Wahhabi rule. Many consider themselves more cosmopolitan because Hejaz was for centuries a part of the great empires of Islam from the Umayyads to the Ottomans.[5]

Geography

The region is located along the Red Sea Rift. The region is also known for its darker, more volcanic sand. Depending on the previous definition, Hejaz includes the high mountains of Sarawat which topographically separate Najd from Tehamah. Bdellium plants are also abundant in the Hijaz.

Cities

See also

Notes