The Unfinished ‘Lonely Castle’ Carved Around the 1st Century CE

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

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Tomasz Trzesniowski | Creative Commons

The description of the site as a “castle” is misleading, as the grand carving is actually a burial site that was built as part of the ancient Nabatean 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 site appears to never have been completed so the craftsmanship and precision of the tomb slowly deteriorate closer to the base of the structure.

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Richard HArgas on Wikipedia | Creative Commons

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.

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Tomasz Trzesniowski | Creative Commons

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