Najran Fort
Najran Fort
Najran is located in Saudi Arabia
Location in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Coordinates: 17°29′30″N 44°7′56″E / 17.49167°N 44.13222°E / 17.49167; 44.13222
Country Saudi Arabia
Established2000 BC
 • MayorFaris al-Shafaq
 • Provincial GovernorJiluwi bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
1,293 m (4,242 ft)
 (2022 census)[1]
 • City381,431
 • Metro
421,902 (Najran Governorate)
Time zoneUTC+3
 • Summer (DST)UTC+3
Area code(+966) 17

Najran (Arabic: نجران Najrān), is a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia. It is the capital of Najran Province. Designated as a new town, Najran is one of the fastest-growing cities in the kingdom. Its population grew from 47,500 in 1974 to 90,983 in 1992, 246,880 in 2004, and 381,431 in 2021. The city's population mostly originates from the ancient tribes of Yām.

Najranis are Muslims, with Ismailis forming a plurality. Hanbali, Shafi'i, and Maliki Sunnis form the second-largest religious group in the city.

The Arabic term Najrān has at least two meanings: the wooden frame on which a door opens, and 'thirsty'. Local tradition also claims that the land derived its name from the first man to settle in the area, Najran ibn Yahjub ibn Yarub ibn Qahtan ibn houd.

Najran was a centre of cloth-making, and the kiswah, or the cloth of the Ka'aba, was originally made there. A Jewish community previously existed in Najran which was renowned for the garments they manufactured. According to Najran Jewish tradition, the Jews of Najran traced their origin to the Ten Tribes. Najran was also an important stopping place on the incense trade route.


See also: Principality of Najran

Najran Museum entrance

Early history

The history of Najrān can be traced back to 4,000 years ago. It was once occupied by the Romans; in fact, it was the first Saudi city to fall to the Romans on their way to the kingdom of Saudi'. Najrān's most prosperous trading time was during the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. In ancient times it was known as Al-Ukhdūd.[citation needed]

Similar to other ancient place names in Arabia, Najrān may have originally been the name of the whole oasis, including all towns and villages. The old name of the ruins now known as "al-Ukhdūd", which may have been the central town, probably corresponds to Ramat.

According to Greek and Roman sources, Najrān was a focal point of the Incense Route. All routes that left ancient Yemen to the north or west had to meet at Najrān, where the routes branched into two general directions: ones leading north through the Ḥijāz towards Egypt and the Levant, and those leading to the northeast towards Gerrha near the Persian Gulf.[2]

The Roman prefect of Egypt Aelius Gallus led a costly, arduous, and ultimately unsuccessful expedition to conquer Arabia Felix, and won a battle near Najrān in 25 BC. He occupied the city and used it as a base from which to attack the Sabaean capital at Ma'rib. This is according to Strabo,[3] who called it 'Negrana'.

When the Ḥimyarites conquered the Sabeans in AD 280, they probably also took control of Najrān. Sometime during the 3rd century, the people of Najrān sided with the Abyssinians, who sent a governor named Sqlmqlm in inscriptions. The Ḥimyar King Ilsharah Yahdib crushed this rebellion.[citation needed]

The north Arabian Lakhmid king Imru’ al-Qays ibn 'Amqu attacked Najrān in AD 328. Under the influence of Axum, the Christians in Najrān thrived and started an alliance with Aksum again at the beginning of the 6th century.[citation needed]

The town of Najrān was already an important centre of arms manufacture during the lifetime of Muhammad. However, it was more famous for leather rather than iron.[citation needed]

Early Christian community

Main article: Christian community of Najran

Christianity was likely introduced into Najrān, as in the rest of South Arabia, in the 5th century AD or perhaps a century earlier. According to the Arab Muslim historian Ibn Isḥāq, Najrān was the first place where Christianity took root in South Arabia.[citation needed] According to contemporary sources, after seizing the throne of the Ḥimyarites in ca. 518 or 523, Dhū Nuwās, a Jewish king,[4] attacked the mainly Christian Aksumite garrison at Zafar, capturing it and burning its churches. He then moved against Najrān, a Christian and Aksumite stronghold. After accepting the city's capitulation, he massacred those inhabitants who would not renounce Christianity. Estimates of the death toll from this event range up to 20,000 in some sources.[citation needed] A surviving letter (where he is called Dimnon) written by Simeon, the bishop of Beth Arsham in 524 AD, recounts Dhū Nuwās's persecution in Najrān (modern al-Ukhdūd in Saudi Arabia).[5] The massacre is also recounted in a celebratory manner in an inscription (Ja 1028) commissioned by one of the army commanders of Dhu Nuwas.[6]

According to the Siyar of ash-Shaybani, the Christians of Najrān made an agreement to pay Muhammad an annual tribute of 2,000 pieces of clothing, in return for which they were promised protection. The agreement was renewed under the caliphs Abū Bakr and Umar ibn al-Khattab.[7] In 641, however, the Christians of Najrān were accused of usury and ordered to leave the city.[8] Under the reign of the Caliph ‘Umar, the Christian community of Najrān was deported to Mesopotamia, where they settled near Kufa in a place they called Najānīya. In the following period, Najrān lost its importance.[9] According to the report of Ibn al-Mujavir, however, Jews and Christians still made up two thirds of the population of Najran in the 13th century.[citation needed]

Former Jewish community

Main article: History of the Jews in Saudi Arabia

Rabbi Salomon Halevi (Last Rabbi of Madras Synagogue) and his wife Rebecca Cohen (Najran Jew), Paradesi Jews of Madras

Najrān had a Jewish community dating back to pre-Islamic times, historically affiliated with the Banu al-Harith, who were Yemenite Jews that had conquered the city and ruled until the Christian invasion of Yemen.[10] With the Saudi conquest of Najrān in 1934, persecution increased, and some 200 Jews of Najrān fled south to Aden between September and October 1949. The Saudi king ibn Saud demanded their return, but the Yemeni king Aḥmad bin Yaḥyá refused because these refugees were Yemenite Jews. After settling in the Ḥashid Camp (also called Mahane Geula) they were airlifted to Israel as part of the larger Operation Magic Carpet.[11]

Some groups of Najrān Jews escaped to Cochin, as they had a very good relationship with its rulers and maintained trade connections with Paradesi Jews.[12]

Issues with the Ismaili community

The Ismailis, a religious and ethnic minority with historic roots in Najrān Province of southwestern Saudi Arabia, face increasing threats to their identity as a result of official discrimination. Official discrimination in Saudi Arabia against Ismāʻīlīs encompasses government employment, religious practices, and the justice system. Government officials exclude Ismāʻīlīs from decision making and publicly disparage their faith.[13]

With the arrival of Mishʻal bin Suʻūd as the governor of Najrān in 1996, tensions between local authorities and the Ismaʻili population increased, culminating in a watershed confrontation between armed Ismaʻili demonstrators and police and army units outside Najrān's Holiday Inn hotel on April 23, 2000. Three months earlier, police had closed all Tayyibi Ismaʻili mosques on a religious holiday. On April 23, after security forces and religious morality police arrested an Ismāʻīlī cleric, a large demonstration took place outside the Holiday Inn, where Governor Mishʻal resided. After the governor refused for hours to meet the petitioners, an exchange of fire between security forces and armed demonstrators left two Ismāʻīlīs dead and, according to some government accounts, killed one policeman as well.[citation needed] Believing their religious identity to be under attack, Ismāʻili men erected defences around Khushaywah, the seat of the Ismaʻili religious leader Da'i al-Mutlaq. Khushaywah, which includes the Manṣūrah Mosque complex, was also the spiritual capital of Sulaymani Ismaʻilis, a community with followers in India and Pakistan as well as Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The army surrounded the Ismaʻili positions and placed the city under its control. The standoff ended later the same day without further bloodshed.[14]


Traditional house in Najran

Najrān city is famous for its archeological significance. Old Najrān was surrounded by a circular wall,[when?] 220 by 230 meters, built of square stone with defensive balconies. It contained several unique buildings. There is also a cemetery[when?] south of the external wall. Excavations of this site have uncovered glass, metals, pottery, and bronze artifacts. Square and rectangular buildings have also been found. At Al-Ukhdūd which is south of Najrān city, carvings from those days[when?] and human bones can be seen. A museum displays, among other items, a bronze lion head.[when?] Najrān's landmarks include the "Rass" stone,[when?] a 2-meter-high granite stone.[15][clarification needed]



Najran has three different geographic landscapes: oases, mountains, and the desert (on its eastern side).[citation needed]


Najran has a hot desert climate (Köppen BWh), typical of the Arabian Peninsula. Rainfall is very sporadic, and consists of light individual rainfall.[citation needed] Despite its location in far southern Saudi Arabia, Najran's average temperature is approximately 3.3 °C or 5.9 °F cooler than that of the Saudi capital Riyadh, due to it being 700 metres or 2,300 feet higher in altitude.

Climate data for Najran Domestic Airport (1991–2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 36.0
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 26.2
Daily mean °C (°F) 17.7
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 9.2
Record low °C (°F) 1.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 2.9
Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm) 0.5 0.3 1.4 2.9 1.2 0.2 0.8 1.2 0.1 0.5 0.3 0.1 9.5
Source: NOAA[16]


Colleges and universities

Najran is home to Najran University and Najran College of Technology.


Local football clubs

Sports centers

There are many sports centers and complexes within the city including:

Hospitals and medical care

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ "Najran Governorate". Retrieved 2024-02-03.
  2. ^ Description in A. F. L. Beeston "Some Observations on Greek and Latin Data Relating to South Arabia" in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 42, No. 1 (1979), pp. 7–12; online at JSTOR
  3. ^ Strabo, Book XVI, Chapter 4, 22–24 The Geography of Strabo, published in Vol. VII of the Loeb Classical Library edition, 1932; online at Lacus Curtius
  4. ^ "Historians back BBC over Jewish massacre claim | The Jewish Chronicle". Archived from the original on 2009-09-28.
  5. ^ Simon's letter is part of Part III of The Chronicle of Zuqnin, translated by Amir Harrack (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies, 1999), pp. 78-84.
  6. ^ Lindstedt, Ilkka (2023). Muhammad and his followers in context: the religious map of late antique Arabia. Islamic history and civilization. Leiden Boston: Brill. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-90-04-68712-7.
  7. ^ Majid Khadduri: The Islamic Law of Nations: Shaybānī's Siyar. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press 1966. S. 278–280
  8. ^ Leone Caetani: Annali dell' Islam. Bd. IV. Milano 1911. S. 354–359
  9. ^ Hitti, Phillip. History of the Arabs from the Earliest Time to the Present. New York: Macmillan, 1951. p. 61
  10. ^ Gilbert, Martin, "In Ishmael's House", 2000, (p. 5)
  11. ^ Gilbert, Martin, "In Ishmael's House", 2000, (p. 271)
  12. ^ "The last family of Pardesi Jews in Madras « Madras Musings | We Care for Madras that is Chennai". 9 February 2018.
  13. ^ "The Ismāʻīlīs of Najrān. Second-class Saudi citizens" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  14. ^ "The Ismailis of Najran. Second-class Saudi citizens" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  15. ^ "Najran".
  16. ^ "World Meteorological Organization Climate Normals for 1991-2020 — Najran". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved February 6, 2024.

17°29′30″N 44°7′56″E / 17.49167°N 44.13222°E / 17.49167; 44.13222