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)
 • Total505,652
 Najran Municipality estimate
Time zoneUTC+3
 • Summer (DST)UTC+3
Area code(+966) 17

Najran (Arabic: نجران Najrān), is a city in southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border with Yemen. 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 has risen from 47,500 in 1974 and 90,983 in 1992 to 246,880 in 2004 and 505,652 in 2017. The population mostly originates from the ancient tribes of Yām, Mákram, and Hamdan.

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

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

Najran was a Yemeni centre of cloth making and originally, the kiswah or the cloth of the Ka'aba was made there (the clothing of the Kaba first started by the Yemeni kings of Saba). There used to be a Jewish community at Najran, renowned for the garments they manufactured. According to Yemenite 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 Yemeni city to fall to the Romans on their way to the Yemeni kingdom of Saba'. Najrān's most prosperous trading time was during the 1st and 2nd centuries BC. In ancient times it was known as Al-Ukhdūd.

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, the ones leading north through the Ḥijāz towards Egypt and the Levant and those leading to the northeast towards Gerrha near the Persian Gulf.[1]

Najrān was conquered around 685 BC by the Sabean Mukarrib (King) Karib'il Watar I King of Yemen. The later Sabean king Yithi'amar Bayin destroyed RagHmat around 510 BC. Najrān seems to have been under Minaean or Sabean rule at different times during the next centuries and after that, it was part of Yemen till 1937.

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. According to Strabo,[2] who called it 'Negrana', Najrān was at this time the northernmost city of the realm of Saba'.

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.

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.

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.

Early Christian community

Main article: Christian community of Najran

Christianity must have been 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, Najran was the first place where Christianity took root in South Arabia. According to the contemporary sources, after seizing the throne of the Ḥimyarites, in ca. 518 or 523, Dhū Nuwās, a Jewish king,[3] attacked the Aksumite (mainly Christian) 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; 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).[4]

Under the reign of the Caliph ‘Umar, the Christian community of Najrān was deported to Mesopotamia, on the grounds that Muhammad ordered all non-Muslims to be expelled from the Arabian Peninsula.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

Some groups of Najran Jews escaped to Cochin, as they had a very good relationship with the rulers of Cochin and maintained trade connections with Paradesi Jews.[8]

Najran as part of Saudi Arabia

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Najrān joined the newly announced Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1934 as a result of the efforts and struggles of Shaikh Jābir Abū Sāq, the leader of a large clan of the Yam tribe. Starting in 1924, the forces of the former Yemeni king launched several unsuccessful raids to annex Najrān to the Yemeni Kingdom. The king of Yemen performed some new maneuvers to strengthen his tie with some of the Najrān tribal leaders to counter the strong relations of the people of Najrān with Bin Saūd. Then in 1932, the forces of King Yahya of Yemen attacked Najrān with more than 50,000 troops, with many kinds of new weapons. Yām, as the dominant tribe in Najrān, along with some other loyalist Najranis, started strong resistance against the occupation forces. However, a strong segment of the tribal leaders in Najrān sided with the Yemenis and some became passive, waiting to take a side at the end of the crisis. Sheikh Jābir Abū Sāq, the head of Al Fatema clan of Yām at the time, managed to get quick support from King Abd al-Azīz Bin Saūd and was able to lead the Yām tribe and all of the Najrānī resistance fighting the Yemeni forces in all parts of Najrān and Bilād Yām. Later, in the spring of 1934, the army of Bin Saʻud under the command of Prince Saʻūd son of ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz carried out a massive campaign, surrounding Najrān from the north and northwest, and defeated the Yemeni army. Najrān became part of Saudi Arabia. In short, Najran has always been independent and ruled by its people (Yam) but they choose to be annexed to the New Kingdom. Indeed, there was a strong treaty between King ʻAbd al-ʻAzīz and the people from Najrān indicating conditions to be respected by both sides.

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. 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 confrontation between armed Ismaʻili demonstrators and police and army units outside the Holiday Inn hotel in Najrān city in April 2000. 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.[9]

The confrontation at the Holiday Inn in Najran on April 23, 2000, marked a watershed in Ismaʻili relations with the central government. 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. 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, and the spiritual capital of Sulaymani Ismaʻilis, a community with followers in India and Pakistan as well as Saudi Arabia and Yemen. Khushaywah, which is an area of Najrān city, includes the Manṣūrah Mosque complex. The army surrounded the Ismaʻili positions and placed the city under its control. The standoff ended later the same day without further bloodshed.[10]


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.[11][clarification needed]



Najran enjoys three different geographic landscapes: oases, mountains, and the desert on its eastern side.


Najran has a hot desert climate (Köppen BWh), typical of the Arabian Peninsula. The rainfall is very sporadic in occurrence and consists of light individual rainfall. 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, 1982–2011
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °C (°F) 25.4
Mean daily minimum °C (°F) 9.0
Average precipitation mm (inches) 3.1
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 1.2 0.9 4.4 7.3 2.6 0.4 1.7 2.2 0.2 1.1 1.0 0.3 23.3
Source: World Meteorological Organization[12]


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. ^ 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
  2. ^ 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
  3. ^ "Historians back BBC over Jewish massacre claim | The Jewish Chronicle". Archived from the original on 2009-09-28.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Hitti, Phillip. History of the Arabs from the Earliest Time to the Present. New York: Macmillan, 1951. p. 61
  6. ^ Gilbert, Martin, "In Ishmael's House", 2000, (p. 5)
  7. ^ Gilbert, Martin, "In Ishmael's House", 2000, (p. 271)
  8. ^ "The last family of Pardesi Jews in Madras « Madras Musings | We Care for Madras that is Chennai". 9 February 2018.
  9. ^ "The Ismāʻīlīs of Najrān. Second-class Saudi citizens" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  10. ^ "The Ismailis of Najran. Second-class Saudi citizens" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  11. ^ "Najran".
  12. ^ "World Weather Information Service – Najran". World Meteorological Organization. Retrieved November 18, 2022.

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