An ancient and magnificent dam in Khaybar
A rare dam, mysterious rock structures, and more from the Kingdom’s interior.
The Khaybar area, 200 kilometers from Medina Al Munawarah City, has a number of pre-Islamic dams, with the most impressive being the Al Bint, meaning “a girl” in Arabic. The dam has a height of 30 meters and a length of 130 meters of standing structure. It is mostly in good condition, but approximately one-third of the dam has fallen.
The dam is surprisingly easy to access from Medina-Tabuk highway number 15. South of Al Thamad village, people can take a 1-km access road leading to a valley. At the end, visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the huge and ancient structure: Dhoum palms and acacias filling the valley, a small pond, and the landscape covered with lava rocks.
Shirley Kay, in 1977, noted that there are around two dozen ancient dams in the West of Saudi Arabia, clustered around Taif and Khaybar, with the former having more. Al Bint Dam is the only curved one.
Legends about Origins
Local tradition says that the dam was built by a prince from Yemen as a dowry for a girl, i.e., the name.
Interestingly, the mortar, in terms of texture and quality, used in Al Ban Dam is similar to that used in the Marib Dam, which was built by the Sabaean Kingdom within Yemen, according to an article published in the 1979 edition of The Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies. The 1978 edition of Aramco World stated that the Marib Dam was built in the seventh century B.C., and was maintained until the sixth century A.D.
Some claim that Al Bint Dam was built in the early Islamic era, and others say it was constructed in the third century B.C.
Historically, dams have enabled large-scale agriculture in the arid regions. It has puzzled scholars how water was retrieved from Al Bint Dam’s reservoir and where was it channeled to.
Yet, Khaybar is a land of historical mysteries as the area contains the Khaybar historical village, and Mustatils, which are currently closed to tourism.