Tayma is located in Saudi Arabia
Tayma is located in Near East
Coordinates: 27°37′47″N 38°32′38″E / 27.62972°N 38.54389°E / 27.62972; 38.54389
Country Saudi Arabia
ProvinceTabuk province
Time zoneUTC+3 (AST)

Tayma /ˈtmə/ (Taymanitic: 𐪉𐪃𐪒, vocalized as: Taymāʾ;[1] Arabic: تيماء, romanizedTaymāʾ) or Tema /ˈtmə/ Teman/Tyeman (Habakkuk 3:3) is a large oasis with a long history of settlement, located in northwestern Saudi Arabia at the point where the trade route between Medina and Dumah (al-Jawf) begins to cross the Nefud desert. Tayma is located 264 km (164 mi) southeast of the city of Tabouk, and about 400 km (250 mi) north of Medina.[2][3] It is located in the western part of Nefud desert.


The historical significance of Tayma is based on the existence there of an oasis, which helped it become a stopping point on commercial desert routes.[4] An important event was the presence there of the Babylonian king Nabonidus, who took residence there in the mid-6th century BCE.[4]

Bronze Age: Egyptian inscription

Recent archaeological discoveries show that Tayma has been inhabited since at least the Bronze Age. In 2010, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities announced the discovery of a rock near Tayma bearing an inscription of Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses III. This was the first confirmed find of a hieroglyphic inscription on Saudi soil. Based on this discovery, researchers have hypothesized that Tayma was part of an important land route between the Red Sea coast of the Arabian Peninsula and the Nile Valley.[citation needed]

Assyrian, Babylonian, and biblical sources

Aramaic inscription from Tayma (6th century BC.)

The oldest mention of the oasis city appears as "Tiamat" in Assyrian inscriptions dating as far back as the 8th century BC. The oasis developed into a prosperous city, rich in water wells and handsome buildings. Tiglath-pileser III received tribute from Tayma, and Sennacherib (r. 705–681 BC) named one of Nineveh's gates as the Desert Gate, recording that "the gifts of the Sumu'anite and the Teymeite enter through it". It was rich and proud enough in the 7th century BC for Jeremiah to prophesy against it (Jeremiah 25:23). It was ruled then by a local Arab dynasty, known as the Qedarites. The names of two 8th-century BC queens, Shamsi and Zabibei, are recorded.[citation needed]

The last Babylonian king, Nabonidus (ruled c. 556–539 BC), conquered Tayma and for ten years of his reign retired there to worship and search for prophecies, entrusting the kingship of Babylon to his son, Belshazzar. Taymanitic inscriptions also mention that people of Tayma fought wars with Dadān.[5][clarification needed]

Cuneiform inscriptions possibly dating from the 6th century BC have been recovered from Tayma.[citation needed]

Tayma is mentioned several times in the Hebrew Bible. The biblical eponym is apparently Tema, one of the sons of Ishmael, after whom the region of Tema is named.[citation needed]

Jewish community: classical period and 12th century

According to Arab tradition, Tayma was inhabited by a Jewish community during the late classical period, though whether these were exiled Judeans or the Arab descendants of converts is unclear. During the 1st century AD, Tayma is believed to have been principally a Jewish settlement. The Jewish diaspora at the time of the Temple's destruction, according to Josephus, was in Parthia (Persia), Babylonia (Iraq), Arabia, as well as some Jews beyond the Euphrates and in Adiabene (Kurdistan). In Josephus' own words, he had informed "the remotest Arabians" about the destruction.[6] So, too, in pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, Tayma is often referred to as a fortified city belonging to the Jews, just as the anonymous Arab poet has described:[7]

Unto God will I make my complaint heard, but not unto man; because I am a sojourner in Taymā, Taymā of the Jews![8]

As late as the 6th century AD, Tayma was the home of the wealthy Jew, Samau’al ibn ‘Ādiyā.[9][10]

Tayma and neighboring Khaybar were visited by Benjamin of Tudela some time around 1170 who claims that the city was governed by a Jewish prince. Benjamin was a Jew from Tudela in Spain. He travelled to Persia and Arabia in the 12th century.

Crusader threat

In the summer of 1181, Raynald of Châtillon, Crusader Lord of Oultrejordain, attacked a Muslim caravan near Tayma, despite a truce between Sultan Saladin and King Baldwin IV of Jerusalem, during a raid of the Red Sea area.[11]


In Tayma, there is a desert climate. Most rain falls in the winter. The Köppen-Geiger climate classification is BWh. The average annual temperature in Tayma is 21.8 °C (71.2 °F). About 65 mm (2.56 in) of precipitation falls annually.

Climate data for Tayma
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 17.7
Average low °C (°F) 4.5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 9
Source: Climate data


Stele with dedicatory Aramaic inscription to the god Salm. Sandstone, 5th century BC. Found in Tayma by Charles Huber in 1884. Now in the Louvre.

The site was first investigated and mapped by Charles M. Doughty in 1877.[12] The Tayma stele discovered by Charles Huber in 1883, now at the Louvre, lists the gods of Tayma in the 6th century BC: Ṣalm of Maḥram and Shingala and Ashira. This Ashira may be Athirat/Asherah.

Archeological investigation of the site, under the auspices of the German Archaeological Institute, is ongoing.[13][14]

Clay tablets and stone inscriptions using Taymanitic script and language were found in ruins and around the oasis. Nearby Tayma was a Sabaean trading station, where Sabaean language inscriptions were found.


Historically, Tayma is known for growing dates.[15] The oasis also has produced rock salt, which was distributed throughout Arabia.[16] Tayma also mined alum, which was processed and used for the care of camels.[17]

Points of interest

  • Qasr Al-Ablaq (Arabic:قصر الأبلق) castle is located on the southwest side of the city. It was built by the Arabian Jewish poet and warrior Samuel ibn 'Adiya and his grandfather 'Adiya in the 6th century AD.
  • The Qasr Al-Hamra (Arabic:قصر الحمراء) palace was built in the 7th century BC.
  • Tayma has an archaeologically significant perimeter wall built around 3 sides of the old city in the 6th century BC.
  • Qasr Al-Radhm (Arabic:قصر الرضم)
  • Haddaj Well (Arabic:بئر هداج)
  • Cemeteries
  • Many Aramaic, Lihyanite, Thamudic, Nabataean language inscriptions, around Tayma
  • Qasr Al-Bejaidi(Arabic:قصر البجيدي)
  • Al-Hadiqah Mound
  • Al Naslaa rock formation
  • Many museums. Although Tayma has museums of its own such as the "Tayma Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography", many artifacts from its history have been spread to other museums. Early finds such as the "Tayma Stele" are at the Louvre in Paris among others while large museums of national importance in Saudi Arabia, such as the National Museum of Saudi Arabia in Riyadh and the Jeddah Regional Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography also have significant collections of items from or related to ancient Tayma.

See also


  1. ^ Kootstra 2016.
  2. ^ "Tema - Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible -". Retrieved 2021-03-27 – via StudyLight.org.
  3. ^ "Tema in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 2021-03-28.
  4. ^ a b "Tayma - Arabian Rock Art Heritage". Retrieved 2019-02-10.
  5. ^ "krc2.orient.ox.ac.uk" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-10-19. Retrieved 2019-08-14.
  6. ^ Josephus. The Jewish War. Translated by Whiston, William. 1.1.5 – via PACE: Project on Ancient Cultural Engagement. Greek: Ἀράβων τε τοὺς πορρωτάτω = Preface to Josephus' De Bello Judaico, paragraph 2, "the remotest Arabians" (lit. "the Arabian [Jews] that are further on").
  7. ^ Yāqūt, Šihāb al-Dīn ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Ḥamawī (1995). "Taimā". Mu'jam al-Buldān. Vol. II. Beirut. p. 67; cf. al-Ṭabbā‘ in his Forward to Samaw’al 1997, p. 7[full citation needed]
  8. ^ Yaqut, Šihāb al-Dīn ibn ‘Abd Allah al-Ḥamawī (1995). Mu'jam al-Buldān. Beirut: Dār Ṣādir. p. 67.
  9. ^ Margoliouth, David Samuel (1906). "A poem attributed to Al-Samau'al". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society. London: 363–371. JSTOR 25210253.
  10. ^ A‘šā (1968). Muḥammad Muḥammad Ḥusayn (ed.). Dīwān al-a'šā al-kabīr maymūn bn qays: šarḥ wa-ta'līq (in Arabic). Beirut. pp. 214, 253.
  11. ^ Leiser, Gary La Viere (1977). "The Crusader Raid in the Red Sea in 578/1182–83". Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. 14: 87–100. doi:10.2307/40000370. JSTOR 40000370.
  12. ^ Dougherty, Raymond P. (1930). "A Babylonian City in Arabia". American Journal of Archaeology. 34 (3): 296–312. doi:10.2307/497985. JSTOR 497985.
  13. ^ Hausleiter, A. (2010). "L'oasis de Tayma". In al-Ghabban, A. I.; et al. (eds.). Routes d'Arabie. Archéologie et Histoire du Royaume Arabie-Saoudite (in French). Somogy. pp. 218–239. ISBN 978-2-7572-0393-4.
  14. ^ Hausleiter, A. (2010). "La céramique du début de l'âge dur Fer". In al-Ghabban, A. I.; et al. (eds.). Routes d'Arabie. Archéologie et Histoire du Royaume Arabie-Saoudite (in French). Somogy. p. 240. ISBN 978-2-7572-0393-4.
  15. ^ Prothero 1920, p. 83.
  16. ^ Prothero 1920, p. 97.
  17. ^ Prothero 1920, p. 98.


  • Kootstra, Fokelien (2016). "The Language of the Taymanitic Inscriptions & its classification". Arabian Epigraphic Notes. 2: 67–140. Retrieved 14 December 2022.
  • Prothero, G.W. (1920). Arabia. London: H.M. Stationery Office. p. 83.

External links

  • Deutsches Archäologisches Institut: Tayma
  • Nabatea: The 12 Tribes of Ishmael: Tema
  • about Jouf district
  • Verse account of Nabonidus, translation at Livius.org
  • Chronicle of Nabonidus Archived 2016-12-08 at the Wayback Machine, translation at Livius.org
  • Travel through the province of Tabuk, Splendid Arabia: A travel site with photos and routes

Coordinates: 27°37′47″N 38°32′38″E / 27.62972°N 38.54389°E / 27.62972; 38.54389

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