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DJEDDAH: A village dating back to the early days of Islam was discovered in Yanbu by a team of Saudi enthusiasts who are documenting the Kingdom in innovative ways.
Project leader Abdulaziz Al-Dakheel, who is the founder of the Erth aerial photography team, told Arab News that the team surveyed large swathes of the region by remote sensing and by helicopter in search of Al-Oshairah. “After registering its presence from the air, the team then found the colony lying under the sand,” he said.
Al-Oshairah is believed to be the place where the first battle of Islam took place and where the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions stayed for over a month.
The Erth Aerial Photography Team, founded in 2015, is a national, non-profit documentary initiative that documents Saudi Arabia from the sky. It is made up of 13 members with different skills – photographers, pilots, guides, historians and others – who wish to document various topographical and geographical areas of the Kingdom using a powered parachute plane and other technologies.
When Erth’s team began researching Al-Oshairah, they followed the research of Abdul Ullah Al-Aiashi, a team historian, who suggested a different location than what has become generally accepted.
After gathering all the details, the team used satellite images and aerial photographs to conduct searches at different locations in the region.
Some are important to Islam while others originate from the pre-Islamic period, such as Mada’in Saleh, the 2,000-year-old AlUla region, and the natural landscapes of the western region, including volcanoes and wells.
Abdulaziz Al-Dakheel, Founder of the Erth Aerial Photography Team
“After 75 minutes of flight, the team was able to discover a destroyed village that is believed to be Al-Oshirah, mentioned in the Sunnah of the noble Prophet’s biography.”
âOur team is made up of people who contribute to the missions by providing all the necessary details. Abdul Ullah Al-Aiashi drove us to the location of Al-Oshairah, which is located in the Yanbu Valley. It is one of the main destinations used by pilgrims when traveling to Mecca, âAl-Dakheel said.
âYou cannot find the site of the battle or recognize the village in which it took place, but we were able to make out some of the pillar structures of the old village from a bird’s eye view.â
Erth’s aerial photography team will leave the site investigation and the validity of its claim for the battlefield site to the appropriate authorities.
Al-Dakheel said that every day they find new archaeological sites, hidden or lost monuments that are often of great interest.
âWe document different historical civilizations of the Kingdom, mainly in the western region, such as castles and tombs. We also document the religious and historical monuments of the Arabian Peninsula. Some are important to Islam while others are from the pre-Islamic period, such as Mada’in Saleh, the 2,000-year-old AlUla region, and the natural landscapes of the western region, including volcanoes and wells. .
He revealed that last month, the team discovered the ancient city of Al-Juhfa, located on the left bank of Wadi Al-Ghaidah, east of the town of Rabigh in the Mecca region. It lies about 5 km north of Miqat Al-Juhfa on a rocky ridge. “It flourished hundreds of years ago, but sand flooded it, leaving only part of one building.”
âThe remains belong to a fortress called Alia Palace, whose architectural style dates back to Abbasid times and is still covered in sand, with many pieces of pottery and glass scattered around the site.â
Al-Dakheel explained that the team has overcome so many obstacles but will continue through thick and thin: âIt’s a long process of trial and error. It is worth it, because the images of these historical monuments are worth a thousand words and go a long way in preserving the history of Saudi Arabia. “
In their documentation missions, the team uses a two-seater motorized parachute and a two-seater autogyro.
Their innovative approach and efforts to preserve Saudi Arabia’s archaeological and historical sites earned Erth’s aerial photography team the top prize at the National Cultural Awards.
âIt is our duty as passionate explorers to document and show the beauty of our country. For us it is not a business, we appreciate what we do from the air and we aim to make people aware of all these landmarks, âAl-Dakheel said.
The team has so far documented more than 12,000 aerial images in 50 different locations.