'Architects of Ancient Arabia': Discovery Channel to show one-off Al Ula documentary

Academy Award-winning actor Jeremy Irons narrates the special, tracing 3,000 years of history

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A one-off documentary about Saudi Arabia's Al Ula is coming to the Discovery Channel.

Narrated by Academy Award-winning British actor Jeremy Irons, The Architects of Ancient Arabia will "journey into Saudi Arabia's deeper past, following teams of leading international and Saudi archaeologists and a local historian as they reveal new wonders in the previously unexplored land."

The special is set to air at 10pm GST, on March 31.

The documentary offers a behind-the-scenes look at the progress of a group of architects exploring the site in detail, "to begin piecing together a new chapter in the story of human civilisation", tracing 3,000 years of history.

We were walking among the ghosts of unknown ancients, we could feel their presence and yearning to have their story told

"We already know things about the major sites like Hegra, but I hope that the team's work and this documentary begin to fill in gaps in our knowledge in the late prehistoric period, when societies are becoming more complex," says Rebecca Foote, director of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage Research at The Royal Commission for Al Ula.

“Archaeologists are just beginning to reveal the secrets and stories held within the desert of this stunning landscape, there is much more to discover and we’re excited to be able to share our work and this place with the world through this documentary.”

During the special, the team of archaeologists unearth evidence for an ancient ritual, which is described as a "completely unexpected and extraordinary" discovery from the ancient city in north-west Saudi Arabia.

Located about 1,100 kilometres from Riyadh, Al Ula is home to Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first Unesco World Heritage Site and the main southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom.

Al Ula Old Town reopened to visitors in March, for the first time in three years. Dating back to the 12th century, the heritage site is best known for its mud-brick buildings and for being an age-old settlement on the pilgrimage route from Damascus to Makkah.

"The weeks we spent in Al Ula filming alongside the archaeological team were a life-altering experience for me and the rest of the crew. The startlingly spectacular landscape is like nothing I've ever seen," says producer and editor of the documentary, Robert Kirwan.

"The stone structures, literally thousands of them dotting the area, have sat untouched for thousands of years. We were walking among the ghosts of unknown ancients, and we could feel their presence, their yearning, to have their story told."

'The Architects of Ancient Arabia'; 10pm GST, Wednesday, March 31; Discovery Channel, OSN channel 500