Haʼil (Arabic: H?ʼil) is a city in north-western Saudi Arabia. It is the capital and largest city of Ha'il Region, with a population of about 605,930 (2018)
Haʼil is largely agricultural, with significant grain, date, and fruit production. A large percentage of the kingdom's wheat production comes from Haʼil Province, where the area to the northeast, 60 to 100 km (37 to 62 miles) away, consists of irrigated gardens. Historically, Haʼil derived its wealth from being on the camel caravan route of the Hajj. Haʼil is well known by the generosity of its people in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world as it is the place where Hatim al-Tai lived. It is also the homeland of the Rashid royal family, historical rivals to Saudi royal family.
The extent of Al Rashid's rule
A street in Ha'il, 1914
Gates of the city in the early 20th century
The construction of the Hejaz railway between Damascus and Medina, together with new inexpensive steamship routes to Jeddah, undermined the traditional camel caravan economy of Ha'il.
The city of Ha'il was the capital of the Emirate of Jabal Shammar from 1836 until the Saudi conquest of the emirate in 1921. The emirate was led by a monarchy of the House of Rash?d. The first emir, Abdullah bin Ali Al Rashid, took power with his brother emir Obaid and Jabbr's sons. Abdullah bin Rashid continued constructing the Barzan Palace in Ha'il which had been started by Mohammad Ibn Ali. After the death of Abdullah Al Rashid (in 1848) his son and successor, Talal, completed the palace.
Many of these traders belonged to the Shiyaa sect, hated by some Sonnites, doubly hated by the Wahabees. But Telal affected not to perceive their religious discrepancies, and silenced all murmurs by marks of special favor towards these very dissenters, and also by the advantages which their presence was not long in procuring for the town.
The last Rashidi emir was ousted from power by Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia in 1921. Ibn Saud then gave orders to destroy the Barzan Palace and also ordered the leaders of Al Rashid and Al Sabhan to move from Ha'il to Riyadh, and he assigned one person from the mentioned families, as temporary emir "Prince Ibraheem bin Salem Al Sabhan" in order to assure the loyalty from the Ha'il people and Shammar. After this, Ha'il fell into steep decline, as witnessed by E. Rutter in 1931:
Hail seems like a city marooned among the sand...the population of Hail was plainly in decline. Numbers of houses in the northern quarter of the town were in ruins...many people of Hail had fled to the comfortable realms of King Faisal of Iraq...
Ha'il is the center of Saudi Arabia's agricultural program, and most of the wheat crops of the kingdom come from the area surrounding the city. There are also a number of dairy farms for the production of dairy products near the city.
Abdulaziz bin Mitab was the son of the third Amir of Al Rashid, he was adopted by his uncle Mohammed, the fifth amir, and brought up to be his heir. After Mohammed died of natural causes, Abdulaziz succeeded him unopposed. However, the Rashidi rule was insecure, as their Ottoman allies were unpopular and weakening. In 1904 the young Ibn Saud, the founder of Saudi Arabia, returned from exile with a small force and retook Riyadh. Abdulaziz died in the battle of Rawdat Muhanna with Ibn Saud
A view of the city from the top of Samra Mountain
As-Samra Mountain overlooks the city. This is where Hatim al-Tai lit a fire on the summit to welcome guests. Today an asphalted road goes to the summit where a natural gas-powered fire is lit at night. There is a park with a lake at the bottom of the mountain, and on the side of the mountain is the Emblem of Saudi Arabia (date palm and crossed swords) made from electric lights which are turned on at night.
Aja Mountain (Jebel Aja) is on the opposite side of Ha'il city from As-Samra. A huge Saudi flag made of electric lights, turned on at night, is located on the side of the mountain.
The Adayra Valley runs roughly along a north-south axis, dividing central Ha'il in two.
Barzan Palace was a historic palace that used to be located in Ha'il up until the 1920s. It was built in 1808 by Prince Muhammad bin Abdul-Muhsin Al Ali over an area of more than 300,000 square meters. The Palace was completed during the rule of the 2nd Rashidi amir, Talal bin Abdullah (1848-68). The Palace consisted of 3 floors, the first had the reception halls, gardens, and kitchens. The second had the diplomatic guest rooms. The third had the royal family rooms. It was demolished at the orders of Ibn Saud after the conquest of Ha'il in 1921.
Barzan Souk is in the place where many years ago stood the Barzan Palace of the Al Rashid extended family who governed the area around Ha'il.
Friday Market is a traditional-style souk, held on Friday because it is a national weekend.
Garden Mall is the largest shopping mall in Hail, it has shops like lifestyle, shoe mart, babyshop, H&M, giordano, iconic etc. "Samah Center" became the second largest shopping center in Ha'il. The third being the "Hyper Panda" shopping mall.
Airif Fort (also spelled Oreif) is on a hill on the edge of the city. It is a mud-brick (adobe) fort built over 200 years ago as a combined observation post and stronghold. There is a beautiful view of the city from the main watchtower.
Qishlah Fortress is an impressive sight located in the center of Ha'il. The current building was built in the 1940s while Prince Abdulaziz bin Musa'ad Al Saud held office in Ha'il province. It is the largest traditional mud-brick fortress in Ha'il and is very well restored and preserved both outside and inside. It was used mostly as a barracks. Its two floors are 142.8x141.2 meters high, its walls are 8.5m high, and it has eight large watch-towers along with the wall with two main gates, eastern and western, and has a large inner courtyard with old military items on exhibition.
At-Turathy Restaurant is a large historical mud-brick building located in Ha'il center which is used as a traditional restaurant. Its appearance is half-restaurant, half-museum with a large number of local traditional items used as decorations. The atmosphere is very traditional, food is traditional, and seating is on the floor.
Ha'il Roundabouts are located in different parts of the city. These have large sculptures of traditional items located in the center of the traffic rotaries which are decorative fountains. One has a Gerba (traditional animal skin canteen) built as a fountain, another has a Mabakara (traditional incense burner) with Dellahs (traditional coffee pots) and cups around it built as a fountain.
Ha'il Museum is the museum of the city of Ha'il. It is also one of the places where visitors can buy permits to see the petroglyphs near Jubbah Oasis, the other place being Ateeq Naif al-Shammari's Jubbah Palace of Heritage museum just off the main street in the town of Jubbah itself. The rock carvings, which are believed to date from 5500 BC are in an area that is about an hour and a half from Ha'il city by car. Tours to the Nafud desert can also be organized there.
Aja Palace is located on the outskirts of the city. It was where the former governor of Ha'il province Prince Saud bin Abdul Muhsin Al Saud lived. It can only be seen from a distance - from the main highway nearby. It is a residential compound and as such is not open to the general public for sightseeing.
Ha'il Desert Life Festival is an annual festival held in the province of Ha'il to celebrate and exchange experiences about desert life and culture around the world.
Ha'il Rally is an important event in Ha'il and even in Saudi Arabia as it is the first car rally in Saudi Arabia, which started in 2006 and was approved by FIA in 2008.
The University has several campuses inside the city, and is expanding. It has as a new campus under construction, which is located to the north of the city and covers an area of more than 9,000,000 m2 (96,875,194 sq ft).
Ha'il is located on Saudi Arabian highways 65,70 and 400, and is connected to 3 main highways, Madinah, Buraydah, and Jouf Highways, which connect Ha'il with the northern borders of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Jordan.
Ha'il has an important logistical role in northern Saudi Arabia's rail system (SAR). In 2008 Ha'il is the site of a concrete sleeper plant for railway construction. A railway (the north-south line) was completed in 2015 that extends from Riyadh to Al-Hadeetha in northern Saudi Arabia through Ha'il as part of the expansion of the Saudi railway system railway. A new SAR railway passenger station was completed in 2015. It is planned that commercial operation of this station will start in the fourth quarter of 2017 with trips to Riyadh.
G. A. Wallin (1854): Narrative of a journey from Cairo to Medina and Mecca, by Suez, Araba, Tawila, al-Jauf, Jublae, Hail and Negd in 1845, Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol 24: 115-201. (Reprinted 1979).
Lady Anne Blunt (1881): A Pilgrimage to Nejd, The Cradle of the Arab Race: a Visit to the Court of the Arab Emir and `our Persian Campaign` (Reprinted 1968)
William Gifford Palgrave, 1865.Personal Narrative of a Year's Journey through Central and Eastern Arabia (1862-1863), 2 vols (London: Macmillan & Co). (Reprinted many times, last in 1985).