Tayma is a large oasis with a long history of settlement, located in northeastern Saudi Arabia at the point where the trade route between Yathrib (Medina) and Dumah begins to cross the Nefud desert. Tayma is located 264 km southeast of the city of Tabouk, and about 400 km north of Medina.
The oldest mention of the oais city appears as "Tiamat" in Assyrian inscriptions dating as far back as the 8th century BCE. The oasis developed into a prosperous city, rich in water wells and handsome buildings. Tiglath-pileser III received tribute from Tayma, and Sennacherib 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 BCE for Jeremiah to prophesy against it . It was ruled then by a local Arab dynasty. The names of two 8th-century BCE queens, Shamsi and Zabibei, are recorded.
In 539 BCE, Nabonidus retired to Tayma for worship and looking for prophecies, entrusting the kingship of Babylon to his son. From this we can recognize Tayma as being an important place.
Cuneiform inscriptions possibly dating from the 6th century BCE have been recovered from Tayma. It is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. The biblical eponym is apparently Tema, one of the sons of Ishmael. Archeological investigation of the site, under the auspices of the German Archaeological institute, is ongoing.
The Tayma stele discovered by Charles Hubert in 1883, now at the Louvre, lists the gods of Tayma in the 6th century BCE: alm of Maram and Shingala and Ashira. This Ashira may be Athirat/Asherah.
Jews of Tayma
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. The town fell to the Muslims in the 630s and the inhabitants were subjected to a dhimma pact, and later expelled.
Tayma and neighboring Khaybar were visited by Benjamin of Tudela some time around 1170. Benjamin was a Jew from Tudela in Spain. He travelled to Persia and Arabia in the 12th century.
In the summer of 1181 Raynald of Chatillon attacked a muslim caravan near Tayma, in spite of a truce between Sultan Saladin and king Baldwin IV of Jerusalem.
Points of interest
Qasr Al-Ablaq castle is located on the southwest side of the city. It was built by Jewish poet and warrior Samuel ibn 'Adiya and his grandfather 'Adiya in the 6th century CE.
The Qasr Al-Hamra palace was built in the 7th century BCE.
Tayma has an archaeologically significant perimeter wall built around 3 sides of the old city in the 6th century BCE.
Many Aramaic, Lihyanite, Thamudic, Nabataean language inscriptions, around Tayma
Nabatea: The 12 Tribes of Ishmael: Tema
Verse account of Nabonidus, translation at Livius.org
Chronicle of Nabonidus, translation at Livius.org