In its Aboriginal name, Ayers Rock, or Uluru, is a large sandstone rock formation in the southern part of the Northern Territory in central Australia. It lies 335 km southwest of Alice Springs.
- It is one of the world’s largest single pieces of exposed rock. Ayers Rock covers an area greater than 20 km² and reaches 3396 feet high at its summit above sea level. The plain below it is called Kata Tjuta, which means “many heads.”
- The Achilpa people emerged from a hole at one end to create what they call Uluṟu Ngurrakālăkarti (the place you can’t get out).
- It was originally known as Uluru. John McDouall Stuart gave the name Ayers Rock in 1871.
- In Aboriginal mythology, the rock is the traditional birthplace of the Rainbow Snake, which is regarded as a powerful deity and ancestor to many clans. In Dreaming, the time when it was created is a much-debated topic. Some say it represents a giant boulder that covered a previous world and later became a place where two great beings fought before sinking into their sleep, known as Ngiya’s Dreaming. Others believe that Ayers Rock has been there for millions of years; it did not come into existence until people began traveling to a new land after creation. This world was destroyed on the day of Ayers Rock’s creation – the place where the rock would have been created had not so many people visited it. Another story claims that Ayers Rock was created on one of Australia‘s first sailing trips, which stretched from north to south. At this point, certain people were putting kangaroos and emus down. When one person wondered why they had not appeared in the new land, he saw a beautiful woman who told him that they were sleeping and it would take a long time to wake up; again, people went back to their land, and its creation continued after that. Other stories say that Ayers Rock was formed from the blood of a wounded ancestor of the Uluru, only to be finished only after a big talk between all people.
- Ayers Rock is revered as sacred, and many ceremonies and rites take place at the base, along with sacred sites for different faiths and cultures. While other places in Australia have also been recognized as holy, Ayers Rock is unique in that it has been visited for thousands of years by Aboriginal people from all over Australia and those from near and far, making it the most important sacred site in Australian history. It is also the most popular major tourist attraction in the Northern Territory. It has become a powerful national icon, representing Australia to the world.
- Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park was given World Heritage status in 1987 following an international agreement under the Convention Concerning the Protection of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. As of July 2012, some 2 million tourists had visited Ayers Rock. Most visitors to Uluru are Australian nationals; however, more than 10% come from overseas (mostly from Japan, Germany, and Britain).