The hamadryas baboon (Papio hamadryas hamadryas) is found both in East Africa and western Arabia and is the only free-ranging nonhuman primate in Arabia. It has been hypothesized that hamadryas baboons colonized Arabia in the recent past and were possibly even transported there by humans. We investigated the phylogeography of hamadryas baboons by sequencing a portion of the control region of mtDNA in 107 baboons from four Saudi Arabian populations and combing these data with published data from Eritrean (African) P. h. hamadryas. Analysis grouped sequences into three distinct clades, with clade 1 found only in Arabia, clade 3 found only in Africa, but clade 2 found in both Arabian and African P. h. hamadryas and also in the olive baboon, P. h. anubis. Patterns of variation within Arabia are neither compatible with the recent colonization of Arabia, implying that baboons were not transported there by humans, nor with a northerly route of colonization of Arabia. We propose that hamadryas baboons reached Arabia via land bridges that have formed periodically during glacial maxima at the straits of Bab el Mandab in the southern Red Sea. We suggest that the genetic differentiation of Arabian from African populations suggests that Arabian populations have a higher conservation status than recognized previously.