Facts of the past were my academic energizers back in the day. Memorizing names, dates, events, and anything akin to history interest me–still. So, when I was invited by a good friend, Mr. Enrico Santos, to join his squad’s trip to Ushaiger Heritage Village, the wandering feet’s engine automatically zoomed off to say YES. A grant-in-aid for The Stories of the Wandering Feet & Mind is always, always most welcome.
In the freezing morning of 17 January 2013, we cruised over to the 200 km distance of the bourg from Riyadh for almost four hours. Before we entered the village’s entrance, we checked this part of the place that reminded me of the equally beautiful heritage site in Ilocos (Philippines). This particular part gives visitors a peek at what the village has to offer.
After a few minutes of delighting in the beautiful views, we proceeded speedily to the village’s grand door. What I noticed upon looking at it is a distinct feature that transported me to the era of mud architecture hundreds of years ago.
The squad scattered across as soon as we started seeing the multiple historic, tangible facets of the village.
I walked a thousand miles to get a feel of this ancient town and the first few steps from the gate made me see a watch tower that served as an overlook. The scenery atop is literally hair-raising.
Roaming the farther side awarded my eyes the perfect example of a traditional Saudi architecture: the unstinting doors that mirror the local artisans’ talents on decorating and designing doors—elaborately.
The reason behind according to what I read is because hospitality, which is the very essence of Arabian culture, begins at the house’s door so it is a must to pour an elbow grease on doors.
The doors were usually decorated with circles, disks, and geometric designs burned with branding irons.
Curiosity made me dig dipper into these lavish doors that I asked one of the village’s guards about what wood was used for the doors. I found out that they are made of ithal (tamarish)—a light and stalwart wood that is usually the preference of the scrimpy Arabs back in the era of tribes.
Two distinguishing differentiae of ithal are its intractability to cracking and ability to expand and shrink well with weather blows. Hence, it is the most popular wood for building up average doors up to this day.
“Modern architects and city planners in the Kingdom recognize the cultural and historical value of old doors. They adapt these unique styles into modern design projects for residences and businesses. Preservation projects also exist throughout the Kingdom to maintain these irreplaceable treasures of the past. In Riyadh and Jeddah, where there is such an outstanding selection of traditional doors, there is an on-going effort to preserve and maintain the traditional character and architecture of the city. In other areas of the Kingdom, cities and towns are making efforts to preserve their past for future generations to learn from and enjoy,” (Doors to the Past, Saudi Arabia, Summer 1998, Volume 15, No. 2).
No wonder the mud-built houses in the area were already worn out but the doors remain intact, ornately.
After probing the secret behind these esoteric doors, I moved along the narrow alleys of the village.
Soon, I consulted Mr. Google to comprehend how this place had once worked socially. I have learned that these slender-width streets were specifically designed to give access to the residences of extended families and to the individual entrances to the houses of branches of the given family.
Moreover, the street walls of this primitive village did not only stand as a bulwark during its glory days but for the convenience of women as it allows them to pass in privacy unveiled from neighboring houses belonging to the same family.
At one point, I reached a certain spot where I suddenly perceived the deafening quietude immuring the place. The punch of such was visceral. While I recognized the sense of history that these ruins flaunt, I cannot deny the shrieking sound echoing from them. The ruins enable us to picture the mien and character of the village in primitive tribes’ time. On the other hand, these dejected structures radiate so much sadness. It made me realize that everything has its time and that all things, indeed, will come to pass.
Be that as it may, history will always be history and a ruin will always be a road to transformation. These ruins of ancient Saudi village will forever carry the Kingdom’s torch of the old world and will forever bridge the present to the past. Kudos to the people behind the upkeep of this historic village towards the preservation of its heritage.
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