Facts of the past were my academic energizers back in the day. Memorizing names, dates, events, and anything akin to history interest me—still. When I was invited by a good friend 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 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 the Philippines (Ilocos Sur Tourism’s In the Spotlight: “Calle Crisologo, Coffee Break Vigan, and Plaza Salcedo’s Dancing Fountain”).
This 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 serves as an overlook. The scenery atop is hair-raising.
Roaming the farther side awarded my eyes the perfect example of a traditional Saudi architecture: the Doors!
Curiosity made me dig deeper 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 ornately intact.
When the Ushaiger Village in Riyadh’s Province’s Najd became a heritage site a few years ago, the locals did a lot of restoration efforts all for the preservation of its heritage. This lamp played a big part in the process because it definitely added a touch of old age charm to it, which makes visitors embrace the ambiance with a customary hint.
After probing the secret behind these esoteric doors and the lamp, I moved along the narrow alleys of the village. Soon, I consulted the modern dossier to comprehend how this place had once worked socially.
I had 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 because it allowed 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 recognize the sense of history that these ruins flaunt, I could not 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…Be that as it may, history will always be history and ruins will always serve 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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10 Of The BEST Photos Shared On #LovinSaudi In The Past Month (lovinsaudi.com)
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