A DAYTIME ESCAPE FROM RIYADH
If you are ever visiting Riyadh, you must see the remarkable heritage village of Ushaiger, located only 200km north of the capital.
Ushaiger means ‘Small Blonde’ and the village was named after the colour of a small hill to the north of the village. Although it is made of red rock, locals say the Arabic word for red could be also be used for blonde in days gone by.
At the entrance to the village you are greeted by a huge wooden gate set in a red mud wall. This wall continues all around the village. When walking through Ushaiger, which has over 400 mud houses, you will see unique doors decorated with traditional geometric shapes. Behind many doors are internal courtyards, some with gardens, where the rustle of palm trees in a cozy enclosure transports you back in time.
With a little adventure and careful walking, some of the buildings and courtyards can be explored. There are two water wells in the village, now dry at their depth, and alongside each well is the 15 to 20 metre long camel track. Camels were once walked backwards and forwards along this track to raise buckets of well water to irrigate the land and provide water for the people.
In the centre of the village, the museum reveals the daily lives of past inhabitants by displaying a multitude of day-to-day household and working artefacts.
There are some small shops for souvenirs and two very enjoyable cafes. One cafe also provides a wide range of foods based on historic local recipes. There is seating for families under the cover of palm fronds, affording cooler air shaded from the sun.
The other cafe offers tea and Arabic coffee, with tables and chairs arranged in secluded positions in the gardens and walkways. For the evenings, there are carpets and cushions on several stone platforms overlooking the central stream.
The area where Ushaiger is located is close to amazing red sand dunes which flow and change with the winds and where you can experience the calmness of the sand, walking to the ridges, and even a picnic. Don’t forget to bring carpets, cushions and delicious foods!
My visits to Ushaiger bring me tranquility and connection to the reality of life in this expansive spectacular desert.