A few months ago, we visited my husband’s brother who is working in Shaqra. It was a two-hour drive from Riyadh but it was well worth our time, not only because we get to see my brother-in-law (which is really a great thing) but also because we had an opportunity to FINALLY visit Ushaiger Village, one of the most popular historical villages in Saudi Arabia. I have always wanted to visit the place but its location made me re-think about visiting. I’m just glad we finally did because what’s being a resident of Saudi Arabia without seeing this wonderful piece of Saudi Arabia’s past?
There are already many articles online about Ushaiger Village that this information might not be new to you. I’ll write them here anyway so you get the jist on why you should definitely visit the place. Ushaiger Village is one of the most beautiful restored historical village in the Kingdom. The heritage village is in the small town of Ushaiger that’s more or less 200 kilometers North West of Riyadh. If you’re going to Shaqra like we were, you need to traverse the Makkah Al Mukarramah Highway until you come to a huge intersection where you turn right towards the village of Dhurma. If you read my one quick road trip entry during the haj vacation, you’ll know what I’m writing about. Highway 505 and 50 are the roads to Shaqra and eventually, to Ushaiger. The other way is via King Khaled Road passing through Salbukh, Huraymila, and Al Qasab. Both ways are great options because roads are smooth and pretty much straightforward. More information, including map below this entry.
Ushaiger is one of the oldest town in the Najd region and it was once a major stopping point for pilgrims coming from Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran. The name “Ushaiger” came from the color of the mountain bordering the north of the village. The small mountain is colored red, which the locals interchange with “blonde” (it should have probably been brunette but what do we know about what they thought back then, haha). And so Ushaiger is the “small blonde.” Ushaiger is also known as the “Najd’s Womb” because of the number of well-known Islamic scholars and historians raised in the place, including renowned religious reformer Muhammed bin Abdul Wahab, Islamic scholar Sheikh Al-Othaimeen and many other poets and thinkers. Talk about “rich”in every sense of the word: rich in history, culture, tradition, and people skills and talents.
It’s amazing how the people of Ushaiger have chosen to preserve and restore the culture, heritage, and history of their place. Their commitment is astonishing and their hospitality is beyond amazing.
When we arrived in the village, the day being the haj holiday, we weren’t really expecting for a lot of people to be around and small businesses to be open but the Al-Salem Museum just near the entrance was thankfully open for visitors that day. The person in charge of the museum that day welcomed us and he explained to us what the museum is about and also gave the stories of some of the notable items inside. It’s the perfect start to our wandering of the place. We paid SR 10 per person. Now, you might think that’s too much for just looking around but being a history junkie that I am, I easily let go of my riyals because the items in this museum are interesting! Some note-worthy stuff in the museum that either made us awed or laugh:
We moved from one room to another marveling at all the artefacts and relics that are housed in this tiny house. It’s packed to the brim with pieces of history. It opened my eyes to the life of the Saudis long ago and that’s not easily discovered and seen in the Kingdom, as you might have come to know with your stay here. You know what confuses me? The fact that the wares, clothes, and things they had before were all colorful. When you think of Saudi today, it’s all black and white and a pop of color here and there. What happened? Haha! The nomads and bedouins of the desert sure knew how to have fun and bring colors and bling to their lives. Haha! 😉 I imagine the colors of these against the backdrop of the desert. My mind came up with glorious pictures!
We entered the mud village after we visited the museum hoping to visit the other traditional houses and smaller museums inside but they were closed for the holiday and even though there seemed to be people inside, we didn’t want to intrude. They will probably open up their houses for us because the people of Ushaiger are known for their warmth and hospitality. You can visit the Al-Omar House and Al Shenaher House and Museum next time you go there. You can also visit the Instagram page of Trath Ashiqr to see more vintage stuff. Anyway, we decided to discover the place on our own. We entered some mud houses and climbed their narrow, rickety stairwells to look at windows from a story high into the palm fields below. We walked along narrow alleys and got lost in its never-ending left and right.
We also visited the courtyard of the mosque: pictures of that will mostly remind you of this place. Truly a walk in memory lane!
After roaming around the mud village, we went back outside and bought drinks from a bakala that just opened. Even their local stores are a marvel on their own. They have that step back in time feel to them. And while they have the usual junk food and sodas, they also have jars of candies and chocolates that are inspired by local designs. I love those! They look so retro! Their bottled Coke (known to us Filipinos as the “Coke Sakto”) feels so in place in their ref.
Whew! I hope I didn’t overwhelm you with the photos. But you know what, no matter how many pictures I post about Ushaiger, you’ll likely find a new view to take photos of. We barely toured the place; just about a fourth of it I guess. I’m pretty sure there are more to see. So I leave that to you guys to discover. Go and visit Ushaiger Village, especially now that the weather is so nice! You’ll spend your time getting lost in the past and marvelling at how it brought about this present that we’re all walking in now. The photos you’ll take will be amazing: it will be portraits and landscapes of ruination and reconstruction. Of the forgotten and the found. Of loss but ultimately, also of hope.
Thank you Ushaiger for showing and teaching us a lot.
Ushaiger Heritage Village
Ushaiger, Saudi Arabia
Coordinates: 25°20′33″N 45°11′0″E