Ushaiger is a little historic village in the Najd region of Saudi Arabia; about one and a half hours drive from Riyadh. We visited Ushaiger way back in the summer, during the blistering days of Ramadan. I wasn’t too enthused about my photos from that day. I uploaded them, filed them away and forgot about them. This week, I took another look at those photos and I was pleasantly surprised. I actually loved a fair number of them. Don’t you love it when you get distance from something, come back with fresh eyes and see something totally different?
The first inhabitants of Ushaiger Village settled there about 1500 years ago. In recent years, the community has organized without the assistance of government funding to restore and preserve the town. Walking around Ushaiger you will notice plaques naming the donors to certain buildings in the restoration project. Many of the buildings are still in complete shambles, but it is obvious by the construction materials laying about, that the restoration is still very much in progress. At one point we walked up a few flights of stairs only to find that whatever those stairs led to had completely disintegrated into a pile of dirt and rubble.
The village is a tightly wound maze of mud houses, many crowned with a bright white border. It also has a marketplace and a museum. Because we made the trip during Ramadan, neither of these attractions was open and the town was almost completely desolate. From what I’ve read, Ushaiger is usually quite lively with visitors and hospitable locals. We missed out on that element of the trip. But on the bright side, we were able to explore the buildings and study the architectural details undisturbed.
Ushaiger is also surrounded by an oasis, which seems to go on for a while. We ventured into it just a little before turning back. The perimeter of the oasis was peppered with signage. The graphics of these signs clearly indicated that they were warnings of some sort, but they were all in Arabic, which I do not read. I wasn’t really feeling the idea of going beyond those mysterious warning signs. On the other hand, my husband loves to find shortcuts and he’s always willing to explore unmarked territory. We had a friend with us and he, like me, was not a member of the exploratory team. So we headed back to the car. Around the oasis, I recall seeing lots of steampunk-looking, repurposing jobs, like the frame of a mattress turned into a fence. And there was some oddity that seemed to be car parts joined with a water tank or something. I’m sure it was completely functional, but we’d just seen Mad Max: Fury Road in Bahrain. The post-apocalyptic aesthetic (and the ghost of Immortal Joe) was jumping out everywhere for me on that trip.
I’m glad we made a visit to Ushaiger, as there are not many historical sites to visit in our part of Saudi Arabia. However, I think I’d have to stop short of saying I want to visit there again. I would, I’m not against it. But I also think one trip, and a trove of photos, is enough.