The Ushaiqer Heritage Village is around 180 kms away from the city of Riyadh, quite close to Shaqra town. It is a well-known village known for its ancient Saudi heritage and had been famous as a stopover destination for pilgrims from the neighboring countries of Saudi Arabia who wanted to perform umrah and hajj. The name Ushaiqer was coined by the locals due to the nearby red colored mountain which translates to the “little blonde”. The first of its people began living here around 1400 years ago.
On a young and chilly Saturday morning with temperatures at 3 degree Celsius, our Tour of Riyadh group gathered at an agreed location to begin our historical exploration. A large bus was rented and 40 of us quickly hopped onto the bus, and headed northwest of Riyadh towards Makkah road. There are two ways to reach Ushaiqer. One is to go through the town of Dhurma and the other one is to use Salbouk, Hayrmoula and eventually go through Khasab. We chose to go through Dhurma, which can be found if you continue to go on Makkah road until the huge intersection finds you, and then take a right from there to enter it.
We were first welcomed by the signboard indicating that we had finally arrived and then by our official tour guide, Abu Saleh who has spent all his life in this beautiful village. One of the men from our group became the translator for those who didn’t understand Arabic.
The weighing scale was used to weigh the governor’s weight on the first day of his leadership and they’d record it. And he would be weighed again on the last day of his governorship to make sure that he hasn’t gain any extra kilos. The villagers believed that any extra gain of weight on the governor was a clear indication of his dishonesty and abuse of the power that he was given.
This area was made of 12-20 little houses which has now been renovated to make a museum and a hall for functions and gatherings. The men used the huge location to offer their Salah (prayer) here.
The guide walked us through the little shops selling souvenirs and basic groceries, neighboring houses made of mud, pathways that looked so ancient and narrow, and ultimately opening the doors to his old family house which has become like a little museum of its own.
It takes a good 1-2 hours of slow walk to explore the entire area.
The renovation included painting a few of the houses and windows again to bring it back to life.
The people of Ushaiqer spent their summers on the first floor as it was comparatively cooler at the top while the winters were spent in the ground floor and basement.
All the old car number plates were neatly preserved in the museum for display.
We just couldn’t stop clicking pictures and being amazed by the antique beauty in front of us. The rustic color of the Dallahs (traditional name of the Arabic coffee pot), coupled with a few other colorful tea pots neatly arranged in the area was simply pretty to gaze at.
The village is well equipped with directions and signboards to assist the visitors and enhance their experience.
The women’s corner consisted of the famous Abayas, brightly bordered mirrors, old cosmetic products from the 70s, sewing machines, vintage perfume bottles and much more. The scene just takes you back into the olden times as though you’re living it.
The terrace overlooked other neighboring houses, parks and loads of date palm trees serving as a perfect way to interact with the neighborhood.
Ushaiqer is a place to simply experience by walking and getting lost among the many rustic desert scenes that it has to offer. Every other corner and pathway can serve as a pause point to admire the ancientness, and for those who love to capture, it provides ample opportunities to click photos.
After bidding good bye to the heritage village, we moved to the Ushaiqer mount top and park area to have our late lunch.
Here, we got the complete view of the village that we had just visited. In no time, carpets were laid, chairs and tables were arranged, and our hungry group made groups of 6 people to enjoy a traditional Arabic lunch -Chicken Mandy.
It was time for sunset and cold gushes of wind made their way in. Bonfire kept us warm and then began our bonding time over snacks, tea and Arabic coffee. The entire area is well lit with roads and lights and has mini parks for kids to enjoy swinging, sliding and other basic rides. We tried the swings and under the starry sky, letting yourself swing in the quiet can be the most relaxing therapy that you can ever ask for. I was transferred back to my carefree childhood days when just a few minutes on the swing made me the happiest.
Some of us decided to go for a long walk around the park area and I can assure you that that is the next best thing you can do after visiting Ushaiqer village. It’s extremely quiet and peaceful, far away from the noise and clutter of city life- wonderful for meaningful talks and catching up on life. The area is well equipped with restrooms and mosques and it’s completely safe to be here on your own.
By 7:30pm, we packed up all our belongings, collected our trash and hopped on to the bus for a good 2+ hours of ride back to Riyadh via AlQasab.
Address for Ushaiqer Village: Ushaiqer Heritage Village 50, Ushaiqer 15515 https://maps.google.com/?cid=10701839260078890536&hl=en&gl=us Address for Ushaiqer Mount Park: Ushaiqer Mount Park 50، Ushaiqer 15515 https://goo.gl/maps/B9uQn6mJwTw
Answers to quick questions:
- Is there an entrance fee for Ushaiqer village?
No, it’s free. But, if you would like to visit the museum inside, it’ll cost you 5-20 SAR per person.
- What’s the best time to visit?
Weekends are great to explore Ushaiqer.
- Is it a must to hire a tour guide?
No, it is optional. If you wish, you can hire one for 200 SAR for a large group. However, most tour guides there only speak Arabic.
- How can a group of people visit Ushaiqer if they don’t have transportation facility?
You may contact Tour of Riyadh and a private trip can be arranged for an affordable price which will include food, transport, museum fees and guide fee.
Photo credits: Shaher Kassar & SKA