Ushaiqer Heritage Village
Ushaiger is a heritage village located 200 kilometers northwest of Riyadh in the heart of the Najd, the central plateau of the Arabian Peninsula. The village lays on the Al-Washim plain few kilometers west of a narrow range of red sand dunes called ‘Urayq Al-Bildan that extend towards the north that, 100 kilometers further on, become the massive dunes of Zulfi that ultimately connect to the immense Nefoud Al-Kebir.
Ushaiger that means the “Small Blonde” was named after the color of a small hill that lays at the north of the Village. Although it is made of red rock, locals say the Arabic word for red could be used also for blonde in the old days.
Hidden in the heart of the Najd, an oasis-dotted region 200km northwest of Riyadh, Ushaiger Heritage Village provides a glimpse of a slow-paced Saudi society of old.
Bedouins first settled here 1,500 years ago and Ushaiger quickly became a popular stopping point for pilgrims crossing to Makkah, thanks to its springs and low-brimmed olive and palm groves. But far from being a dusty, deserted museum piece, Ushaiger – which, in a naming quirk, means ‘little blonde’ to reflect the nearby red mountain that looms over the yellow mud houses – still has a small community of residents, making use of its schools, shops and mosques. To walk its narrow lanes is to enter a living museum, draped with traces of an ancient way of life.
Encased in thick walls, Ushaiger is a labyrinth of winding alleyways, shaded pathways and timber-framed walkways, crossing between hundreds of mud houses. The village is divided into districts and bisected by groves of palm trees, and includes a cluster of beautifully renovated houses. These offer a stunning example of Najdi architecture, with its distinctive triangular windows and roofs, and ornately carved wooden doors. Some still bear the names of the families who lived there.