Time travel ... we've all wondered whether or not it's real at least once in our lives (especially after we noticed "The Simpsons" had somehow predicted the future multiple times). Unfortunately, very few people can answer the "does time travel exist?" question, but it doesn't require a machine to experience history.
I got the incredible opportunity to head 200 kilometers out of the clamorous, busy capital of Riyadh into the heart of the Najd region and visit what is known as Saudi Arabia's oldest Bedouin village, Ushaiqer. It was named "little blonde" after a red mountain that looms over the golden mud houses. Why "little blonde" and not "little red" if the mountain is red? Well, it is said that in the olden days, the same word could be used for both red and blonde.
Although considered a small village, walking through its pathways feels never-ending. All paths are somehow interconnected, and it's easy to get lost. (If you do end up losing your way, be sure to ask one of the kind villagers for the way out.)
Not only is the entire village completely intertwined, it somehow never floods during rainy weather. The villagers are not sure how that happens since no sewage systems are installed. Yet, not once has the village been flooded after a storm. Instead, the water finds its way out of the field and into a sewage area nearby.
To be able to look around you and visualize what life was really like 1,500 years ago is truly a privilege in this day and age — when people prefer to look to the future rather than the past.
Many have opted to destroy the fabric of where they began. However, the villagers of Ushaiqer kept their history alive, instead of tearing everything down and building it anew. They took it upon themselves to restore what they could and protect what they couldn’t. In doing so, the villagers turned their home into a beautiful hub for history fanatics and tourists alike, while earning enough to live, put their children at school, and keep a roof over their heads.
I realize I have babbled your heads off. Which is why I'll be allowing these photos to speak on my behalf:
1. A view from the top
2. There is history, even in the rubble
3. "Our door is always open"
The three Al Salem brothers were handed down a four-story house by their father and grandfather. They are the proud owners of the highest vantage point in the village, and a gorgeous house which they restored and turned into an informal restaurant.
All guests are welcomed warmly as if everyone is family.
4. Skylights are everywhere!
5. Even the past had a future
"The house of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Abdullah Bin Mohammad Al Kharashi. It is considered the first governmental system school in Ushaiqer since 1369 Hijri (1950 Gregorian) until late 1373 Hijri (1954 Gregorian). The house was then restored at the expense of the inheritance in 1429 Hijri (2008 Gregorian)."
6. A nostalgic haven
"One man's trash is another man's treasure!"
Abou Abdulaziz's Museum is filled to the brim with antiques and historic artifacts. According to Abou Abdulaziz himself, he had to buy out his neighbor's house to make room for everything he's been collecting since the age of nine.
The villagers thought him crazy when he would keep items they believed were useless, laughing at his childlike actions. Years later, they envy his genius, for he is now making a living by charging five riyals ($1.33) per visitor.
Sometimes, hoarding is not such a bad thing.
7. Drowning in antiques
8. All doors lead somewhere ...
... these happen to lead into the past.