Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Day Trip to Ushaiqir Heritage Village

One weekend we took a day trip to Ushaiqir Heritage Village.  Hubby and I have come to the conclusion, (even though his arrival at this conclusion was pre-determined by moi), that if we come across anything touted as 'something to see' we should go see it.   The existence of Ushaiqir was gleaned from an in-flight magazine, so I made the executive decision (because we all know who is really in charge over here) to go have a look.

Our Finnish friend, who was keen for some form of action, provided the vehicle.  He also drove.  The car had a bell that dinged if you went over 100km.  It rarely shut up the entire trip!
The directions explained in the article got us most of the way there before we had to start asking people if we were on the right track.    Not that it is easy to get lost – for most of the trip there was only one main road, until Shaqraa, or there abouts.
The drive is quite boring….about the only thing to look at for a large part of the trip is power pylons.  It occurred to me (lightbulb – ping!) that this might be the appropriately knick named Power Line Road.
As always I had my trusty camera, so here’s some shots of ‘things to see on the way to Ushaiqir’.

Camels in trucks. I think the camels always look so affronted to be transported so unceremoniously.

Camel signs – This was a special request from me…

...how can one live in Saudi Arabia and NOT take a picture of the camel sign. Especially when one has just witnessed camels crossing (apologies for the quality, I had difficulty holding the camera still, but I think you get the picture).

There’s some farmland on the way out…flat, green and gated, though all you can actually see from the road is the gate.  To see the greenery you have to get out of the car and go look.  I love how Saudi's use the desert sands to mark out paddocks.  It's quite effective not only as boundary lines but to prevent people from seeing what's behind the desert wall as they drive by.

Vehicles with heavy loads that looked like they were going to tip over.  We were glad there wasn't a high wind or these trucks would have been struggling to stay upright.  Even so, it didn't pay to get too close.

And trucks loaded with whiteware and other large household items that look rather precariously tied down.

We stopped at a little town because it was one of our ‘hmmmm…which way now' points.  
Although we didn’t actually stop on the first pass through but after our return a half hour or so later.  Even then we didn't stop immediately .   Men are funny creatures....they seem to like figuring things out for themselves when asking a passer-by would get answers a lot faster. 
So, first we drove through this towns derelict mud village, sited on the roads edge, because there seemed to be lots of action there.  Hardly surprising, a newish mosque was right in the middle and it was coming up to salah time, so all the men were heading that way.
My immediate reaction - 'Awesome, people to ask directions'.   Large gatherings of Muslims in Saudi about to pray tend to create nervous tension for some obvious Caucasian western types... male expat wisdom suggested it was probably better to lie low at moments like these so I was outvoted.   I wonder if this could be a Minties ad???

Minties - mint flavoured, sticky sweets popular in Australia and
New Zealand.  The slogan "It's moments like these" is synonymous
with Minties and the idea that life's more testing moments would be
eased by chewing on a Mintie sweet.
So while the towns people prayed, we headed for the hill that was quite prominent just outside of the town.  We mainly stopped because it had interesting structures atop that we had noticed on both recent drive by's,  and we wanted to see what they were.  There was a sign at the bottom of the hill (in Arabic) and a gateway, quite possibly designed to keep people out, but the gates were open. 
Gateway to The Hill
Being hardened Saudi residents we are well aware that open gates mean ‘Enter’ regardless of what any signs might say….so in we went and we were rewarded for our efforts.   The top of the hill is a picnic spot, complete with toilet and shady pergolas, surrounded by green hedging. 
Brilliant.  Time for lunch!  Plus, with such an excellent view of the surrounding area we could see whether the road we thought we might have to take is the road we should take….it wasn’t. 

After a lovely picnic we drove back into town and found a local (finally) and asked directions.
His directions got us to Shaqraa.  Quite a nice looking town – I was impressed.  Yes it’s in the middle of the desert, but someone has done a lot of work there and it looks nice.  I even suggested a return visit to spend the night and do some local sight seeing.  Mr Finland thought I'd been in the desert far too long with that suggestion!

Shaqraa has roundabouts with offshoot roads that require tricky little U-turns and stopping to ask directions (again).  One of the locals at the second “how do you get to Ushaiqir” effort said, (in broken English) he was from Ushaiqir (woohoo) and to follow him - his vehicle was right outside….so being the trusting western tourists that we are, we did. 
At the start of an offshoot road he pulled over, pointed, said 17 km and waved us on our way.  He was right…to the meter!
What's so special about Ushaiqir Heritage Village? 
The old village is being restored - not just a house or two but the whole village.  It’s currently a work in progress.   The village was actually closed for the summer but the visitor center was opened for us once it was discovered we were roaming through the place, thanks to another open gate. 
Ushaiqir Village open gate.
The locals we met were happy to show us around and have some photo's taken with the boys.  Mr Finland got special treatment.  We have no idea why, but he was lapping it up.

Ushaiqir Heritage Village is 200 kilometers or so away.  And makes a nice day trip if you're looking for a something to do of a weekend.   Here’s a Google Map that should be of assistance should you choose to undertake a day trip to Ushaiqir HeritageVillage.

Ka Kite,

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