Aramco Expats, an online blog that is a resource for current and former Saudi Aramco expatriates and their families, recently published a series of excellent blog posts on the seven wonders of the Arabia – the best heritage sites and historical places in the Kingdom.
In the penultimate post of the series of seven, Aramco Expats selected the Rijal Alma village in Saudi Arabia, located in the Asir Region of Saudi Arabia. Rijal Alma in Saudi Arabia is a collection of beautiful, historic houses and other ancient monuments with a long and distinguished history.
“For many centuries, [Rijal Alma village] sat astride a key corridor in trade routes linking the southern Peninsula with the Levant and the Nile River Valley. With the rise of Islam, it became an important stop for pilgrims on their way to Makkah for the Hajj. Some 60 distinctively-styled palaces built of stone and clay and wood speak volumes of the wealth the village accumulated off passing caravans laden with spices and incense…
“The village is known for its distinctive examples of Qut wall paintings, a traditional, geometric, decorative style unique to the area. Continuing to employ a limited range of earth colors, Qut decorations today remain loyal to a remarkable degree to an artistic tradition centuries old. Women are said to have been primarily responsible historically for Qut wall art, following a simple formula: “Men build the palaces; women decorate the interior walls.” Through the centuries, when homes were redecorated, new layers of images would be added to the walls. As part of the restoration process currently underway, attempts are being made to replicate the underlying patterns left over from previous eras.
“Home to a distinguished array of historic houses and other ancient monuments, not long ago Rijal Alma teetered on the brink of destruction. Thanks to an extensive preservation and rehabilitation effort undertaken by the Saudi leadership in concert with local and private interests, Rijal Alma—a vital and treasured part of the national heritage sometimes described as “a living museum”—has been reborn.”
In 2017, the village was awarded the price of Prince Sultan bin Salman for Urban Heritage.
In January 2018, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) has submitted Rijal Almaa for consideration to achieve UNESCO World Heritage status.
“A distinctive feature of Rijal Alma architecture is the use of gleaming white sugar-quartz to frame windows and doorways in the village’s palaces and homes. The stunning, signature effect has been likened to that of a multi-tiered assemblage of giant gingerbread houses.”