For some reason, I had images of a beautiful city in mind before going to Abha. When I looked at the city from the sky, just before touching down, I was a little disappointed: it looked like a modern city with architecture that seemed nothing special. After a visit to the traditional tower houses of Rijal Alma, we decide to search for the old districts of Abha. We have heard that they still hide traditional houses. We first drive to Al Basta district. I am following directions from my travel companion, and they seem increasingly illogical. Left, right, left again, crossing a bigger street, diving into alleyways, turning every so often - where are we going? But then, I turn one last corner, and see a building right in front of me that looks, well, different. It is time to park and get out.
What we see before us, is a mud and slate building. The building is striking: its walls are made of mud, but what is unique, is that there are layers of slates sticking out of the wall at lines at regular intervals across the building. We try to understand why people would take the effort to add these slates (they cannot just be there to please our eyes?). It turns out the slates were added to protect the houses against erosion. It probably reduced the maintenance that mud houses normally require. Once upon a time, all houses in Abha looked like this, but nowadays, these houses are an exception. In fact, if you don't take the effort to find them, you will surely not see them driving around Abha haphazardly. We dive into the narrow alleys behind the first traditional house, and find an entire quarter with mud and slate houses - one more beautiful than the previous.
We frequently stop to marvel at the houses and the unique look the layers of slates give to it. Some of the houses are clearly restored, while others are decaying. We wonder if the decaying houses will still be restored to their former glory, and if the traditional houses of Al Basta will be preserved for the future. In many countries, a neighbourhood like this would be swarming with visitors, there would be souvenir shops, there would be trendy bars and restaurants, but we are the only ones around. After thoroughly exploring this district, we head to Al Nasb, another old quarter. We see the small pocket of antiquity across the valley, and when we arrive, walk around here as well. It has similar houses and an old mosque. We see one house which has been restored and looks absolutely awesome - we would have loved to look inside. But while we can see that people live here, there is no one around to ask. We are very happy with our explorations, and just prey that these historic quarters will still be around in the future. Heritage that should clearly be protected.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Abha old houses (Saudi Arabia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Abha old houses. Read more about this site.