IRCICA & Al-Turath Islamic Urban Heritage Program, 2014 Spring School held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

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The 2014 Spring School held within the framework of IRCICA & Al-Turath Islamic Urban Heritage Program focused on the historical sites of Ushaiger, Al-Ghat and Diriyah located in the central part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The program had two main sections: lectures on preservation of historical heritage and field works relating to the case studies.

Lectures on preservation of historical heritage- This section was composed of a set of 8 lectures given by leading professors and experts in the field of history, architectural restoration and urban conservation.

Practical field work relating to the case studies – The field work included visits to the sites of Ushaiger, Al-Ghat and Diriyah and surveys, analyses, evaluation and proposals for 20 individual buildings of different characters inside the Diriyah heritage site. 

The teaching program was coordinated by Professors of Architecture Prof. Osamah Al‐Gohary, Secretary General, Al‐Turath Foundation, Riyadh, Prof. Amir Pasic, Head of the Department of Architecture and Heritage Preservation, IRCICA. It was conducted by two guest lecturers and three local experts. 30 students attended the program, selected by the collaborating universities. Six teams were formed and assigned to work on different topics. Recommendations were issued based on examples of buildings and urban areas inside the historic core of the sites.

An important component of the final report of the program is a set of preservation guidelines for future rehabilitation work in the historical sites of Ushaiger, Al-Ghat and Diriyah. The case studies:

Ushaiger is a small village near Shagra in Saudi Arabia, one of the oldest towns in the Najd region. It was a major stopping point for pilgrims coming from Kuwait, Iraq and Iran to perform the Hajj or the Umrah. It was originally known as A’ekel but the name was eventually changed to Ushaiger due to the town’s location, bordered by a small mountain north of the village. The mountain is red in color, yet locals said it was blonde simply because red and blonde were used interchangeably in the old days. Historical Ushaiger belongs to the Tamim tribe but other tribes lived there as well. It is also homeland to many families in the Arabian Peninsula such as Al-Elsheikh (the family of Muhammad ibn Abd-al-Wahhab), Al-Thani (Rulers of the State of Qatar) and Al-Misnad. Ushaiger historical village has been restored to preserve its heritage. It has a museum.

Diriyah, also spelled Ad-Dir’iyah, Ad-Dar’iyah or Dir’aiyah) is a town in Saudi Arabia located on the northwestern outskirts of the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The history of the city dates back to the 15th century. Diriyah was the original home of the Saudi royal family, and served as the capital of the first Saudi dynasty from 1744 to 1818. Today, the town is the seat of the Diriyah Governorate, which also includes the villages of Uyayna, Jubayla, and Al-Ammariyyah, among others, and is part of Ar-Riyadh province. The ruins of the old city, consisting almost entirely of mud-brick structures, are divided into three districts, Ghussaibah, Al- Mulaybeed, and Turaif, set on top of hills overlooking the valley. Of the three, Turaif has the highest altitude. Part of the city wall, running along the edges of the valley and also made of mud-brick, is still extant along with some short observation towers. The Turaif district in Diriyah was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. The modern city is built at a lower altitude at the foot of the hill on which Turaif is located. To the north of the town, inside the valley, are a number of gardens, palm groves, and small farms and estates. A dam known as Al-Ilb lies further north.

Al-Ghat or Elghat is a small town in Riyadh province, Saudi Arabia. According to the 2004 census it had 6960 inhabitants. The heritage village of Al-Ghat narrates the originality of its past and heritage of its ancestors. The Amara Palace is an architectural ma s t e r p i e c e with an Islamic a r c h i t e c tu r a l touch. The historical castle of Moghairan is another feature of the site. On the west bank of the Markh valley there is a site containing many i n s c r i p t i o n s carved on individual pieces of rock dating back to the period between 900 BC-400 AD.


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