Al Ula town in Saudi Arabia

View of Al Ula old town with fortress and the Tantura spire.

The town of Al Ula in Saudi Arabia is a combination of different town patterns. Although Al Ula is known for the location of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hegra, the town has architecture worth visiting and maintaining.

In this post I have defined three different urban areas: the old town, the farms and the new town houses in AlJadidah.

The old town is a concentration of mud brick houses around a fortress placed on top of a high rock. The area is being restored and access is denied to public so we can just get pictures from the perimeter.

Farm houses and houses inside the new town, AlJadidah, are constructed in stones and/or mud bricks, metal or wooden doors and more or less sophisticated windows from simple holes to two or three-layered closing systems.

Al Ula farm houses

Few large traditional farm houses are left in Al Ula. They discretely face the street on one facade and develop a rich interior facades towards the farm. 

Old mud brick well made inside the oasis of Al Ula.

Sketches below show a simple house from the street that becomes a quite sophisticated complex from the plantation side. It has two main modules united by a stone-built volume that provides a shaded porch. The irrigation water tank has the form of a pool or alberca in Arabic (and Spanish) that pretty much is a pool more than an irrigation infrastructure.

See the different sizes of the windows towards the street and towards the plantation. This must have been a permanent home because in front of the house windows there is a mud wall to protect from the views from the plantation area, as if it was intended to protect the privacy of the family from the views of the workers at the farm. 

This property also has an old well and another water tank built on surface, not dig out like the pool one.

Street facade for Al Ula oasis mud house farm with 1960 Ford F100 pickup.
Al Ula farm house in the edge of the oasis. Discrete exterior hides the richness and variety of the interior façades.
Shaded stone-built porch for mud house farm with water pool/alberca.
Al Ula farm house in the edge of the oasis. The façade to the plantation is more open and complicated but protected by a high wall just 2,00 meters away.
Shaded stone-built porch for mud house farm with water pool/alberca. 1960 Ford F100 pickup.
Al Ula farm house in the edge of the oasis. The stone-built porch and the water tank must have been very comfortable in the hot days.

 

Sketch of Al Ula mud brick farm with shop at the edge of the oasis.

 

 

Al Ula farm house of more urban character.

Façades are significantly different from the street side than from the plantation side. Windows facing the private outdoor areas are larger and with more mechanisms to maintain privacy and facilitate ventilation. Observe that the many windows did not have glasses but had wooden shutters. Solid wooden shutters would not have glass windows behind while wooden slatted shutters would have a glass window system behind even with further solid shutters.  

Several buildings have shops on ground floors with larger openings and separate doors, specially houses with farming land behind. Wooden doors were replaced by metal doors reproducing the decorations of the wood on the metal.

 

Al Ula farm house at the edge of the oasis. This opening overlooks the irrigation tank and the plantation.
Al Ula farm house in the edge of the oasis. This is one of the windows to the main room in the house.
Al Ula farm house openings for street shop.

Al Ula town houses in AlJadidah

As the citizens of Al Ula started to require more modern houses they slowly left the old town to larger plots in the so called “new town” AlJadidah. Al Jadidah is a mixture of new farm style houses and more urban character town houses. It is significant that all the buidlings are wall-to-wall and built-to-line without setbacks or detached auxiliary buildings. Many will have a back garden or even a larger plantation but all of them have access to the roof in a more or less elaborated way to have a cooler place to spend the evenings.

Al Ula town stone-built house. The roof is an open rooftop with openings in the parapet.
Sketch of Al Ula town house.
Sketch of Al Ula town house
Sketch of Al Ula town house with mango tree and grocery shop in AlJadidah.
Sketch of a humble house in AlJadidah neighborhood in Al Ula town.
Mud house in Al Ula AlJadidah neighborhood.
Al Ula mud house int AlJadidah neighborhood with grocery store.
Elaborated door in town house in AlJadidah, Al Ula. Observe the Saudi shield above the door.

Al Ula school for girls

One of the first school for girls was built in Al Ula in the 60’s.

It was built in the modern neighborhood of AlJadidah in typical geometrical concrete 60’s style in huge contrast with the rest of the town. The proportions, sizes, openings and strong modern character still today shows the intent of modernization of the time.

Al Ula school for girls in AlJadidah neighborhood.
Al Ula school for girls main façade.

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