A village out of this world
The historical village of Zee Al-Ain is the jewel of Al-Bahah Province and will take you by surprise.
Located down the cliffs of the City of Al-Bahah it gathers unique features that make this place enchanting - the most striking being the whiteness of the marble hill the village was built on, which contrasts with the darker shades of the grandiose Sarawat mountains in the background.
To complete the picture postcard view, a nearby natural spring provides water to a lush oasis surrounding the bottom of the hill.
The village was named after a water spring that flows continuously from the nearby mountains to several reservoirs, and each particular pond has its own name. There is a local legend that tells of a man who lost his cane in one of the valleys, and to retrieve it he tracked it until he reached the village, where he enlisted the help of the inhabitants and retrieved his cane after digging up the spring.
The village dates back about 400 years, and it witnessed the battles between the Ottoman Turks and its inhabitants.
Coming from the city of Al-Bahah, the road down the Sarawat mountains offers many spectacular viewpoints along the majestic escarpment which alone are worth the trip.
Parking areas along the road allow the drivers to stop safely and admire the vertiginous viewpoints along the way.
Zee Al-Ayn has been placed on the list of tentative UNESCO World Heritage Sites thanks to its exceptional features. The village has 49 dwellings, 9 of which are composed of one floor, 19 from two floors, 11 from three floors and 10 from four floors. The village was constructed using load-bearing walls ("Medamik") and the thickness of the walls are between 0.7 to almost 0.9 meters.
Structures are roofed using cedar wood. The big rooms are roofed using columns known as "Al-zafer", and above the cedar wood there is a kind of stone known as "Salat", and the stones are covered with mud. The lower floors are the reception and living areas, the upper floors for sleeping. Some of the buildings still exist since the establishment of the village, some are partially run-down but some are completely demolished.
According to the UNESCO website "The Traditional Village of Zee Ain in Al-Baha is an outstanding example of traditional human settlements that are perfectly adapted to their environment and their social and economic raison d’être"
The houses are now empty but some doors are still open so that visitors can enter and experience how the life of the inhabitants of Zee Al-Ayn was several centuries ago. One of the striking aspects of these Arabian traditional houses is the cool temperature they offer.
A walk along the stone stairs of Zee Al-Ayn historical village not only offers unlimited picturesque viewpoints of the traditional houses but also it is a delightful experience that brings you back in the 18th century when the village was at its apogee.
Don't forget to go to the bottom right of the marble hill to see the natural spring that gave its name to Zee Ayn historical village!
How to visit Zee Al-Ayn?
There are plenty of wording for the Arabic (ذي العين) and it is available in Google Maps under "The ain ancient village" and also "Dhee Ayn, Marble Village".
A parking area is available within walking distance to the village that visitors can access during opening hours and for a small fee.
Tour operators organizing trips to Zee Al-Ayn
A village out of this world (author: Florent Egal)