Tumultuous but gratuitous… Epitome in page of diary is unable to wit the writ… Gradually, I am intensive but evenly persuasive to prolong a gospel of wonder imagined to be true, which my eyes want to sue…
Although I am not a historian but a treasure collector from an unknown mystery island. There is a village in Al-Baha, province of Saudi Arabia, which is known as ‘Marble Village’. Yes exactly a brain cell gimmicked me. To trace the history of the village, some say 400 years and some say 600 years. Centuries ago, the villagers of the land had witnessed the battle between Ottoman Turks and their inhabitants. There has been a local incidence in the legacy of village that a long long time ago, an old Yemeni man was asked to find water using a golden dowsing stick. When he struck the source, it is said the stick jumped from his hands and took out one of his eyes. From that incident, the name of land widely became “one-eye village” which in Arabic the name you will trace over there is “Thee-Ain Village”.
Coming back to the compass of Keyhole, Inc’s greatest geographical spying gift to mankind, Google Earth, the navigation of route towards the destiny was fixed. The three musketeers were all ready for another adventure as d’Artagnan joined Mousquetaires de la garde. d’Artagnan is my own brother. The chosen transport of legitimacy is Hyundai Accent 2013. Moving from Jeddah, the total distance towards the destination point is 403 km. We will reach in 4 hours in a limited speed of 120 kph. But we won’t!!! There are numerous places to enjoy during the journey.
We left in midnight with empty belly and intended to consume fats by filling a heavy dinner and drinking fuzzy drinks. After crossing the territory of local city, we stopped the car at one of stations where we ate matghoot. Matghoot is a Yemeni traditional rice with chicken, decorated with rope of onions and grove of lemons in a large plate suffused on the plastic sheet. With the final burping of appetite, we left the spot.
Before the beginning of Leith Valley, we had another stopping with a bizarre gesture of visiting a toy shop and getting interested in considering to buy some toyish stuff. Having a toy shop with different varieties to offer, working at station of one of non-busiest spots was quite strange a view where surely not many customers will raise their eye-brows despite all attractions. We saw soft hanging car toys of popular characters like shawn the sheep, spongebob, sylvester the cat; different bicycles for kids, varieties of pair of slippers and sunglasses and much more.
The dawn began while crossing Al-Lith located on Red Sea coast. My wish to see the marking point of destiny at dawn was lost with my dismantled patience waving in my brain cells. I was feeling exaggerated of not reaching the place on time but chamber of my heart was diverted by God knows a natural slideshow of landscapes. A temporary foggy atmosphere with rays of light burdening some excuse to reveal, the desert was flat silent on the plat. The breeze blew on them and thorny wild bushes stood like a statue of liberty in a sleepy Sahara. There were numerous towns with petrol stations installed with no. of restaurants and masjid each after almost every kilometer. Many a time signboard bewared us from running camels but the caravan of camelus stayed aside. We stopped the car on this almost 275km-long road to capture shots of sunrise revealing from the mountains. That was such a lovely view and throughout the trip, I realized that nature was compassionate on us.
Destiny finally had a turn after lengthy straight road and we moved to left to reach Al-Muzaylif. From there, more landscapes and huge mountains were welcoming us. Few villages are existing there where we see activities of cultivation and fertilizing. We stopped at couple of spots to capture wonderful scenes of truly gifted nature.
Almost 50 km away from Al-Mikhwah, we actually stopped the car for like 20 minutes at a site where fantastic 4 showed height of joyful madness by lying and posing in the middle of the road. With no running transport to bargain a piece of time, we utilized the space by posing in group with few moody gestures and impatiently waited to listen the clicking sound of camera mounting on tripod. For naturally obvious reasons, we preferred to listen the clicking sound instead of raucous horns of speedy vehicles. In any case, our ears had natural sense of hearing more than a dolphin for the time being to avoid any danger. As soon as we heard a clicking sound, we all started moving our ass swiftly and running simultaneously to look back if a vehicle was close to us. It was a hilarious and worth unforgettable scene, laughing on our tramping behavior.
We are almost 30 km away from destiny, and here goes another stopping on witnessing innumerable troop of Hamadryas Baboons. Hamadryas baboons belong to the baboon species from Old World Monkey family. These species are mostly found in the ‘Horn of Africa’ which includes Eritrea and Djibouti. Also you will view the species in southwest of Arabian Peninsula specially in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. They were sacred animals in ancient Egyptian religions. The fur of males is silver-white in color while females are brown.
Entered Al-Baha and we saw many ancient stone and slate houses on the hills. Many mountains and greenery attracts the place. Al-Baha is the capital of Al-Baha province and is easily one of Kingdom’s fittest touring city. One ‘Sharif of Makkah’ named the city ‘The Garden of Hijaz’. Al-Baha province is the smallest province of Saudi Arabia with population of 533,000. The province has 31 administrative centers and more than 50 forests.
2 leading traditional tribes here are ‘Ghamd’ and ‘Zahran’. 1) Roots of Ghamd tribe traces back to the most ancient arabian tribes of as-Saba’iyūn (a Kingdom that came to power in 1st Millennium BC) which nowadays is Yemen. Under editorship of George Walters, in a book ‘Arabia’ published in 1920, the tribe of Ghamd are described to be growing and exporting tobacco to Makkah. Nowadays you will find most of Al-Ghamdis in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam. 2) Like Ghamd, Zahran also are the oldest and largest tribes not only in Saudi Arabia but throughout the Middle-East. Most of Zahranis migrated to metropolitan cities decades ago for betterment of life. In Islamic history, Zahranis are known to leave their houses, and properties to join Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.) in Madinah. Tufayl Ibn Amr and Abu Hurairah were Zahranis… Both the tribes branches 16 more tribes but in total, 13 tribes work in trade and agriculture while rest are nomadic.
Al-Baha is divided into two sectors. The eastern region is a mountainous area, 1500 to 2450 m above sea level known as Al-Sarah sector. Out of 6 main districts of the province, 4 belong to Al-Sarah which are Al-Aqiq, Al-Mandaq, Al-Qura and Baljurashi. The western region is a lowland coastal plain known as Tihama sector. In Tihama, the climate is hot in summer, warm in spring and mild in winter. The rest of 2 main districts lie here in Tihama which are Qelwa and Al-Makhwah. Al-Makhwah is the district where Thee-Ain ‘marble’ village is located.
After crossing many curvy roads and lookalike hills, we are welcomed by the signboard ‘Welcome Thee-Ain Heritage Village’. The wonder of historic nature is falling on our right. To our good luck, the visiting timings are complementary and convincing. You can visit the place from 7am-7pm everyday. Adults have to pay SR.10 each while a family has to pay SR.40. We reached the destiny at 9 am. It is a very quite place with couple of families and a group of few friends entered the place before us. There is a parking lot with minimum of 50 cars to be easily parked. Also there are 30 seperate small-sittings with roofs surrendered by playground, plants and trees, and street lights. Nearby places are a cafeteria and stone-made modern masjid. Still renovation is under process in whole area for recreational activities of visitors. The renovation work is done under ‘Saudi Commission for Tourism & Antiquities’ and ‘Fahad M. Al-Suwayegh Est.’
The village was built on a small marble mountain which is one of Sarawat range of mountains. It is comprised of more than 40 houses, many of them have 2-7 floors. If you take a close look in the bottom of most of boundaries, you will see lantern at almost every 10 steps. The ceilings of houses are made of slate stones with help of wood and juniper trees. To my huge surprise, no mortar or mud (might be little) has been used for the construction of these old houses. which is quite extraordinary. Stone lintels are used for doors and windows.
Wherever we went, we went altogether. All houses were certainly of same structure. We entered one from centuries old wooden door and the passage was surrounded by different stones. The ceilings were made of wood pasture and juniper trees. We entered more rooms inside and there was way to go up. The historic village can never ever be without birds or insects. There are many beetles taking proper care of houses. While reaching the 2nd floor, 2 bats one by one flew over us all of a sudden. Never saw them so close.
Many houses are in ruins and need to properly renovate because reaching the top floors or the fort are too risky. Despite weight problem, I had to risk myself climbing and moving slowly on many danger-inviting stones. The plan was simple! reach the TOP. Things did work when we found a passage to reach the top. The top area of the mountain are forts which were used to defend and protect the village from raids or monitoring purposes. With more altitude above sea-level, more air was blowing and became difficult to make videos of the place until I entered one of top central fort. Same story, many stones were raw and too risky to step forward.
Like I said, the place needs renovation. The families are the most likely to suffer, injuries are most possible. On the top, I certainly was the weakest to attempt the top height i.e., ceiling of fort. So I sat on the boundary for a while. Further more uninvited insects were serving me to welcome. Yep, bumble bees. They never stung me but their presence so close to me was enough to lose an edge.
Then we began descending down. Drank water and sat in the car. There was another route on our left and we drove on it. We began reaching the height of the top of fort and when we reached there, we realized an FML that to climb the fort, you have to join this route to reach it’s back. I had no energy to climb again as other fellows went back. I took rest in car. On my right, I was amused to see a small Saudi Arabian flag waving on top of one of large thorny bush.
Returned to parking lot. There was a cloud of question mark in one’s mind and asked us if we should go to the plantation side? That beautiful greenland was yet to visit. With my energy rebooting in these last 30 minutes, I thought it really sound interesting to make this intention a go. d’Artagnan was exhausted, so the musketeers left him in the car. There is an ancient masjid of perhaps those times, made by stones without mud or mortar. Prayer rugs are properly placed in all 5 rows.
Boundaries are made to view the entire farmville. Here begins the green forest of your dream. A perfect farmville as if you really have entered the green wonders of most spectacular nature. We found spring water down the plantation and followed the route from where it actually begins. The beauty of green nature was compassionate on us as we witnessed tiny waterfalls. It was already afternoon but it was never warm. Then I came to understand the origin of the name Thee-Ain. There is a spring which is known for the abundance and continuous flow of its water. The water flows down from the mountain peak, running between rocks disappearing and reappearing at different points painting a rarely ever seen image. This popped out water from the mountain is known as Thee-Ain which is flowing around 750 m above sea level. According to local villagers, this Thee-Ain spring never dries through the year and continuously supplies fresh water and feeds the agricultural production of the area. Thee-ain also means “having the spring”.
Subhan Allah! This wonderful nature gifted from Allah to such a historical place is the main factor for the abundance of farms, palm trees and banana trees surrounded by mountain village, and the fact that banana trees need a high percentage of water. This farmville goes more lively with troop of Hamadryas Baboons dancing on the palm trees and counseling the plantation with their hooting, chanting and screaming all over for I guess nothing. This Baboolon visibility was enough to remind my childhood of repeatedly watching my favorite animation Walt Disney’s 1967 classic “The Jungle Book” where Baloo tries to rescue the man-cub Mowgli from those chanting idiot chimpanzees. I sketch the same siting where baboons are staring at me and trying to understand with all efforts as why the bloody hell am I staring these lovely funny creatures. They try to come close, and I intend to make a move towards the water. d’Artagnan joined us.
One musketeer went ahead before us, returned and informed us that the mystery water starts from the mountain and has no access to make the proceedings. He and d’Artagnan left me and other fellow on our own and we went beyond to view this heavenly forest. He was so excited to see baby frog hosting him as he began to catch the tiny creature. The baby frog jumped by its utmost efforts for self defense but our friend didn’t let him go easily. In few minutes, he dropped it and caught another baby frog.
At one edge of the stream, we didn’t move beyond to trace the origin of flowing water. The place was like a myth now. I saw large rocks, floating water, frogs and small fish swimming. I felt steady breeze. Tyranny of sunlight disapproved and overshadowed by silent large trees. Labyrinth of my world rocking under a utopian nature of daydreaming where I hark chirping of birds and hooting of baboons. Aquatic nature is lighting the bottom layer of rocks.
Never climbed a tree in my life as my mind was in confounding state of higgledy piggledy whether to try to climb or not. My fellow musketeer helped me climb the branch of a giant tree like Bagheera of The Jungle Book making the Mowgli climb. The core difference was that Mowgli was very skinny and I carry a weight not funny. I climbed and was like if a statue was lying on the branch of tree. Scared of moving a muscle might slip me down, I remained big-eye open, freeky silent with my legs folded with branch protecting myself to be dropped down. My fellow eased and encouraged me to lose my limbs and stay low as my weight was easily balanced on the branch. He took snaps and I kept lying for 10 minutes until my belly fats began hurting and over burning. I came down easily on the rock and sat breathing heavily. For me, it was an experience never to forget. A heaven in forest, the joy I harvest…
Lied on the rock and took a minor nap. Every single existence was like silent with only sound of streaming water. Under the shadow of tree, I looked up the branch and kept staring it. Red ants are not bothered of my lying as they kept marching from hither to thither. Far I can easily see the fort. I daydreamed beautiful fairies and charming topless mermaids, might they all of a sudden reveal from water and come close to me, call my name and kiss my lips. But that never happened. In fact our waiting fellows came back to see us in agony. They were waiting for half an hour in the parking lot as car key was with us. We left the heavenly forest and left the village.
On our way back, we searched Pakistani restaurants for desi food. As almost all the shops and restaurants were closed after Friday prayers, we felt if we are going to have a heavy lunch in hours. But after ending of Al-Baha territory, we found a Pakistani restaurant where we were the only visitors. We ordered chicken and mutton karahi plus beans with loaf of breads. Waited for 20 minutes until the heavy lunch was served with a smell forcing our mouth to eat the fleshes swiftly. It is no doubt, one of tastiest karahis I have ever eaten in life. With rope of onions and frozen cucumbers adding the taste like a sauce or a paste.
We returned to our city at approximately 9 pm. Tired and exhausted, lying on my bed reminded me the rock I was lying on with tree branch on the top. My movement of limbs within a quilt sensed back my slipping from raw stones. Even while sleeping in the usual dark, I felt those couple of bats flew on me. Ringing of mobile in deep sleep was like screaming baboons from the palm trees. The floor of my room became marble gloaming in the night. Out of my room, my cats walking on floor was imitation of beetles on hard surfaces. I daydream of lying in the forest while working in office. I wish to go back there. I will go back with my fellow musketeers In Sha Allah soon before year ends in winter.
Interested visitors must keep in mind;
- To visit the village early morning between 6 am-7 am to enrich the beauty of farmville and marble village.
- To have your bag-packs with compulsory cold mineral water bottles and first-aid kit.
- To go from the back side if you are interested to climb the top of fort.
- To not rely on any ceiling of the floor filled with raw stones.
- To wear hard shoes which will guarantee the safety from stones and rocks.
In the end I conclude with special thanks to my fellows who took part in the adventure as always and made the trip so special. I also am thankful to Ministry of Tourism who are working with their best efforts to renovate such places and attract more customers. Last of all, thanks to Allah Almighty for gifting us heaven on earth where we can explore the nature.
The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists – Charles Dickens