Ushaiger restored to past glory

Updated 26 April 2013
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Ushaiger restored to past glory

Ushaiger, the small village in the northwest of Riyadh, has been restored to its former glory to preserve its heritage and revive ancient customs and lifestyles.
Visitors to Ushaiger, or “Najd’s Womb” as it is referred to by residents for having raised many well-known Islamic scholars and historians, will find a green oasis in the middle of the desert. It has mud houses, markets, mosques, narrow alleys surrounded by 600 orchards, 30 towers and 80 freshwater wells engraved hundreds of years ago.
All of this is in an area of no more than four square kilometers amid sand dunes, near Shaqra Province, 200 km northwest of the capital city. Ushaiger means "Small Blonde,” which is a description of the small sandy-brown mountain located north of the village. The village is on Al-Washim plain in the Najd region.
Ushaiger has over 400 mud houses and 25 mosques within seven districts with its narrow pathways that end at palm groves and orchards. It is surrounded by a thick wall that has wide doors made of ithal (tamarisk) wood and high massive towers. The doors are decorated with brandings of circles, disks and geometric designs, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
The ruins of Ushaiger were lovingly restored by a number of citizens who wanted to preserve their rich heritage and turn the village into an attractive tourist spot.
Ushaiger prides itself for producing several prominent men of letters including the renowned religious reformer Muhammed bin Abdul Wahab, Islamic scholar Sheikh Al-Othaimeen and many poets and thinkers.


Hello Helsinki: 48 hours in the Finnish capital

The Finnish Capital, Helsinki, shot from above. (Shutterstock)
Updated 19 November 2018
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Hello Helsinki: 48 hours in the Finnish capital

  • The best way to explore the city center is on foot, walking around beautiful, clean streets and taking in the fresh air
  • The best-known landmark is Senate Square and its surroundings, which make up the oldest part of central Helsinki

DUBAI: Access to Helsinki has just become easier for Gulf travelers thanks to the introduction of a new route from the UAE to the Finnish capital. Last month, budget carrier flydubai launched its Dubai-to-Helsinki flights, offering the best connection from Saudi Arabia as well.
Our first port of call after the six-hour trip was the utterly enchanting Hotel Kämp, arguably the best-known hotel in Helsinki — after all, it has been around for over 130 years. The classy, comfortable five-star property is known as a place to see and be seen.
While there, do check out Kämp Spa, where saunas are, of course, available. (There are almost as many saunas as there are people in Finland.) Kämp Spa offers two options: the eucalyptus-fragrance grotto steam sauna and a traditional Finnish one.
The best way to explore the city center is on foot, walking around beautiful, clean streets and taking in the fresh air. The best-known landmark is Senate Square and its surroundings, which make up the oldest part of central Helsinki. You can take in the glorious architecture of Helsinki Cathedral, while also viewing the Government Palace, the main building of Helsinki University, and Sederholm House, Helsinki’s oldest building, dating back to 1757.

For shoppers, Helsinki is home to one of the world’s most exciting and influential design scenes, and a treasure trove for unique pieces. Try TRE, which stocks over 300 brands of well-known classics as well as mostly homegrown products — including fashion, jewelry and furniture — from new designers.
Be warned, though: Helsinki is expensive. Very expensive. So you’re probably better off investing in a cool design piece for the home rather than the usual gifts and gadgets. You’ll leave with something memorable that’s high-quality and, of course, unique.
For something on the quirkier (and cheaper) side, second-hand clothes store UFF has chains across the city, where you’ll find some gems that are as good as new.
Dining out in the city also doesn’t come cheap, but it is an experience to savor. For casual snacking, The Old Market Hall sells cheese, beautifully fresh fish (we’d recommend the salmon), fruit and veg, and has cute little cafés.

For dinner, it’s worth treating yourself. Garden by Olo is an official ‘spin-off’ of the Michelin starred Olo and serves Nordic ingredients fused with Asian elements.
One of the newer eateries on the block is Restaurant Andrea at the newly opened Hotel St. George. Here, Nordic and Anatolian kitchens come together to offer a variety of sharing plates, inspired by both cuisines.
If you fancy taking in some of Finland’s stunning scenery, head to one of the national forests close to Helsinki. Nuuksio National Park — forests and lakes spread over Espoo, Kirkkonummi and Vihti — is easy to get to by public transport, and features eight marked trails for hiking in the freshest of air.

If you are visiting for more than a couple of days, then it is well worth exploring Lapland, the official home of Santa Claus. You’ll need to take a one-hour flight from Helsinki to Rovaniemi.
If time is tight, try a reindeer sleigh and husky sled experience, where you can interact with the animals on farms and enjoy rides through the snowy forests.
There’s so much more to see and do than is mentioned here, of course. We’re sure we’ll return to Finland one day, it’s definitely a trip worth making. Just don’t forget to pack your thermals.