Saudi Arabia is home to a myriad of beautiful, charming, and ancient villages that attract thousands of tourists all year round. Thee Ain is one such historical village to visit in Saudi Arabia. Also called Dhee Ayn and Zee Ain heritage village, the village is situated in Saudi Arabia’s Al Baha region and offers a glimpse into the vibrant history and culture of the region. Popularly referred to as the Marble Village, it is perched on the top of a rocky hill of white marble and is listed among the country’s top heritage sites. The village offers breathtaking views of the surrounding areas lined with bustling markets, zigzag alleyways, and old houses.
Name of Thee Ain
The historical Thee Ain village is named after the river that gathers its water from nearby mountains. The river further branches out into several tributaries having different names. According to a local folktale, there was once a man who lost his cane in one of the valleys. He spent a lot of time searching for it and tracked the river which brought him to the village. After questioning the villagers, he finally retrieved it by digging it out of the eye-shaped spring.
Thee Ain architecture
With a unique and striking design, Thee Ain features a stone-built architectural style that is reflected in its carefully-paved stone corridors. It has 49 houses, all of which are superimposed on and contiguous to each other owing to the mountainous nature of Thee Ain. These houses are built from volcanic rock and mudbrick with mud acting as an adhesive. Amongst these 49 dwellings, 9 consists of just one floor, 19 have two floors, 11 are composed of three floors, and 10 feature four floors. The ancient village was built using a load-bearing wall system called Medamik. Its structures are roofed using sider wood while the big rooms are roofed with columns called ‘Al-zafer’. Some of these buildings have existed since the establishment of Thee Ain centuries ago.
History of Thee Ain
Dating back to the 10th century AH, Thee Ain is a 400-year-old village that played host to several huge tribal battles before the country’s unification by King Abdul Aziz. The most prominent battle that took place in this region was when the collective force of Zahran and Ghamd tribes clashed with the Turkish army led by Muhammad Ali Pasha. This battle ended with the Turks being defeated. The village still houses the tombs of the Turks, which are known as ‘Turks graves’. Around 30 to 40 years ago, the village was completely abandoned which leaves it in a half ruin state as it is today.
Thee Ain tourism and sightseeing
Counted among one of the most beautiful and offbeat tourist spots in Saudi Arabia, Thee Ain is a gorgeous village, which is built on the top of a mountain. The village offers a cool, fresh breeze and the incredible fragrance of crew pine trees. The path leading to the village is dotted with numerous historical stone and slate towers.
1. Landscape of the village
Serving as a unique heritage site, the fascinating village flaunts ancient archaeological structures, lovely springs, and verdant agricultural lands. The picturesque natural landscapes, vibrant cultural gems, breathtaking gardens, and a well-equipped visitor’s center are the top popular tourist attractions at Thee Ain heritage village. Thee Ain is covered with dense vegetation including towering palm trees, expansive banana plantations, and vibrant native flora, which exquisitely contrasts with surrounding barren mountains.
2. Waterfall and garden
One can explore the cultural and natural aspects of the village by strolling through its streets. Thee Ain has an abundance of crops like lemon, basil, bananas, and palm trees. It is also home to a scenic river and has a waterfall. The village houses a lovely farm known as The Ain Garden, which is famous for being shaped like an eye. Moreover, the place offers mesmerizing views of the surrounding, especially of the awe-striking escarpment and oasis below.
3. Ancient buildings and fortress
Those interested in architectural and cultural heritage can visit the defensive fortress and the mosque in the village. Many of the village’s buildings have been transformed into restaurants, hotel apartments, museums, and several handicraft buildings. Tourists can explore the abandoned houses and take Instagram-worthy pictures. These ancient houses reflect the remnants of the beautiful architecture that existed centuries ago. One can stroll through its markets and alleyways to get a glimpse into the past. Additionally, tourists can climb up the hill to admire the multi-story houses built out of stone and their unique, ornate doors.
Rehabilitation of Thee Ain for tourism
Thee Ain has a cooperative society that focuses on its rich cultural heritage, including its food, clothing, and folklore arts. Due to its immense potential, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH) has come up with a rehabilitation and development plan to turn this heritage village into a thriving tourist destination. Consisting of five stages, this plan by SCTNH commenced years ago and three of its stages have already been completed while the remaining two are in progress.
Following is a little more about the five stages of the village’s rehabilitation:
- The first stage involved the rehabilitation of numerous buildings, the establishment of a private museum, seats built along the village’s main alleyway till the waterfall, and the re-opening of the archaeological mosque.
- The plan’s second phase involved the establishment of the village garden which cost a total of SR 4 million.
- The third phase began with the restoration of several buildings in the village, costing SR 7 million.
- The fourth stage of development began recently to restore the remaining buildings, which is expected to cost more than SR 7 million.
- The fifth and the last stage involves the completion of the visitor’s center along with its accessory structures, intending to create an exhibition for the local products.
How to reach Thee Ain
The village is located at an 800-meter high peak. It is 25 km from the Al Baha city center in the Qilwah Governorate of Al Baha Region’s Al Mikhwat province. To reach Thee Ain, one can travel to Al Baha city by car or plane. Those planning to travel via flight can get off at Saud bin Abdul-Aziz Airport. The village is only a 40-minute drive from Al Baha.
Must Read: Top Tourist Places To Visit In Al Bahah
Things to remember while visiting Thee Ain
While planning a trip to Thee Ain, one needs to keep the following things in mind:
- Thee Ain opens for tourists from 7 am to 6 pm, every day.
- It is favorable to visit when the weather is not too hot since there is a lot of walking and climbing involved. It is advisable to visit either in the evening hours during the summer or winter.
- There are parking spots and restrooms readily available in the area. However, there are no shops; hence, one should take snacks and water along with them.
- There is no entry fee for visiting Thee Ain.
Counted amongst the country’s most popular heritage sites, Thee Ain is an excellent place to visit with family and friends. There is plenty to see and do in this heritage village, making it an amazing spot for all kinds of tourists.
Thee Ain FAQs
What are the weather conditions in Thee Ain?
Largely, the weather in the village is uncomfortably hot in summers. While the village experiences heavy rain during the monsoons and remains mild in winters.
How old is the village of Thee Ain?
The village is around 400 years old.
Why is it called the marble village?
It is known as the Marble Village because it stands on the top of a rocky hill of white marble.
Is there an entry fee for visiting Thee Ain?
No, the village is open to all tourists for free.
What is the best time to visit Thee Ain?
The best time to visit the village is the winter.