Ahsa’s archeological heritage faces grim future
HOFOUF — The historic districts of Al-Koot and Al-Na’athil in downtown Hofouf, Al-Ahsa governorate, are home to hundreds of traditional homes that depict the rich architectural heritage of the region.
Long abandoned, the majority of homes’ original structures of mud blocks and palm thatch are still standing but they are not safe for living in. Regardless, dozens of expatriate workers from Asia live in these homes, unaware that they could collapse at any time, Makkah daily reported.
The owners of the dilapidated homes have either deserted them or moved to districts close to large cities and expatriates working in nearby stores have moved in. Unaware that they are destroying the area’s heritage, heaps of garbage are strewn all over the districts’ narrow alleyways. Many of the homes’ handmade mud doors — made in Al-Ahsa — have been destroyed, windows shattered and walls and roofs lie in shambles.
In Al-Koot district. where the famous Al-Bay’ah House is located, there are dozens of homes occupied by Asian workers who, like the home owners, are completely unaware of the importance of conserving them.
In some cases, residents throw garbage in deserted homes, which in turn causes serious fires. Fire trucks often have trouble getting around the districts’ narrow alleyways and mud roofs can collapse quickly when sprayed with fire-fighting foam.
Amateur photographers in the area try to document the homes’ heritage before it is destroyed. Photographer Yusuf Al-Nasser said he has taken many pictures of the homes’ distinct architecture. He hopes the concerned authorities will conserve the homes and, in turn, the area’s history.
When contacted for comment, Al-Ahsa municipality said it was working with several other government authorities to monitor the situation and prepare reports accordingly.
The municipality confirmed that many of the homes are in a state of imminent collapse and pose a danger to both their inhabitants and neighbors.
The director of Civil Defense in Al-Ahsa, Col. Muhammad Al-Zahrani, said his administration is carefully watching historical districts to counter any dangers and facilitate the passing of fire trucks through alleys.
According to Khaled Al-Faridah, researcher in archeology at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) in Al-Ahsa, there are many homes in the districts’ that have already lost their archeological value.
“This is due to the destruction caused by expatriate workers who do not care nor understand the archeological value of these homes. Some try to remove the homes’ roofs and sell the palm thatch and wooden planks. The conservation of these houses is everybody’s responsibility, especially the owners. Reconstructing these houses and renovating them will provide them with good economic gains as this will attract tourists,” he said while adding that the King Abdullah Project for Architectural Heritage will contribute greatly to restoring the lost heritage of many of the Kingdom’s historical districts.