Zee Ain Heritage Village in Al-Baha Region

Saudi Arabia
Date of Submission: 08/04/2015
Criteria: (iv)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Permanent Delegation of Saudi Arabia to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Al-Mikhwat Province, Al-Baha Region
Coordinates: N 2205656.85 E 755681.17
Ref.: 6031


It is among the most important traditional villages in Al-Baha region, and it was built on a mountain top featuring a unique urban heritage organization and environmental configuration and its picturesque view towards the surrounding farms that includes 312 houses, and one mosque. The houses were built from polished stones, with multiple floors from two to four floors that are similar in terms of planning, dating back to the end of the 10thcentury AH/8th century CE. The village is further characterized by the presence of a permanent water source and defensive fortification surrounded by mountains on three sides.


Zee Ain is an archaeological village located in Tehamat Zahran about 20 kilometers from Al-Makhwat province and 24 kilometers from the Al-Baha, it was developed in the 10th century AH/8th century CE making it more than 400 years old. The village was built on the summit of a White Mountain famous for the cultivation of banana, lemon, pepper, basil and Kadi, and handicrafts. The village has many two to four floors houses and a small mosque and many forts used to defend and survey the village 

Its Name:

The village was named after a water spring continuously flowing from the nearby mountains to several reservoirs and each particular pond has its own name. There is a local legend that talks about a man lost his cane in one of the valleys, and to retrieve it he tracked it until he reached the village, he gathered its inhabitants and retrieved his cane after digging the spring.

Village Design:

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 system "Medamik" and the thickness of the walls are between 0.7 to almost 0.9 meters, structures are roofed using Sider wood. The big rooms are roofed using columns known as "Al-zafer", and above the Sedir wood there is a kind of stones known as "Salat" and the stones are covered with mud. The lower floors are used for reception and living, the upper floors for sleeping, and some of the buildings still exist since the establishment of the village and some are partially run-down and some are completely demolished.

The Village History:

The village witnessed many tribal battles before the Kingdom’s unification by King Abdul Aziz. The most important of these battles suffered by the region is when the tribes of Zahran and Ghamd met with the Turkish army lead by Muhammad Ali Pasha that ended with the defeat of the Turks; their burial place is known as "the Turks graves".

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The village of Zee Ain is a huge archaeological treasure than no one know its value, but those with long experience in the field of tourism, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities rehabilitate a small portion of it but still needs lots of efforts, to benefit from this village and magnificent landscapes with a serious action to accelerate tourism using SCTA capabilities or experience to develop such wonderful places and important site to become the backbone of local economy and national income.

Criterion (v): The Traditional Village of Zee Ain in Al-Baha is an outstanding example of a deliberately preserved traditional settlement, representative of a culture that has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change. This village, which developed mainly during the 10th century AH/8th century CE, not only represents the architectural subgroup within the Assir Region but also bears witness, for the Kingdom as a whole, to the traditional forms of rural life which were generally abolished by the agricultural revolution in the 20th century.

Criterion (iv): The Traditional Village of Zee Ain in Al-Baha is an outstanding examples of traditional human settlements that are perfectly adapted to their environment and their social and economic raison d’être.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Integrity: The property includes the most important elements and components of the village and the surrounding landscape: the deliberately preserved traditional settlement, the farm lands belonging to it, the wider landscape and the natural environment with all its character-shaping  elements. The  traditional settlement and its landscape environment, shaped by land-use, together with its fortification that organize and orient the landscape's panorama, form a harmonious and intact entity in its visual appearance.

Authenticity: The Traditional Village of Zee Ain in Al-Baha, developed mainly in 10th century AH/8th century CE, was organized in a homogenous way, preserving heritage elements and traditions that characterize it. The preservation of the traditional techniques of The Traditional Village of Zee Ain in Al-Baha architecture, the local use of materials and forms, as well as the historical, village structure have been maintained. The Banana plantation, orchards and gardens have been preserved; the ecological balance has been maintained even in the forestry environment, taking special care to respect historical authenticity. Thus, The Traditional Village of Zee Ain in Al-Baha is not a museum village devoid of any traditional activity, but a living community whose conservation includes farming.

Comparison with other similar properties

Kaiping Diaolou and Villages

Kaiping Diaolou and Villages feature the Diaolou, multi-storeyed defensive village houses in Kaiping, which display a complex and flamboyant fusion of Chinese and Western structural and decorative forms. They reflect the significant role of émigré Kaiping people in the development of several countries in South Asia, Australasia and North America, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are four groups of Diaolou and twenty of the most symbolic ones are inscribed on the List. These buildings take three forms: communal towers built by several families and used as temporary refuge, residential towers built by individual rich families and used as fortified residences, and watch towers. Built of stone, pise, brick or concrete, these buildings represent a complex and confident fusion between Chinese and Western architectural styles. Retaining a harmonious relationship with the surrounding landscape, the Diaolou testify to the final flowering of local building traditions that started in the Ming period in response to local banditry.

Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay

Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks, exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany stand the 'Wonder of the West', a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel St Michael, and the village that grew up in the shadow of its great walls. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site.

Old Village of Hollókő and its Surroundings Hollokö is an outstanding example of a deliberately preserved traditional settlement. This village, which developed mainly during the 17th and 18th centuries, is a living example of rural life before the agricultural revolution of the 20th century.

The Trulli of Alberobello

The trulli, limestone dwellings found in the southern region of Puglia, are remarkable examples of drywall (mortar-less) construction, a prehistoric building technique still in use in this region. The trulli are made of roughly worked limestone boulders collected from neighboring fields. Characteristically, they feature pyramidal, domed or conical roofs built up of corbelled limestone slabs.

Costiera Amalfitana

The Amalfi coast is an area of great physical beauty and natural diversity. It has been intensively settled by human communities since the early Middle Ages. There are a number of towns such as Amalfi and Ravello with architectural and artistic works of great significance. The rural areas show the versatility of the inhabitants in adapting their use of the land to the diverse nature of the terrain, which ranges from terraced vineyards and orchards on the lower slopes to wide upland pastures.

Historic Villages of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama

Located in a mountainous region that was cut off from the rest of the world for a long period of time, these villages with their Gassho-style houses subsisted on the cultivation of mulberry trees and the rearing of silkworms. The large houses with their steeply pitched thatched roofs are the only examples of their kind in Japan. Despite economic upheavals, the villages of Ogimachi, Ainokura and Suganuma are outstanding examples of a traditional way of life perfectly adapted to the environment and people's social and economic circumstances.

The Historic Centre (Chorá) with the Monastery of Saint-John the Theologian and the Cave of the Apocalypse on the Island of Pátmos

The small island of Pátmos in the Dodecanese is reputed to be where St John the Theologian wrote both his Gospel and the Apocalypse. A monastery dedicated to the ‘beloved disciple’ was founded there in the late 10th century and it has been a place of pilgrimage and Greek Orthodox learning ever since. The fine monastic complex dominates the island. The old settlement of Chorá, associated with it, contains many religious and secular buildings. 

Historic Centre of Oporto

The city of Oporto, built along the hillsides overlooking the mouth of the Douro river, is an outstanding urban landscape with a 2,000-year history. Its continuous growth, linked to the sea (the Romans gave it the name Portus, or port), can be seen in the many and varied monuments, from the cathedral with its Romanesque choir, to the neoclassical Stock Exchange and the typically Portuguese Manueline-style Church of Santa Clara.