Guest post by Alberto Di Gennaro – SANDS
Al-Uqair, located in the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia, is an ancient port—the first seaport in the Arabian Gulf, dating back to the Ottomans period but the site’s history extends back at least 4.500 years; it is the gateway to Al-Ahsa from the Arabian Gulf.
The importance of Al-Uqair is testified by the fact that when the Kingdom was established, Uqair was its economic gateway and the main port through which accessing the east and the center of the country.
The site was inscribed as a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2018 as part of Al-Ahsa Oasis.
Starting from the port of Al-Uqair, loads of various merchandise coming from Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Oman such as coffee, cardamom, spices, clothing, perfume, incense, and sandalwood reached Al-Ahsa and the center of the Kingdom.
Al-Uqair holds a great historic value because it was the location of the conference at which the Uqair Protocol of 1922 was issued, which helped to establish the borders of modern Saudi Arabia. At the meeting, the protagonists were Sir Percy Cox representing Great Britain and, representing the not yet established Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman Al Saud, known in the West as Ibn Saud, who reigned as the first King of Saudi Arabia from 1932 to 1953.
The Uqair Protocol saw Britain recognize many of Ibn Saud’s territorial gains. In exchange, Ibn Saud agreed to recognize British territories in the area, particularly along the Persian Gulf coast and in Iraq.
Al-Uqair is a large archaeological site containing old government buildings and a mosque built during the early days of King Abdulaziz. Al-Uqair, like the markets of Al-Mushaqqr and Hajar, was one of the main markets of the region in pre-Islamic times.
Al-Uqair shows beautiful historic buildings that architecturally recall the Greek style.
On this site are the Khans, or resting buildings, which were used as a common resting place for travelers and merchant caravans, as well as for their livestock.
The Khan buildings stretch for more than 120 meters along the beach, and are filled with small shops, arcades, and a large number of columns of a Greek character; all these columns were built with coral stones and gypsum mortar.
Other buildings include the old Customs building, a large two-story building with arched windows and beautiful calligraphic decorations, and the region’s administrative building which features a gate topped by a beautiful arch.
Then there is the fortress which was built in Islamic architectural style. It is a rectangular building with a length of about thirty meters.
Another attraction of the site, from a tourist point of view, is the Al-Uqair beach. It is one of the most important touristic sites in the Al-Ahsa region; the beach is very popular with Saudis, famous for its soft white sands. lots of trees and it is one of the most beautiful Saudi coasts that overlook the Arabian Gulf.