The old doors of Saudi Arabia are known for their rich decoration. Inspired by nature, they represent the culture & deep roots of the central Saudi region. Decorated doors were an essential part of family homes & a focal point for guests.
The decorated doors in Saudi Arabia were inspired by the region’s plants and trees. They dyed them with the colors of acacia and its seeds, as well as pomegranate, to make them brighter.
In Saudi, there are over 30 types of decorated wooden doors that differ according to their place of origin. For example, Unaizah has its own identity, and does Najd, Riyadh, Sudair, Buraidah, and the rest.
Every city had a grand master who specialised in the art of decorating wooden doors. Those who art acquainted with this art know the cultural background of a door from just looking at it. Such doors were highly sought after and traded, they are still in demand to this day.
Decorated doors were a cultural treat for guests, who enjoyed the beauty of those doors, their engravings and colours.
On encountering a decorated door, it was as if the guests were listening to a song, reading a poem, or looking at a painting. Guests would feel welcome, enjoy the aesthetics, and feel relaxed.
Decorations & designs of the wooden doors in Saudi Arabia are passed down from one generation to the next.
Designs were inspired by the environment surrounding the community. The shapes were inspired by wild plants and flowers, palm fronds, as these were abundant, the sun and its rays, and mountains, which were depicted as triangles and carved onto the doors.
Some of the doors are lavishly and ornately decorated. These include the doors of the majlis (room to receive guests), main entrances, and the doors separating the majlis and the rest of the house.
Builders deployed their full artistic talents when working on the majlis as it was the cultural front that received guests. The more decorated the majlis, the wealthier and more influential the owner.
The decoration of Najdi doors are known for the intersection of lines, inner rings & triangles. The front door of a house includes its name, date, expressions of praise, thanks to Allah & prayers for Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) The date would be added to the door & the majlis.
Among the decorated doors were “kamer” doors that were built in the form of two small doors. Some of them are decorated on one side only, while others are decorated on both sides.
Similarly the door separating the house from the majlis had two panels, and it was usually decorated on both sides for residents as well as guests.
The “hadaire” design comprises triangles as ornaments placed on the house’s exterior in a circular shape covering the entire house. The tops of these triangles point down & contribute to the flow of the water in a streamlined manner so it does not affect the wall’s durability.
Another type of decoration is the “lahj,” which comprises triangles engraved in the walls to create windows that are arranged in a way that controls the entry of light and the exit of smoke when wood is burned for heating & cooking. The most famous decorations are the intersection of the circle in the form of a flower. Stars were also used. The preferred colours are green, purple, scarlet & yellow, the colors were taken from trees – green from acacia and yellow from the fruit of acacia.
Over time, powders were imported from abroad & these were mixed with local substances such as molasses, pomegranate peel & sugar to protect the colours on the doors & make them brighter. Pomegranate was cooked for long hours until it was used as glue for these colours.
A beautiful door from Ushaiger, Saudi Arabia which is a historical village of old mud houses. Ushaiger means "small blonde" and is so named because of the small mountain nearby.
An exquisite decorated old door in Direa'ah الرياض - الدرعية Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
In Saudi, it is also a tradition for windows to be beautifully painted and decorated with patterns.
A window in Bin Hamsan house - Khamis Mushayt, Aseer area, Saudi Arabia.
Today, the tradition of decorating wooden doors and windows in Saudi Arabia continues, with a new generation appreciating the historic aesthetics and styles from the past.
Sources of Inspiration & Information