Vincent Battesti - |
English → Researches → The Oases al-‘Ulā oasis, Saudi Arabia → al-‘Ulā AS Project: Anthropological survey of al-‘Ulā community and its oasis system →

Mapping and Interpreting Bibliographic Knowledge, The Oasis of al-‘Ulā in Saudi Arabia

Master thesis (2019)

Doria Bellache

 Mapping and Interpreting Bibliographic Knowledge, The Oasis of al-‘Ulā in Saudi Arabia
 Original title: Cartographier et interpréter les connaissances bibliographiques, L’oasis d’al-‘Ulā en Arabie saoudite
by Bellache, Doria
Master thesis, 1st year Master, 2019, dir. by Vincent Battesti, Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, Master « Évolution, patrimoine naturel et sociétés », Paris, 49 p.


If العلا, al-‘ulā, can mean “the high”, “the superior” or even “the glory”, it is difficult to find any trace of the eponymous oasis in the literature. Oasis of northwestern Saudi Arabia, al-‘Ulā (العلا) is, like all oases, a predominantly agricultural land, a complex system created by human communities.

Al-’Ulā seems an intellectual mirage for those who try to make a bibliographical study of it. Evoked at the turn of a page, a chapter, an article, this research nevertheless shows that knowledge exists. However, incomplete and heterogeneous, sometimes confused and imprecise, it is moreover unevenly distributed according to the themes under consideration. Al-‘Ulā is therefore not a “white zone” of knowledge, but rather a “grey zone”, the result of the dynamics of those who have produced and are producing knowledge about the oasis. Within the written sources, several dynamics of knowledge production can thus emerge, bringing their own biases, confusions, interests and silences. Thus, we can ask ourselves how these dynamics of plural knowledge production, past and present, make al-‘Ulā a grey zone of knowledge?

After questioning the act of knowing, a central notion of this bibliographical study, we will attempt to show the imbalance of historical knowledge existing on past and present al-‘Ulā, to try to apprehend the changes on the spot visible by the sources, and then to study the lacunae in anthropological knowledge. Finally, we will conclude with knowledge about agriculture and phoeniculture in al-‘Ulā, central activities of this veritable “socio-ecosystem” that is the oasis (Battesti 2005), of which the palm tree is the keystone.

Wādī Rām after the rain, al-‘Ulā (KSA), Nov. 11th, 2019, Vincent Battesti
Worker in the old palm grove in the oasis of al-‘Ula (KSA), April 6th, 2020, Vincent Battesti
This article has been read 457 times.

Post a message / Comment on this article

This page was last updated on Saturday 6 March 2021 at 12:28:38. //// -----> Quote this page?
Doria Bellache , "Mapping and Interpreting Bibliographic Knowledge, The Oasis of al-‘Ulā in Saudi Arabia " (online), Anthropoasis |, page published 11 June 2019 (consulted 25 May 2024), available on: