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al-Ula AS Project: Anthropological survey of al-‘Ulā community and its oasis system

2019-2024 Project.
Principal investigator: Vincent Battesti

Located in the northwest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the oasis of al-‘Ulā, considered a remote and isolated territory, is the recent focus of an ambitious development project by the government of the Saudi monarchy.

Prior to any ambitious project, an in-depth study must obviously be carried out to determine, here, the true nature of al-‘Ulā oasis. The challenge is to rely on other oasis cases without overlooking the local anthropological and ecological specificities and to highlight its social and economic functioning. As al-‘Ulā is mainly an agricultural terroir, oasis agriculture deserves special attention (Battesti, 2005), and in particular, the date palm tree (Phoenix dactylifera L.)—see the project “Ethnographic, genetic, and morphometric analyses of the date palm agrobiodiversity in al-‘Ulā oasis” (dir. by Drs. Vincent Battesti & Muriel Gros- Balthazard)—, the engineering plant of this complex and ingenious system created by humankind. But even beyond the date palm: an oasis is a full socio-ecosystem, and a precious natural and cultural heritage. It is the combination of a complex multilayered agriculture system, cultivated species, and local knowledge and practices. A first focus should aim to understand how this system is working and how it has recently evolved. What is its agrobiodiversity, how can it even be measured? Experience (Battesti, 2013; Battesti & Gros-Balthazard et al., 2018) shows us that such an assessment cannot be carried out effectively without considering the local categorization of life, animals and plants, particularly considering the local population that has created and maintained this diversity.

From a scholarly standpoint, little is known about the current state of the oasis. We are unaware of any sociological or ethnological analysis of the oasis (but a book published in Saudi Arabia by Naseef, 1995), just as there is no evaluation of the richness of the local agrobiodiversity of oasis plants and animal. We here propose an understanding of al-‘Ulā oasis with a general and interdisciplinary diagnosis aiming at the relevant local anthropological issues. We propose an assessment of the local agrobiodiversity and its origins, undertaken by a multidisciplinary approach, combining anthropology, ethnobotany, and agronomy. The objective is also to describe the functioning of the oasis as a whole, i.e. by also taking an active interest in the urban environment and the habitat.

al-Ula AS Project


Project participants to al-Ula AS Project

Monday 23 May 2022 - Vincent Battesti

Addition and convergence of scientific expertise for a research on al-’Ulā oasis in Saudi Arabia.


On the field for al-‘Ulā-AS: Dr. Joëlle Brochier-Puig

Sunday 13 March 2022 - Vincent Battesti

March 2022
Social geography of water and irrigation in al-‘Ulā


Postdoctoral contract offer: Ecological knowledge and know-how of communities in al-‘Ulā oasis region, Saudi Arabia

Thursday 3 March 2022 - Vincent Battesti

Effective date: April 1st, 2022.
Application deadline: March 24th, 2022
Date passed, but if interested, contact me.


A Timelapse Landsat of al-‘Ulā 1985-2020

Sunday 10 October 2021 - Vincent Battesti

The changes in exploiting the environment in the region of al-‘Ulā, KSA


Anthropological aspects of the communities of al-’Ulā oasis: Scientific and synthesis note

Friday 15 May 2020 - Vincent Battesti

Doctoral contract offer: Functioning of an oasis community in Saudi Arabia and its relationship to the environment: al-‘Ulā oasis

Wednesday 18 September 2019 - Vincent Battesti

Effective date: November 1, 2019.
Application deadline: October 9, 2019


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

Tuesday 11 June 2019 - Doria Bellache

Master thesis 1st year, Muséum national d’histoire naturelle, by Doria Bellache (dir. Vincent Battesti)

vbat - anthropoasis - - Vincent Battesti