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Old Jeddah’s historic treasures are in danger of being lost - Saudi Arabia

Jeddah is the largest city in Makkah Province, and the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. It is considered the commercial capital of Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah is the principal gateway to Mecca, Islam's holiest city, which able-bodied Muslims are required to visit at least once in their lifetime. Jeddah is the most cosmopolitan and tolerant of all Saudi Arabian cities, hosting expatriates from all over the world who have made Jeddah their home. It is the primary resort city of the country where Saudi visitors especially from Riyadh escape the dry heat of the desert to the sea side resorts of Jeddah.


Old Jeddah is considered a cultural and tourist landmark. This is because of its unique cultural and architectural heritage that reflects the original identity of the Kingdom. Surrounded by walls, Old Jeddah, had grown vertically through the ages and the dense blocks of houses, merchants palaces, mosques and minarets, had shaped it. Small yards and squares and narrow streets separate these dense blocks of buildings. The Old City is divided into three parts and is protected by a wall facing the land. The three parts are: Mahelat ( the place of ) Ash' shan: Is in the northwestern part of the city. The merchants and the well to do lived in this part because it was characterized by mild weather due to the northwestern wind. This area is also close to the sea and many terraces were built at the front of buildings to take advantage of the water views. Mahelat ( the place of ) al Madhloom: This is the oldest place in Old Jeddah. It is located in the northeastern part of the city. It used to be the most populated area of the city. In this part, there are many mosques and old market places. Greater Jeddah's oldest mosque - al Shafei Mosque - is located here. Mahelat al Bahr ( the place of the sea ): It is in the southwestern part and is considered part of Mahelat al Yemen since it lies in the south.

Historic Jeddah represents a unique example of a comprehensive urban fabric reflecting the characteristics of the Red Sea Coast urban heritage, like the one you can find in Massawa, Eritrea: multiple floors and architectural detailing on its elevations especially the wooden screening and balconies elements or “MASHRABIYAH” with distinctive designs are examples of these buildings. In 1970, the Ministry of Municipalities and Rural affairs suggested the preservation of 537 buildings, from

amongst those in good condition.

Nowadays, most of the buildings host somalis refugees people, yemenis, and pakistanis.




© Eric Lafforgue

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Taken on January 28, 2010