Misconception about old Jeddah edifice cleared

Updated 14 October 2012
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Misconception about old Jeddah edifice cleared

JEDDAH: The Society of Architectural Heritage Protection Jeddah and the Municipality of Jeddah denied rumors that remnants of a structure in downtown was a church.
Engineers, municipality officials and the building owners discussed the issue of the building during an open discussion in Balad on Thursday.
The discussion was an open invitation to the public, experts, photographers and media, to clarify the “myth” that had spread on the Internet concerning the old building behind the Juffali Mosque.
Sami Nawar, director of Culture and Tourism in Jeddah Municipality who is also in charge of the Jeddah historical area, showed the audience of about 100 people with the aid of a 1930 map drawn by a British citizen that the structure was not the remains of a church.
Nawar said: “We have proof from a survey conducted in 1930 by a British Christian, who documented all the structures in old Jeddah. If this structure was a church, it would have definitely been mentioned, along with the non-Muslim cemetery.”
He also said the building was described in the British surveyor’s documents as the Prince of the Sea’s house (Bait Amir Al-Bahr), and the municipality has the map, which was made available to the public.
Nawar also said: “If there was a church, the British surveyor would have documented it, but I think somebody exaggerated the matter because the building was abandoned for a century.
This was a house, and I request and urge everyone to be careful not to make wrongful claims.”
Abdullah Yousof Baker, a retired engineer who examined the location with engineer Talal Samarkandi, said based on the information he received from his grandparents and extended family, the old structure belonged to someone called Mohammed Ali Abdu. Abdu was an employee at the Hollandi Bank and was later in charge of the desalination plant.
“Speculation always spreads quickly without any proof,” Baker said. “From history books and old statements, it is clear that this house was built in the mid 19th-century by Mohammad Ali Abdu. And at the end of the century he moved out. Since then, the house has remained empty, with no type of activity taking place within it. This has further been ascertained by Ali Abdu’s grandson, who told the society that no one has lived in his grandfather’s house, nor has it ever been a place of worship.”
Moreover, from an engineering perspective, the shape and architecture of the building is reminiscent of Turkish and Arabic designs particular to the era it was built.
“The old building has a unique style and structure because it was built in accordance with the architectural style of that century,” said Baker.
Lamia Bashan, owner of the old building, confirmed that her mother’s uncle, Mohammad Ali Abdu, built the house. “He took this land from the government at that time and built the house to live in,” Bashan said. “My grandfather told us that he built the house especially because he liked the artistic style.
However, it can’t be a church because if you go inside, you can see there is no such space and room for the bishop to stand and people to sit, which we would normally find in churches.”
Al-Sharif Ahmed Al-Hijary, one of the founders of the Society of Architectural Heritage Protection Jeddah and an organizer of the open discussion, told Arab News: “We organized this program to clarify matters and end the speculation. Wrong information is not conducive and that was the reason we took this initiative.”
Al-Hijary also said that the Society wishes to add the old building to the municipality as a heritage building. He further said, they had requested the municipality’s permission to rebuild and maintain the old edifice and use it for the organization’s work.


Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

King Salman chairs the Cabinet session in Riyadh on Tuesday. (SPA)
Updated 16 January 2019
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Saudi Arabia, South Korea reach agreement on visas

  • Cabinet OKs air transport pact with Indonesia

JEDDAH: The Saudi Cabinet met to discuss a series of national and global developments on Tuesday, in a session chaired by King Salman.

At the forefront of the agenda was the escalation in tensions between Israel and Hamas along the Gaza border, and the continuing encroachment on Palestinian land by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. The Cabinet responded by demanding that the UN Security Council intervene. King Salman also relayed to ministers the outcome of his talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which covered many regional issues.

The minister of media, Turki bin Abdullah Al-Shabanah, announced that after reviewing proposals from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a decision from the Shoura Council, a memorandum of understanding between the government and the Republic of Korea on granting visit visas had been agreed upon.

The Cabinet approved the amendment of the air agreement on regular air transport between Saudi Arabia and Indonesia.

The Cabinet, meanwhile, praised the progress of the 2025 Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development Program, aimed at enhancing farming techniques by promoting sustainable water and renewable energy sources.

They also discussed the framework in Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program 2020 for building a sustainable renewable energy sector, reiterating aims to lead global renewable energy developments over the next decade, and create projects such as the wind-powered plant at Dumat Al-Jandal, as part of the King Salman Renewable Energy Initiative.

In a statement, though, Al-Shabanah said: “The Cabinet discussed the announcement made by the minister of energy, industry and mineral resources about the Kingdom’s oil and gas reserves, which highlighted the importance of Saudi Arabia as a secure source of oil supplies in the long term.”

He added, in closing, the Cabinet’s praise for the efforts of Saudi security forces in the tracking and arrest of seven people in Qatif, which foiled a planned terrorist attack.