Jeddah's historic district to become an open-air museum

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A Saudi man is pictured in the old town of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in this file photo. (Reuters)
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A boy sits in the old town of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in this file photo. (Reuters)
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Saudi men play checkers in the old town of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in this photo taken on June 22, 2018. (REUTERS)
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A file photo of Old Jeddah. (Sayidaty.net)
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A picture from the Old Jeddah festival. (SPA)
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A picture from the Old Jeddah festival. (SPA)
Updated 08 December 2018
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Jeddah's historic district to become an open-air museum

  • The ministry announced the new project saying it would tackle several issues that have led to a decline in tourism at the site

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Culture plans to transform Jeddah’s old city into an open-air museum of sorts by creating a pedestrian route across the area.

The ministry announced that the new development project currently being implemented would tackle several issues, including the removal of a tunnel, in an attempt to revive tourism in the area.

Traffic rerouting would make the historic buildings, mosques and markets stand out by creating an uninterrupted historic space that can be enjoyed by pedestrians, according to Abdulaziz Al-Issa, an area supervisor.

He said the area around the site, known famously as Al-Balad, would "undergo world-class renovation in order to preserve the area’s distinct architecture," adding that the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.

Jeddah’s historic area, which dates as far back to the 7th century, was the city center until the 1970s and 1980s, when the country’s oil boom encouraged local families that had lived there for centuries to move north of the city in search of more prosperous and modernized living standards. Preservation efforts, now partially financed by several of these families, have been ongoing since that time.

The area, also known as the “gateway to Makkah” thanks to its proximity to the seaside, has had its fair share of challenges and obstacles. A fire that broke out last year damaged several buildings, three of which completely collapsed.

Preservation efforts were sometimes hampered by the narrowness of the alleyways between the houses, which was another reason why families rushed to move out in favor of larger, more modern dwellings. Most of the ancient walls that surround the town and market have long since disappeared thanks to adverse weather conditions. The old buildings, which boast distinct hand-carved doors and windows, are also in need of constant renovation thanks to the humidity eroding the walls. Paradoxically, authorities stipulate that the walls be renovated only with Red Sea mud and coral limestone to retain the distinct character of the buildings.

The area was nominated by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage to earn UNESCO status back in 2009. Jeddah’s municipality founded the Historical Preservation Society in 1991 and has since consecrated millions of dollars towards renovation efforts. Though many of the houses are still owned by Jeddah’s most prominent families, the government bought and restored several properties, including the famous Shafi mosque and the house in which Saudi Arabia’s founding father, Abdulaziz Al-Saud, resided when visiting the port city.

 


Houthis targetted civilian facility in Najran with an explosives-laden drone, says Arab Coalition

Updated 21 May 2019
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Houthis targetted civilian facility in Najran with an explosives-laden drone, says Arab Coalition

  • Houthis also fired two ballistic missiles toward the holy city of Makkah and Jeddah on Monday

RIYADH: Houthi militants had tried to hit a civilian facility in Saudi Arabia's southern border province of Najran with a drone carrying explosives, the Arab Coalition supporting Yemen's legitimate government said on Tuesday.
In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman of the Saudi-led military coalition said the target was a vital facility.
"The Houthi-backed terrorist militia of Iran continues to carry out acts of terrorism that pose a real threat to regional and international security by targeting civilian objects and civilian facilities, as well as civilian citizens and residents of all nationalities," Al-Maliki said.

The statement did not mention casualties and gave no further details.

Earlier on Monday, Al-Maliki said Houthis fired two ballistic missiles toward the holy city of Makkah and Jeddah but both were shot down by Saudi air defense forces.

The Iran-backed Houthis have fired dozens of missiles at targets in Saudi Arabia, including the capital Riyadh, since the Arab Coalition intervened in 2015 to restore the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, which was ousted in a Houthi coup.