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.

 


Saudi crown prince calls for establishing health center dedicated to Pakistani hero

Updated 5 min 57 sec ago
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Saudi crown prince calls for establishing health center dedicated to Pakistani hero

  • The directive was issued during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan on the first leg of his Asia tour
  • Khan managed to save 14 lives, but he drowned as he attempted to rescue the 15th person.

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has called for the creation of a health center in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province dedicated to the memory of a Pakistani hero who saved 14 lives in Jeddah’s 2009 floods, Saudi state-news agency SPA reported.

The directive was issued during the crown prince’s visit to Pakistan on the first leg of his Asia tour.

In November 2009, as flash floods roared through the port city, Farman Ali Khan secured a rope to his waist and jumped into the water to rescue people.

He managed to save 14 lives, but he drowned as he attempted to rescue the 15th person.

He was posthumously awarded the King Abdul Aziz Medal of the First Order by the Saudi government and Pakistan’s Tamgha-e-Shujat by then President Asif Ali Zardari. 

“What this man displayed is a rare act of heroism,” said Rania Khaled, an account executive in Jeddah. “He didn’t pause to think of where these people came from or their nationality — all he cared about was that everyone survived the terrible flood. As a result, he lost his life and that’s what makes his tale so heroic. He cared for humanity, not just his own well-being and safety.
“He set a very high example of what a human should aspire to be. Your background, race and nationality shouldn’t matter; what matters is that we all stand together and help each other. I think if people lived with a similar mindset to that of Khan, the world would be a better place.”
Razan Sijjeeni, a photography instructor in Jeddah, said: “I think what Khan did was not only heroic but also human. It says a lot about the kind of person he was in that moment when he chose to risk his life to save others. He gives us a lot to reflect on — who we are today and how much we should value human lives that are not necessarily related to us.”
Nora Al-Rifai, who is training to be a life coach, said that she hopes Khan’s widow and three daughters continue to receive the help and support they deserve.
“It’s a nice gesture that a Jeddah street was named after him as a reminder to all of us and the next generations of his selflessness and heroism.”