Jeddah Corniche: Over 100km of fun!

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Updated 22 January 2013

Jeddah Corniche: Over 100km of fun!

Jeddah is located in the center of the western Saudi Arabia’s coast along the beautiful beaches of the Red Sea — hence its nickname the “Bride of the Red Sea”.
If anyone visits Jeddah, he or she should never leave without visiting the Corniche, where most recreational facilities for sports, enjoyment, and tourism are available.
The Jeddah Corniche — divided into the southern, central, and northern corniche — stretches almost 110 kilometers, with plenty of international hotels, restaurants, amusement parks, places for fishing, picnic areas, a science museum, and mosques. But most importantly, it has the famous King Fahd Fountain, also known as the Jeddah Fountain, which has become the symbol of Jeddah.
This beautiful fountain — the tallest in the world — was a gift from the late King Fahd. The 312-meter high fountain is located near the coast of Jeddah and can be seen from all over the city. It is even higher than the Eiffel Tower!
Along the Southern Corniche, we find a number of beautiful monuments and memorable objects, from 26 bronze sculptures made by world famous artists in front of the Al-Hamra beach to restaurants, hotels, famous fast-food chains, as well as Al-Hamra Mall.
The adopted design of the Corniche adds an artistic touch all along by placing sculptures and other artwork at roundabouts and on streets running alongside the Corniche. Most sculptures and artworks can be found along the northern and central parts of the Corniche. Jeddah is worldwide renowned for housing the largest number of sculptures and artworks by famous international artists such as Moore, Arp, and Miró.
At the moment, because of the Corniche refurbishing program, the sculptures area between Al-Hamra Mall and Hassan Enany Mosque is closed, as restoration work is going on. It will reopen very soon, providing a beautiful picnic location to enjoy nature. A sculpture museum has also been planned.
Hassan Enany Mosque is a very prominent mosque located along the Central Corniche near Palestine Street. It was built in 1984 by the architect Raouf Helmi and commissioned by Hassan Enany. It has a capacity of 1,200 worshippers in an unusual prayer hall covered by an octagonal golden dome.
The Northern Corniche is a strip that extends from the Coast Guard building to Fatima Al-Zahra Mosque, also known as the floating mosque. The Northern Corniche is made up of three routes — each one travels in both directions — that create artificial lakes along the roads and stretch toward the sea.
The Corniche is lined up with numerous facilities and services, such as playgrounds, amusement parks, lush landscape, and spacious paved areas, as well as many shaded seating, walking and jogging areas for families to enjoy the ocean view.
The new Corniche, starting from the Tahlia garden intersection of the Northern Corniche near the Desalination Plant to Faqih Mosque, has been completed with landscaping, pedestrian paths, public toilets within walking distance, and parking lots with internal roads. Numerous types of foliage, saplings, and green grounds have also been planted.
The new area has been refurbished according to international standards. New swings, challenging sports activities, slopes, monkey bars, shaded areas, grass gardens, tiled pavement, sitting areas, and benches — almost all facilities are available for family fun and a picnic.
The municipality plans to refurbish all parts of the Corniche to enhance local and international tourism. In the new Corniche, barbequing is not allowed, but visitors can still enjoy the barbeque at the sea front in the Northern Corniche.
Some areas between Faqih Mosque and Fatima Al-Zahra Mosque are still under refurbishment, but most areas are open for sitting at the seaside and have landscape, pedestrian paths, and parking lots with internal roads.
Another beautiful mosque is the Island Mosque with its simple and stunning white architecture, which turned into peach and cream shade with time. It was built in 1988 on a tiny island just off the Northern Jeddah Corniche. It is one of the four mosques built on or near the water. The other mosque of the Red Sea is the Corniche Mosque. The powerful classical silhouette of this mosque proclaims to all the presence of Islam.
This building reflects the architecture of traditional Egyptian mosques. The entire structure consists of bricks coated with plaster except for the dome. In the interior, the bricks are exposed and painted in a dark bronze color. The prayer hall itself is at the center of a composition that includes the mihrab, projecting outward from the eastern wall just below an oculus, an entrance porch covered by a catenaries vault, and a square-based minaret with an octagonal shaft.
Other things to see on this road are the lakes as well as the water roundabout with Arabic calligraphy. Along the Northern Corniche, visitors will find a number of restaurants with seating areas. When the blazing sun becomes too much visitors can enjoy themselves at the water parks of Sail Island, Green Island, Nawrus Restaurant and others while enjoying the pool and recreation facilities for adults and children.
The most visited mosque along the Red Sea coastline of Jeddah is Fatima Al-Zahra. It is famous by its nickname, the “Floating Mosque”. It is actually built in the sea and at high tide it seems to be floating in the water, like the floating mosque in Penang, Malaysia.
Another fascinating place is Atallah Happy Land Park, with rides for adults and children. It is an amusement park with indoor and outdoor rides and attractions, ice-skating and bowling, dining and shopping, and a 6D theater.
If you want to enjoy a roller coaster ride, you can visit Al-Shalal — Arabic for waterfall — Theme Park, which also features an ice-skating rink and theme area, and the Amazon ride with a jungle theme, complete with life-sized figures of animals, light and sound effects.
The park has a lagoon and 15-m high waterfall with many rides as well as a pirates ship, the largest merry-go-round, seven restaurants, party rooms, a theater, and a games arcade. The park also has a large number of retail outlets for souvenirs and soft toys for children.
The sea front is also the best place for visitors to spend time. Many people like to do fishing, while others enjoy horse riding, bicycling, and motorcycling. But for such rides there are special places allocated along the Southern Al-Hamra Corniche, as visitors are not allowed to do it anywhere for safety and security reasons.
Other than that, you can enjoy a boat ride on the open Red Sea with family and friends. Such facilities can be found on the Northern Obhur Corniche, where a number of boats and yachts are available for rent on an hourly or daily basis. Some are fishing boats, while others have been turned into floating restaurants.
In this area, jet skis are also available for youth, in addition to many resorts for families to enjoy swimming and picnicking.

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The forgotten history of France’s pioneering friendship with Jeddah

Written texts about Jeddah were not limited to diplomats. Great French authors such as Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas also wrote about the city. (Supplied)
Updated 28 March 2020

The forgotten history of France’s pioneering friendship with Jeddah

  • Former French consul general shares the story behind his book about his nation’s long ties with the city

PARIS: In his book “The Discovery of Arabia by the French: Anthology of Texts on Jeddah 1697-1939,” diplomat Louis Blin, a former consul general of France in Jeddah, traces the history and evolution of his nation’s long relationship with, and views on, the city and the region.

He does this by presenting texts by about 50 French authors, works that span more than two centuries, in which they give their impressions of the region, and Jeddah in particular.
The quoted writers include literary giants such as Victor Hugo (“Les Misérables,” “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”), Alexandre Dumas (“The Three Musketeers”) and Jules Verne (“Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea”). Their writings about the French connection with Jeddah and the region reveal much interesting information that might come as a surprise to many Saudi and French people.
A regular visitor to Saudi Arabia, Blin spoke to Arab News about some of the things he learned while consul general, a posting that coincided with the 175th anniversary of the establishment of the French Consulate in Jeddah.
“The Jeddah Consulate was established in 1839 and was the first French diplomatic post in the Arabian Peninsula,” he said. “Marking that occasion triggered my interest in its history.
“I noticed that for 175 years, many diplomats had written and published articles about their postings and then I realized that, in fact, many other writers, journalists and travelers had done the same because Jeddah had fascinated many French people.”
As he researched more of these works, his plans for presenting the highlights he discovered quickly grew.
“At first, I thought about writing an article, which later became an 800-page book because of the exceptional material that Jeddah provided,” said Blin. “French orientalism is well known for its interest in North Africa and the Levant but it is completely unknown in the Arabian Peninsula.
“However, written texts about Jeddah were not limited to diplomats, many of whom were prominent orientalists. Great French authors such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne, (investigative journalism pioneer) Albert Londre, (novelist and journalist) Joseph Kessel and (philosopher and writer) Paul Nizan also wrote about the city.”
The works of these writers and many more provided him with a new perspective on the development of the relationship between France and Jeddah from 1839 on.
“The French wrote a great deal about Jeddah because it is where the first French diplomatic post was established, during a period of Franco-British rivalry in the Red Sea — though neither of those two countries managed to set foot in what is now Saudi Arabia,” said Blin. In those days, the British were in Aden and the French in Djibouti but, in fact, they were able to de-escalate their rivalry in the Red Sea.
“The first Frenchman who was interested in the region was Bonaparte, and the first thing he did after besieging Cairo during his conquest of Egypt was to send a letter to the sharif of Makkah. He wanted the sharif as an ally in his conflict with the UK because he was seeking to reach India, which required him to go via the Red Sea.”
This marked the beginning of political relations between France and the region, which soon began to grow and evolve.

Louis Blin

“Bonaparte’s successor in Egypt, Mohammed Ali, successfully conquered the Hejaz, all the way up to Najd, 15 years after Napoleon’s departure,” said Blin. “He did so with a French-led army because he had the wise idea of recruiting Napoleon’s defeated soldiers. This meant that he had doctors, architects, and engineers in his army and all of them reached Jeddah.
“The Egyptian army that conquered Hejaz was mainly composed of French officers. The first hospital in the Arabian Peninsula, just like the first barracks and the first pharmacy, was built by a Frenchman.
“Even the French adjutant to Ahmad Bacha — Mohammed Ali’s nephew, who was the incompetent commander of the Egyptian army — ended up being the de facto governor of Jeddah for three years before the British and Ottoman empires united to demand the withdrawal of Egyptian troops from the Hejaz. Bacha failed to conquer Asir and had to retreat to Makkah. His armed forces were led by a Frenchman who became governor of Jeddah, which was Mohammed Ali’s capital.”
While Egypt ruled Hejaz, from 1813 until 1840, the French connection with Jeddah therefore continued.
“This is a story that is little known among French or Saudi people, because many believe that Saudi Arabia was an Anglo-Saxon preserve, but in both facts and in texts, the French had more relations with Jeddah than others did,” said Blin.
“Jeddah is the gateway to Saudi Arabia, hence the title of my book ‘The Discovery of Arabia by the French.’ It was through the city that the French discovered the whole region. They did not venture inside (the country), unlike the British who sent explorers several times through Iraq or Syria. The French confined themselves to the Red Sea and the coastline.”