When Jeddah was much more open

When Jeddah was much more open
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When Jeddah was much more open
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Updated 28 November 2013

When Jeddah was much more open

When Jeddah was much more open

Women drove cars in the 1950s in Jeddah, according to an expert on the history of the city and longtime resident.
Wasef Kabli said he used to drive with his father often from Makkah to Jeddah in a 1954 Chevrolet Caprice. It was during these road trips that he saw women driving vehicles in the city with their families.
Kabli also recalled that there were many cinema theaters for families in the 1970s that screened documentary and popular films.
Kabli was reminiscing about the old city at a weekly cultural meeting held recently at the residence of Abdul Mohsen Al-Qahtani, where Adnan Al-Yafi, a social activist and expert, introduced a lecture on Jeddah’s history.
Among those present were several well-known Jeddah residents, social activists, historians, diplomats and journalists.
Al-Yafi spoke about several of the city's ancient sites, its pre-Islamic history and the association of its name with the purported grave of “Ummana Hawa” (Our Mother Eve).
Al-Yafi quoted several historians and writers, including Yaqoot Al-Hamawi, who argued that Jeddah was one of the world's oldest cities; and that the Quraish used the wood from an old shipwreck to build the Kaaba, long before the advent of Islam.
Al-Yafi said many critical events had taken place in the city, making it an important part of the history of the Arabian Peninsula. Al-Yafi said Al-Hareth bin Noufal was the first Muslim governor during the reign of the Islamic caliphate. He said the oldest urban monument in Jeddah was the 800-year-old minaret of Al-Shafe’i Mosque in the Balad area.
“A number of Western and Arab travelers passed through or stopped in Jeddah, and wrote a lot about the city. This includes Ibn Battuta, Ibn Jubair, the Indian traveler Maulana Rafiuddin Muradabadi, the French national Mursi Tamizeh in 1834 and the Englishman Richard Burton in 1853,” said Al-Yafi.
Al-Yafi displayed some pictures of an old building in Al-Baghdadiyah district, which some people claimed, was an old church. Al-Yafi said the building was initially built by Sheikh Mohammad Abdu Al-Jihani and was a kind of rest house, but never a church. He said it was true that there was a cemetery for Christians in southern Jeddah near the electricity market, known only by old residents of the city.
There was an open discussion and question-and-answer session after the lecture. Hamid Al-Rabea’e, head of the Makkah Literary Club, said many books written by Westerners about Jeddah focused on the places and sites, more so than its residents. He urged modern historians and writers to tackle the social, humanitarian and community life of the old city. Misha’al Al-Harthi echoed this view.
Jamal Burhan, a social activist, said the history of the city should be included in the curricula of schools. He said the Saudi government has done a great deal to document the country's history through various projects supported by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.
Al-Yafi said the city was more accommodating in the past. He said a Greek expatriate named Hristo Dolo, also known as Khawajah Yanni, who owned a grocery shop in Jeddah more than 60 years ago, did not sell alcohol and closed for prayers long before there were any laws requiring people to do so, said Al-Yafi.
“Many people don’t know that Yanni had a great deal of respect for Islam and also fasted in Ramadan. These bright aspects of Jeddah's history show how old Jeddawis were open to other cultures and were able to coexist with different nationalities, cultures, races and religions.” he said.