Jeddah Heritage Festival concludes its 10-day run

Jeddah Heritage Festival concludes its 10-day run
Updated 16 March 2014

Jeddah Heritage Festival concludes its 10-day run

Jeddah Heritage Festival concludes its 10-day run

Curtains came down on the 10-day Jeddah Heritage Festival on Saturday, and the organizers said it was a huge success with over 750,000 people visiting the festival.
This is the first of its kind festival held in Jeddah to raise awareness among the public about the rich heritage of the port city. The festival gains significance in the backdrop of the UNESCO rejecting the Kingdom’s request for inclusion of Jeddah’s Balad heritage district in the World Heritage list in the past on ground that the authorities didn’t taken any appropriate action to preserve the heritage or create awareness about it.
The event, which was inaugurated by Makkah Gov. Prince Mishal bin Abdullah, was also attended by Prince Mishal bin Majed and Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiques (SCTA).
Professor Abdullah Al-Dalawi, president of Jeddah Heritage festival committee, said over 750,000 people had visited the festival in Balad. He also termed it as a grand success in which all stake-holders played an important role.
Mazin Beterjee, vice chairman of Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) hailed media’s role in the heritage festival, and said the organizers should make efforts to highlight the heritage issue consistently not only with the local media but also international.
The Kingdom has intensified its efforts to get the historical Jeddah district included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list including fulfilling all the criteria for applying again for listing in 2014.
This will be third site from the Kingdom seeking UNESCO recognition. Earlier, it had succeeded in getting Madain Saleh included in the World Heritage list as the first archaeological site in 2008 followed by Al-Darayia in 2010. In both cases, the sites met UNESCO’s selection criteria.
Mohammed Abdullah Al-Amri of SCTA in Makkah region told Arab News on the sidelines of the festival that they were hopeful that the UNESCO will consider the application this year. “The UNESCO inspection team can inspect the heritage site any time,” he said.
The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) — an organ of the UNESCO — had earlier rejected the Kingdom’s application to list Balad area stating that it was neglected, besides lack of public awareness of the importance and value of heritage sites, with residential houses coming up around such sites.
Floods and fire accidents had also damaged some of houses which are part of the heritage site. In 2010, seven such buildings were fully damaged and another 33 partially damaged in a fire incident. Al-Qadi’s house, a prominent landmark, was also destroyed in that fire.
In the past three decades, over 200 old houses were destroyed in various fire accidents in Balad area.
The number of historic houses has declined from 557 to 350 in recent years, according to Jeddah Municipality and SCTA officials.
Since then, authorities with the support of SCTA chairman Prince Sultan bin Salman and Jeddah Municipality, are making serious efforts to popularize Jeddah’s historic Hijaz heritage and also initiated several measures to conserve and renovate the heritage buildings in Balad.
Elaborate efforts are being made to popularize the heritage festival with active participation of private sector and also involving the younger generation of the city.
Old Jeddah has been an open museum for generations. Its traditional Hijaz heritage reflects the history of Jeddah. It is located in the city center and comprises many historical places. The city’s most distinctive features are the Jeddah Wall, which was built to protect the old city against Portuguese attacks; the small districts that hold stories of the beautiful bygone days; and a number of historic mosques and markets still visited by the people.