Museum telling Jeddah’s historic story to open in 2022

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The building, designed in typical Jeddah style, bears white walls made of a heady mix of coral stones extracted from the nearby reef along the Red Sea shores, and purified clay from nearby lakes. (Photo/Supplied)
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Saudi artist Dia Aziz Dia. (Supplied photo)
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Updated 21 September 2020

Museum telling Jeddah’s historic story to open in 2022

  • Red Sea Museum in the Bab Al-Bunt building will house rare collections, manuscripts, pictures and books

JEDDAH: Jeddah’s rich and colorful past is riddled with events that can take a lifetime to tell, and which will soon be on display for all to see.

Situated on the western shores of the Kingdom, the city is a melting pot of cultures, traditions, languages and ethnicities. Jeddah, “The Pearl of the Red Sea,” will soon have a museum in the heart of its historic district that will showcase the city’s story.
The Ministry of Culture (MoC) has announced that the Red Sea Museum in the Bab Al-Bunt building will open to visitors at the end of 2022. The building’s location was historically known as Bab Al-Bunt port, connecting the residents of the Red Sea coast to the world, and a key gateway for pilgrims, merchants and tourists to the city.
The port also served as the departure point for Kingdom’s founding father, King Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, when he sailed to Egypt to meet King Farouk 74 years ago.

The building, designed in typical Jeddah style, bears white walls made of a heady mix of coral stones extracted from the nearby reef along the Red Sea shores, and purified clay from nearby lakes used to cement them, with the walls dotted with the unique intricate woodwork balconies and windows known as “rowshan,” historically known to have been influenced by the Levant.
It is believed that the building was also named after one of Jeddah’s old gateways, dating back over 200 years.
The MoC announced that the museum will house rare collections, manuscripts, pictures and books that tell the story of the building and city. It is seeking to celebrate the cultural value that the Red Sea coast represents, and the experiences of its residents, shedding light on stories of seafaring, trade, pilgrimage, diversity and other cultural elements that have shaped Jeddah, Makkah and Madinah.

Saudi artist Dia Aziz Dia, one of the Kingdom’s pioneers of the arts told Arab News that Jeddah’s unique place in history was a story that could be told in many ways, but that showcasing it in a museum would be the right approach.

“Our placement and history must be placed in a museum because if it’s not placed now and studied properly to show to the world who we are, then all of our heritage could be lost in time,” Dia said.
He added that it is no easy task to reach international museum standards, as many of the items, paintings and artifacts will need special attention with highly skilled workers to ensure optimal preservation and display, fitting for a museum that will accommodate not only locals, but visitors from across the world.
The museum will house more than 100 creative artworks, hold about four temporary annual exhibitions, and offer educational programs for all age groups.

It will tell stories of woven cultures and traditions handed down throughout time — of east meeting west, openness, and centuries of progress.
“Whatever will be on display in the museum will show the history of the city and its special location in the world, because Jeddah is a gateway for all (pilgrims) arriving to head to Makkah and Madinah for Hajj (and Umrah),” said Dia. “At the same time, those who stayed in Jeddah throughout history, the mixing and diversity that resulted from that gives Jeddah its broad culture because the people are not from one category or one nationality, such as in other cities in the Kingdom.
The Red Sea Museum is part of the Quality of Life Vision Realization Program of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. It also comes under the umbrella of the Specialized Museums Initiative, part of the first package of the MoC’s range of initiatives.

 


Luxury living at Dubai’s five-star Palazzo Versace

Updated 21 November 2020

Luxury living at Dubai’s five-star Palazzo Versace

  • The five-star hotel is just as opulent as you’d expect from the Italian fashion house

DUBAI: If you wanted a sneak peek into Donatella Versace’s mind, a stay at Dubai’s five-star Palazzo Versacein Al-Jaddaf Waterfront is the closest thing. It’s exactly what you’d expect from the luxurious Italian designer — opulent and borderline-ridiculous in its luxuriousness.

On entering the hotel, you are greeted by a massive, 3,000-kilogram crystal chandelier imported from the Czech Republic, flanked by a 1.5 million-piece mosaic of Medusa set into the Italian marble floors. The interior of the lobby is decorated with sofa chairs — upholstered in Versace silk — and plump cushions, evoking a wealthy woman’s posh (or, depending on your taste, gaudy) living room. The high ceilings top a corridor lined with framed sketches of supermodels sporting Donatella’s couture creations, limited-edition Versace urns (there’s only four in the world), and rich purple carpets handcrafted from New Zealand wool.

The Versace brand is omnipresent, as you’d expect; from the hand-painted friezes in the lobby to the delicate china used to serve your coffee as you wait to check in. If you’re looking for something even a little modest, the Palazzo Versace is not it.

On entering the hotel, you are greeted by a massive, 3,000-kilogram crystal chandelier imported from the Czech Republic. (Supplied)

Each suite features polished parquet flooring and Versace homeware — silk-printed sheets and drinking glasses with the Medusa insignia carved into the bottom. In fact, the mythological figure is peppered throughout the interior, whether overtly — on the towels — or subtly, such as the knobs on the drawers. 

I was lucky enough to stay in the Grand Suite, a luxurious 130-square-meter room with sweeping views of the Dubai Creek. I entered into a spacious living room that was separate from the bedroom — the latter an ultra-Instagrammable place that includes a plush king-sized, baroque-style bed dressed in salmon-pink and golden linen (yes, with Versace patterns).

As one of Dubai’s most luxurious hotels, it’s unsurprising it’s home to one of the most luxurious bathrooms, too (or the ‘powder room’ as it's coyly referred to on the touch-sensor light switches). Between the Versace-branded toiletries lining the marble tub and counters, mosaic murals on the walls and Carerra marble flooring, the suite is worth booking for the bathroom itself. 

Each suite features polished parquet flooring and Versace homeware. (Supplied)

After settling in, I decided to unwind at La Piscina swimming pool. But there were no sun loungers available. Fortunately, the hotel has two other pools to choose from, so I made my way to Capri Lagoon, which was definitely more chilled out than La Piscina. It’s a sprawling infinity pool in which you can float above another Medusa mosaic.

If, like me, swimming plays havoc with your hair, the hotel spa also has a hair salon, so you can get yourself a quick blow dry before heading to dinner.

The hotel has a wide selection of restaurants to suit all taste palettes. There’s international cuisine at Giardino; Persian restaurant Enigma — headed by Iranian-born Michelin-starred Mansour Memarian — and Italian venue Vanitas. I opted for the latter, a cozy yet luxurious space that is equally fit for an intimate dinner date or a feast with friends. 

The hotel has a wide selection of restaurants to suit all tastes. (Supplied)

I had the Bruschetta Burrata served with tomatoes, mashed avocados and basil handpicked from the hotel’s garden for starters and the Tagliata di Wagyu — Wagyu Striploin served with a side of black truffle mashed potatoes and sautéed mushrooms — for my main. Naturally, everything was served in Versace tableware. 

While the food was good, it was not especially memorable. The portions were a good size, however, as they left room for dessert: Tiramisu, which was undoubtedly the highlight of the meal. 

Having returned to my suite, I was slightly disappointed to see the ultra-luxe bedding had been swapped for a generic white duvet and pillowcases. However, housekeeping was kind enough to grant my silly request to change the bedding back. While a better night’s sleep wasn’t fully guaranteed by the upgrade, it did provide an extra level of comfort. 

All in all, guests can expect excellent service from the moment you enter the Palazzo Versace until you check out. With staff always available and happy to help, you can be sure you’ll want for nothing during your stay, except maybe an extension.