Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Little Bit About Jeddah

You may have noticed a new look to my blog recently. The new heading graphic featuring the blog title is actually from a photo I took myself here in Jeddah. After some manipulating with Photoshop, the result is what you see now. It looks like a painting, doesn’t it? This is the original photo ...
This is the picture that I created my blog header from, taken at an amazing structure which was built by one of my husband’s cousins, a highly successful and shrewd businessman who passed away not too long ago. We were driving around the city one evening when hubby pulled off a main road and stopped the car in front of this enormous and magnificent development called Altayebat International City for Sciences and Knowledge. The educational facility was built to teach underprivileged children and even houses many of them who are orphaned. It was closed, but even at night the structure itself was quite an interesting sight. Hundreds of oxidized metal antique lanterns provide lighting for the outside. The entire walled-in compound consists of eleven different buildings which are all white with intricate decorative wooden detailing on all windows, doors, facades, balconies and porches painted brown. There is a huge green dome plus several beautiful minarets towering over the buildings. What I was able to photograph was an enormous replica of Old Jeddah constructed along one of the outside walls of the facility. The mini city appears to be made of clay or gypsum and spans an area of about 25 feet wide by 4 feet tall. The charming little village has arched doorways and windows and flat roofs with lots of attention paid to every minute detail for accuracy.

Adnan’s cousin also had built one of Jeddah’s finest historical museums which unfortunately was lost in a fire several years ago. I have seen many photos of this museum and it was splendid. The museum had a collection of some 10,000 artifacts which reflected the history and progress of Jeddah’s civilization. The tragedy of the museum fire was an immeasurable and tremendous loss for the city of Jeddah.
My husband has told me that when he was a boy, Jeddah’s population was only about 30,000 people (compared to estimates of upwards of 4 million today) and that the city was completely walled in. At night the gates to the city were closed and no one could get in or out, and families felt safe enough to sleep up on the flat rooftops when the weather was too hot. The high stone wall totally encircled the town and was actually rebuilt by the Ottomans during the 16th century, to protect the citizens of Jeddah from aggression from Portugal. The Ottomans remained in Jeddah until 1915 and their influence is still evident in Jeddah today, seen in the architecture throughout these old historic parts of the town. Today the wall and its gates are no longer standing as Jeddah’s phenomenal growth has pushed its boundaries way beyond that original wall.

Jeddah’s history goes back some 2500 years, when the area was first inhabited as a small fishing village. Its location on the Red Sea and its close proximity to Mecca played important roles in Jeddah’s importance and growth in the ensuing years. Mecca is the holiest city of Islam. All Muslims are required to journey to Mecca at least once in their lives for the religious pilgrimage called the Haj, with many Muslims making the trip more times than just the once. Since Jeddah is the closest seaport to Mecca and only a one hour drive away by car, Jeddah benefits economically from the millions of pilgrims who make this trip each year. Jeddah’s airport is also the largest in the whole region as well, with a special terminal just for Haj pilgrims. Because of this tremendous influx of visitors from all over the world, Jeddah is thought to be a little more progressive, cosmopolitan and informal than the capital city of Riyadh, which gets far fewer outside visitors. Riyadh lies smack dab in the middle of the country, a tad isolated from the rest of the world, and is surrounded by mostly nothing but desert for many miles.

Modern day Jeddah boasts the world’s largest outdoor open air art gallery, with hundreds of sculptures and other works of art sprouting up mostly all along the Corniche and in the center of many of the city’s roundabouts located at major intersections. For your viewing pleasure, I have posted an online photo album featuring many of these beautiful, interesting, sometimes whimsical, sometimes weird sculptures at the following link:
Sculptures of Jeddah
Jeddah is a city with an interesting mix of the ancient and the thoroughly modern and has a charm all its own. It is a melting pot of sorts, a unique place to live with inhabitants from all over the world. Jeddah is steeped in tradition and rich in culture yet leads the way in welcoming and accepting the outside world. I look forward to discovering more of this fascinating place and sharing my findings with you.


  1. Thanks for sharing your new adventure. I'm enjoying reading your posts.

  2. Thanks, Rhea - Welcome aboard! I'm so happy to hear that!

  3. I really like your lessons in world and area history. Write more soon! Billie

  4. Wauw! Great slideshow! I really enjoyed it. Some of the sculptures I like very much. And so much diversity!

    Jeddah sound like a fascinating city!
    Thanks for sharing this.

  5. Susie - I love your blog! I find it amazing about the info you posted on the city back in the day. As much as I love modern conveniences, I think I'd go back in time in a heartbeat just to have a simple life. Life's gotten crazy these days and I think everyone feels it.

  6. To Billie -
    Thanks - I shall delve a bit more into the history aspect in the future!

    To Aafke -
    So glad you enjoyed the slideshow. There are links to even more slideshows down on the left hand column of the blog.

    To L Oman -
    Thanks so much for the nice compliment. I too long for the simpler days.

  7. Susie,
    You have out done yourself this time, thank you for sharing.

  8. Hi, Susie, I've watched all the photo's and really enjoyed my guided tour! I think it's very generous of you to share all this.

    I looove the bedouin jewellery (and the story that goes with it)
    I think there will be a quranic verse in the box if you could open it!

  9. The photos were just incredible. Keep them coming!

  10. Thanks, Jessie, I'm glad you liked it.

    To Aafke - I'm so happy that you liked all the pictures. I have tried opening the little box on the necklace, but I can't figure out yet how to open it!

    To Abusinan - I love taking pictures! I'm glad you appreciate seeing them.

  11. I loved your blog on Jeddah. I am getting such an enriching education from your blog. I'm so proud of you. Your writing is so clear and descriptive. I also loved the blog about the shaving set--so loving and sentimental.
    Ciao for now,

  12. Thanks, Cynthia -
    You are too kind!

  13. Hey Susie,
    Be glad for living in Jeddah -out of all Saudi cities-.. Many people see it more of an open community, with a little more freedom and a variety of people.. I have never seen people as friendly and open minded as Ahl Jeddah.

    I understand that you’re still new in the country. Meanwhile, I can see in your writing how you notice different things people do and you really succeed at make your posts interesting.. When I first arrived at your blog, I honestly thought(oh wow! she really must be observing deeep deeeeep :P.. I also wanted to see how the two realities are different -from your eyes- and how you feel about living there. Understanding “their world” will only be attainable if you learn Arabic, not many American women get to live there let alone having a beautiful family and becoming “one of the people”..

    Nice to meet ya Susie, I've added you to my blogroll too..


  14. To Arabilluminist -
    Your feedback is greatly appreciated. Sometimes I think what I am writing won't be interesting to anybody else, so I am always pleasantly surprised to learn that others find it as interseting as I do!
    I do look at this experience as a tremendous opportunity which I hope to share with others to help them understand this amazing place, its culture, and its people. Thanks again!