Sunday, January 17, 2016

Scenes from 2016 Jeddah Historical Festival

The 3rd annual KUNNA KIDA, Arabic for "We were like this," just concluded its ten day run in Jeddah's oldest district, the historic area called Al Balad, which in 2014 was named a UNESECO World Heritage site.  I had a fabulous time the evening I went with a group of about ten friends and two guides (thank you and shout out to Abid and Rawan!).  The historical festival celebrates the history, culture, traditions, and arts of this region.  What was incredible to witness is the joy, the pride, the efforts, and the genuine warmth of the Saudi people who bring this festive event to life and those in attendance whose excitement was palpable.

As soon as we stepped inside the gates, we were transported back in time to a much older Jeddah.  We were greeted and welcomed by joyous Saudi men in traditional clothing who sang and danced for us as we entered.  It was a great kick off to a well planned and executed festival.  There were many booths offering homemade handicrafts available for purchase, refreshments, artifacts on display, and re-enactments depicting various aspects of life in Jeddah from the 1930s - before the oil industry changed the country forever and when Jeddah was just a small fishing village on the Red Sea totally surrounded by high stone walls on all sides. 

Thousands of families attended, many coming from other areas of the country as schools were out of session for a winter break.  Little girls dressed in colorful traditional dresses and wore on their heads the cap-like golden coin ornamental headpieces worn for special occasions. 

It was amazing to see the large variety of handicrafts made by Saudi women.  Among other things, there was even an operetta that was scheduled to be performed for the event - unfortunately I missed it.

The colorful lighting enhanced the beauty of the old buildings as the crowds busily made their way through the narrow streets and walkways.   Some structures were erected specially for the festival and will remain up for about six months before being removed.  I could see many changes in the Al Balad area, including new souvenirs shops and a new library.  Jeddah Our Days of Bliss has been very active in working with the government to rejuvenate the old historic area of the city - and they are doing quite an impressive job.   The Bliss team has also worked as consultants with the festival organizers.   

At the new Jeddah Bliss Library in Al Balad, which was recently opened by Mr. Mansour Al Zamil, I was fortunate to be able to attend a book signing by a female Saudi author and to hear the beautiful singing of a young Saudi man.  Pictured above is Saudi author Maha Oboud Baeshen, signing copies of her book, Our Days of Bliss.  Her novel relays the stories about students who study abroad and return to Jeddah, attending the festival with a different perspective and appreciation for their heritage. It is only available in Arabic at this time.

I also received a copy of the book, The Syrian Jewelry Box by Carina Sue Burns, a world traveler who spent her formative years living in Saudi Arabia. 

The historical re-enactments were amusing, varying from a strict male teacher who demonstrated how boys used to be punished back in the day for misbehaving in school to a slave trader to how mail and ice used to be delivered. 

To see more photos from this year's event, below is my SlideShow about the JEDDAH HISTORICAL FESTIVAL 2016.



  1. Well capture and described!!

  2. Susie, your descriptions were delightful! Shukran for mentioning my book too :-) I hope that you enjoy it.. And, I would be interested in your thoughts?
    Be well, my friend.

  3. Nice memories, thanks for Sharing!

    1. Thank you Susie -- the photos brought back warm, wonderful memories of our days in Jeddah in the late 70s and 80s!