Jeddah Old City, Saudi Arabia

Historic Old Jeddah has been an open museum for generations and is a UNESCO's World Heritage Site since 2014. Its heritage conveys the history of Jeddah city itself when it was a small fishing village 2500 years ago. This historic district is located in the heart of Jeddah and embraces many historical landmarks. Because of its location, Old Jeddah was used as the Red Sea port for Mecca (The Holy Makkah) facilitating regional commerce as well as receiving Hajj and Umra pilgrims.

Here, you can see beautifully renovated old houses such as Naseef House, which dates to the late 1800s, and well preserved examples of traditional architecture styles (e.g., the Mashrabiya, or intricately carved doors and the lattice-work screens, which allow the sea breezes in, but keep out the sun). Historic Jeddah's most distinctive features are, the Old Jeddah Wall, which was built to protect the city against external aggressions, and its small districts and alleys that narrate the story of a beautiful past. There are a number of historic mosques and markets that are visited by the locals even today.

The Jeddah Wall encircles the city around all sides like a ring. A Mumluk sultan ordered its construction to protect it from the raids of Portuguese invaders in their quest to control navigation of the Red Sea. Throughout the wall are seven gates linking Jeddah to the outside world, which were constructed in stages over time according to necessity. They are Makkah Gate, Shareef Gate, Jadeed Gate, Al Bent Gate, Magharbah Gate, as well as a new gate added at the dawn of the century, the Sebbah Gate.

Jeddah was sectioned into a number of districts within its wall. Locals of the city called them Haras (Arabic for neighborhoods). These districts gained their names either from their geographical locations within the city or due to a major event that they experienced. The districts are Harat Al Madhloom, Harat Al Sham, Harat Al Yemen, Harat Al Bahr, Harat Al Karnateena and Harat Al Milyon Tifl.

Jeddah Life and Souqs

Along the facades of closely aligned houses, locked doors, still windows and winding narrow alleys, are owners long gone, leaving behind life stories, and a beautiful past that once filled these homes. The approximate area within the walls of Old Jeddah is estimated at about 1.5 square kilometers. It still possesses traces of traditional life reflecting the old social and economic nature, which is currently concentrated around the mosques and souqs of the area.

There are a number of handicraft shops scattered around. Some of the most popular shops in the historical area, past and present, which form the economic and dynamic backbone of the area are, Alawi Souq, Bedu Souq, Qabil Souq and Nada Souq. In addition to the historical Khans, also called Kaysariya, i.e., closed roof markets with connected shops. Key Khans of Jeddah are Khan Al Hnood, Khan Al Qasabah, which is a fabric store, Khan Al Dalaleen and Khan Al Atareen.

Jeddah Mosques

The old districts of Jeddah are the sites of many ancient historical mosques. Among these mosques are:

Al-Shafe'i Mosque: Situated in Harat Al-Mathloum in Al-Jame'i market, it is the oldest of the mosques. It is said that its minaret was built in the 7th Hegira Century (13th AD). It is unique in architecture, i.e., quadrangle with an open center for ventilation. It has undergone extensive restoration and maintenance work, and is still open for prayer.

Uthman bin Affan Mosque: Also called Abanoos Mosque (mentioned by Ibn Battuta, and Ibn Jubayr in their journeys) due to the existence of two ebony poles. It is located in Harat Al-Mathloum, has a large minaret and was built in the 9th and 10th Hegira centuries.

Al-Basha Mosque: Located in Harat Al-Sham, the mosque was built by Bakr Basha, who was the governor of Jeddah in 1735 AD. Its minaret gave the city an archaeological and architectural landmark, and remained unchanged until 1978 AD, when the mosque was demolished and another built in its place.

Akkash Mosque: Located on Qabel Street to the west, this mosque was built before 1379 Hegira. It was renovated by Akkash Abaza and its ground level was raised higher than the level of the street so that it is accessed with a few steps. It has remained in good condition and is still open for prayers.

Al-Mi'maar Mosque: It is located on Al-Alwai Street to the west in Harat Al-Mathloum. Its construction was ordered by Mustafa Mi'maar Basha in 1384 Hegira. It is now in good condition, is open for prayers, and has its own endowments.

Al-Rahmah (Mercy) Mosque: built over water along Jeddah Corniche, known as the floating mosque.

King Saud Mosque: Situated in the Al-Balad area, it was built during the reign of King Saud.

Jiffali Mosque: It is in the Al-Balad area across from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bay'ah roundabout south of Jeddah.

Hasan Anani Mosque: Located along central Jeddah Corniche at the intersection of Hamra Street and Corniche Road.

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