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Article - September 19, 2011
Many cities boast of being gateways to regions or to markets, yet Jeddah is the Muslim world’s religious gateway in the true sense of the word, and has been since the seventh century AD.
AL-BALAD, THE HISTORICAL CENTRE OF JEDDAH, IS FULL OF SOUKS SELLING TRADITIONAL CRAFTS AND FOODS
The historical centre of Jeddah, Al-Balad is home to beautiful old mosques, which date back to the seventh, ninth and tenth Hijri Centuries, as well as striking stone and wooden houses that have endured over time thanks to their method of construction. Also characteristic of some old houses in Al-Balad is the Mashrabiya, intricate lattice-covered oriel windows that allow cool air from the street to enter while giving shade and protection from the hot Arabian sun.

A wander through the narrow streets of Jeddah’s old neighbourhoods, or harats, will take visitors past several souqs and khans (small shops), where all manner of items can be purchased, at a haggled price of course. Located next to Bab Makkah, the gate out of the formerly walled-in city leading to Makkah, Souq Al Badu is one of Jeddah’s oldest surviving souks and specialises in Bedouin delicacies, clothes and trinkets.

Jeddah’s rich heritage of architecture fell victim to rapid urban growth in the mid 1900s, yet this was put to a stop in the 1970s when the municipality began historical preservation efforts. The Historical Area Preservation Department was established in 1990 to help promote cultural tourism and protect the city’s old buildings and heritage. In the same year, the Urban Development Company was formed to restore Al-Balad and create new spaces in harmony with the local architecture.

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