Jeddah is a city of many parts and it reflects in the attractions galore that the city has to offer to its visitors. Let’s go to explore this amazing port city on the Red Sea.
Al Balad District – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
The word ‘Balad’ literally translates to mean ‘the town’. It is a thriving multicultural neighbourhood famous for its heritage buildings and traditional intricately designed ‘Hejazi mansions’, has fascinating maze-like narrow alleyways that retain a real sense of old Arabia, it also boasts of having Jeddah’s oldest mosque – Masjid al Shafi’i said to be dating back to the time of Rashidun Caliph Umar, ‘Bab Makkah’ (gate of Makkah) which faces the holiest city of Islam where millions go for Hajj and Umrah, village majlis (place where people congregated), souqs that still exist as they did centuries ago with shops and street vendors plying their colourful and exotic wares. ‘Al Balad’ was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014 for its tangible and intangible cultural offerings.
Things to see in Al Balad area
01. Beit Al Balad
Location: Al Faisaliyah District
Also known as municipality museum was previously the British legation’s (diplomatic representative office) headquarters from 1915 to 1930s. It has now been converted to a museum and showcases ‘Hejazi’ architecture and houses an impressive collection of artifacts, paintings and photographs.
02. Jeddah Our Days of Bliss Magad
Location: Souq Al Alawi, Al Balad area
Is a privately owned museum. The word ‘Magad’ is a Hejazi Arabic word to describe a living room that is typically located on the ground floor of a mansion and has an oriel window overlooking the front side of the home. This two floors museum displays historical pieces and artifacts.
03. Beit Al Nasseef
Location: Al Dahab, Al Balad
Also known as ‘Nasseef House Museum’ is one of the best-preserved buildings of the historic area is a grand four storey mansion which features elaborate architectural elements including wooden lattice windows, Islamic calligraphy carvings and stairways to accommodate horses and camels. This building is considered to be the epitome of the ‘Hejazi architecture’. It was also the temporary residence of the founder of modern Saudi Arabia ‘Ibn Saud’ who stayed here for 3 years while in Jeddah.
04. Matbouli House
Location: Near Souq al-Alawi, Al Balad
Is over three centuries old and a beautiful example of a traditional Hejazi merchant’s home now tastefully restored and this heritage building as a private museum is now open to public. This three-storey mansion belongs to the prominent ‘Matbouli’ business family whose ancestors were the ‘Sheikhs’ of grain traders in Jeddah.
05. Souqs in the Historic Quarter:
Location: Al Balad Area
In the past within the walled perimeters of Jeddah of what is now known as ‘Al Balad’ or the historic quarter of Jeddah the souqs then were the economic lifeline of this port city servicing the local population and the arriving and departing pilgrims and today they offer a delightful shopping experience to tourists and pilgrims while they are in Jeddah. These bazaars sell foodstuff, handicrafts, fabrics, dresses, abayas, leather merchandise, spices, dates, frankincense, Arabic perfumes, gold jewellery, utensils, trinkets, fresh meats, delicious street food and much more.
Souqs to look out for:
- Souq Al Nada
- Souq Al Alawi (one of the oldest souqs of Jeddah)
- Al Khashkia
- Souq Al Badw (Bedouin market)
- Souq Qabil
06. Masjid Al Shaffi’I – The oldest Mosque of Jeddah
Location: Al Mazloom Lane, Al Balad
An important landmark of Jeddah city, the restoration of this historic mosque was ordered by the King Abdullah, the late monarch of Saudi Arabia.
Most of the mosque building dates back to the 16th century and is Ottoman in style however it is believed that the foundations of this historic mosque dates to Islam’s first period, to the times of Rashidun Caliph Umar, more than 1000 years back. The mosque is named after Imam Muhammad ibn Idris Al Shafi’I one of the leading Muslim scholars of Sunni Islam. The mosque attracts a large number of believers, visitors and lovers of Islamic antiquities.