6 incredible facts about Jeddah Historic District

A treasured destination with a fascinating history…

With Saudi Arabia now open for tourism, history buffs and culture vultures need to add Jeddah Historical District to their travel bucket list. Also known as Al Balad, this fascinating stretch on the Red Sea coast was historically a frequent spot for travellers journeying along the silk road, welcoming visitors for over 3,000 years.

Now, thanks to the Ministry of Culture, Jeddah Historic District, with its maze of traditional buildings, mosques and markets, is being carefully restored. While retaining its authentic charm and history, it’s transforming into a destination where visitors can embark on an experience unlike any other in the Kingdom.

Here’s 6 incredible facts about Jeddah Historic District.

The earliest existence of life here dates back 3,000 years

But it was in 7AD, when it became the official port of Makkah, that Historic Jeddah became a global gateway for religious pilgrims as well as a major trading port.

It was recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014

The recognition was based on its distinctive architectural tradition of coral stone masonry, the variety of culinary delights, and the pride of its people.

The distinct 19th Century architecture is almost entirely unique to Al Balad

Once upon a time, the architecture you see all around Historic Jeddah was typical across both coasts of the Red Sea. This aesthetic is charactarised by the tower buildings made from local materials and fronted by “Roshan” wooden windows, coral stone houses, and small public squares. However, much of this 19th Century style architecture has been redeveloped elsewhere, making it almost entirely unique to Al Balad.

The development encompasses over 600 buildings

The Ministry of Culture is working to save and restore these buildings, transforming the whole area into a living, breathing museum with stories around every corner. Alongside some 600 buildings, the restoration project also encompasses 36 mosques, including the Al-Shafi’i Mosque, which dates back to the thirteenth century. Some buildings that have now been restored are already open for visitors, including House of Baeshen, once the gathering place of Saudi notables; and Beit Matbouli, once home to a Hijazi merchant.

There’s also five historic markets

A reflection of Historic Jeddah’s importance as a valued stop on the Silk Road, the bustling markets would trade everything from textiles to spices.

The redevelopment is set to combine the past with the present

Drawing on Al Balad’s roots in culture, history, and commerce, the redevelopment is set to see Historic Jeddah return as a creative meeting place for local and global communities, as it was thousands of years ago. This includes using rehabilitated buildings to convert them to boutique stays, museums, cultural restaurants and shops.


Images: @jeddahalbalad.sa