Heyo! I am glad to introduce Mrs Claire Hastings to you. She approached me with an article about Jeddah. The topic was in her mind for the travel series of this blog. Though other bloggers have considered bringing in guest bloggers/authors long ago; This is for the first time happening in Crimson April. And I am very happy about it.
Thankfully she showed up with some of her articles in other websites. I LOVED her write-up. So I confidently asked her to join in, especially to write about a place I have never been to before. She has been a gem to mention all the details regarding her visit to Jeddah, but I screwed up with time because life was throwing up so much on me. Finally, I am so very happy to post her brilliant efforts in writing about this place. Let’s hop in, to know more…
Visiting Saudi Arabia is almost impossible to do (with the emphasis on impossible ;)). My husband and I had a strong desire to visit this country. Keeping in mind about some travel tips that make a difference; We were ready to go through all the other steps. These consisted of applying for a visa at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia. Showing proof that we have not been to Israel before. Finding a Saudi sponsor to vouch for us, and numerous other legal requirements.
As the laws of Saudi Arabia are quite strict, it would be impossible for me to visit the country without a male company. So I was lucky that my husband was keen on the trip as well. When it comes to wardrobe, the rules applied to visitors are similar to residents. That meant that I had to wear an abaya. So if you are considering this country for your next travel destination, make sure you have your abaya in your carry-on. Because you will need to wear it as soon as you land. Once our homework is done, we arrived in a land Holy to Muslims across the globe. We were ready to explore the wonderful city of Jeddah.
Exploring Jeddah during Ramadan
To say that we experienced quite a culture shock arriving in Jeddah would almost be an understatement. Our trip coincided with the Holy month of Ramadan 2017, so the shock was even bigger. According to Saudi laws, it is illegal to indulge in food and drinks during the daylight, and this was quite difficult for us to do. At the beginning, I was constantly thirsty, especially due to the heat during May and June.
I was astonished by the ease with which locals endure an entire day without food or a drop to drink. After doing some research on the proper ways to keep hydrated and what to eat to keep my energy levels optimal; I actually found it not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually cleansing. It truly taught me a lot about self-control, perseverance and patience. I am truly glad we visited the country at this particular time.
The colours and textures of old Jeddah
Once I got my stamina in spick and span shape, I was ready to walk and explore this amazing inexplicable city. The first place we paid a visit to is the Al Balad district, the heart of Old Jeddah. This is a part of the city whose architecture oozes nostalgia of days gone by. The beautiful coral architecture of historic buildings casts some welcome shade over the bustling souqs; Where shopkeepers hawk their goods.
Al-Balad is a maze of tight-knit alleyways, piazzas, streets, and quadrangles, which all conspire together to provide relief from the heat of the Arabian sun. Shoppers can browse Al-Balad’s many souqs, including the Al-Saghah (a jewellery souq), the Al-Alawi, and the Al-Nada Souq, for deals on handmade goods. If you are looking for elements of the old world, the old gate and walls of Jeddah are worth investigating. The most prominent colours are different shades of blue, particularly present on the double-doors of old buildings. Those are highly decorated with deep engravings and topped with a pointed or half-circular arch surrounded by a decorative gypsum frame.
When it comes to the facades, they are absolutely breathtaking. Saudi Commission has nominated Al Balad for Tourism and Antiquities. In 2014, UNESCO accepted this place as World Heritage site. Therefore, many of the facades have been restored. Other dominant colours are brown because of wooden windows and terraces. Most of all the woodwork is carved with supreme craftsmanship. The Egyptian-Ottoman influence is evident in the spatial distribution and gypsum and wooden decorations of Jeddah houses; both in the interior as well as the exterior, and the main construction materials are wood and coral stone.
Old versus new
The modern part of the city offers an entirely different range of colours and architecture. There is truly a huge contrast between the old and new Jeddah. The city is full of vibrant colours, life and exudes modernity.
The polished and shiny buildings are very impressive. They look upscale and depict an abundance of gold and blue, especially on domes of the mosques.
King Fahd mosque with its typical Moroccan architecture is disparate from other mosques in the Kingdom. Immense yet graceful, the tile-work, open-air courtyard and slender minarets of the Mosque left us completely mesmerised. The interior is no less impressive with polished floors, delicately crafted columns and Moorish arches topped with triangular domes. The golden lit interior that highlights each of these features was even more impressive than the exterior. Every mosque that we visited left us in awe, but this one was by far the most impressive.
Our sponsor invited us to have the iftar meal with him and his family (felt very lucky). What struck me most is the lavishness and vibrancy of the interior of the home. We were told, most of the homes are rich with ornamental patterns on roof edges, rowshans, walls and ceilings. They are usually made of wood, stones or gypsum surfaces. Furthermore, there are three patterns in decorations; geometric, floral, and scripts (mostly Quranic), which are either engraved or painted.
Whether you are in the old or new part of Jeddah, the air of Islamic culture and architecture is embedded in each and every structure. Even those that have a modern twist are distinctly Arabian. And you can feel the energy in both the architecture as well as the people.
About the Guest Blogger: Claire Hastings is an aesthetic addict, and her morning routine is scrolling through Instagram, Tumblr, and online magazines on her way to college. She is a writer and a design student in Brisbane, Australia.