When we’re planning to visit Jeddah, I knew I had to put Balad in my itinerary. This Historical site is full of old houses with Ottoman and Andalusian architecture design. Balad, which literally means “The City”, is the historic center of the city of Jeddah. Al Balad was founded in the 7th century. It was established as a major port for Indian Ocean trade routes, distributing goods to Mecca.
Balad was in fact encircled by a wall that was meant to protect the city from Portuguese invaders who wanted to control navigation of the Red Sea. In 1947, the wall was destroyed and today only some gates of it remain, with small part of the wall attached. The gates are: Bab Makkah, Bab Sharif, Bab Al Bent, Bab Magharbah, Bab Sebbah, and Bab Jadeed. These gates were used to link Jeddah to the outside world. Bab Makkah was the gate for the muslim who wants to take their pilgrimage to Mecca. The gate in this picture is Bab Sharif.
The architecture of the old houses reflect the rich life of Jeddawis, who were mostly merchants. The intricate wood art on their window were carved skillfully by Indian and Javanese. Besides its function to block the sunshine, they were also designed to catch the wind for providing good ventilation throughout the house, a necessities for comfort during the hottest part of the summer. Furthermore, the wood was carved in such a way that it was easy to look outside while remaining hidden from public view.
The windows with part that just out over the street is actually balconies, the rawashin (singular: roshan), was used as an extension of the room and was filled with comfortable cushions where people could sit on the path of the evening breeze. The ones with beautiful designs were called mushrabiyah and the ones with more simple and practical grills used as windows are called shish.
Lots of lattices (wind catcher) on the houses
The houses were built in a tall structure. This was intended to have an extra comfort when people enjoy the evening breeze while relaxing on the roof top and to produce shades, which is much appreciated by the people walking on the streets during hot days.
Pictures below are some beautiful houses with intricate rawashin which could use some tender-loving-care to be preserved. Some are well-maintained.
Bayt Nasif or Nasif’s house is the most popular and the oldest building in this historical site, right in the middle of the souq. This ancient mansion has been renovated and considered as a symbol of Jeddah’s rich past. It was built in 1872 by the owner, Omar Nasif Efendi, a wealthy merchant and governor of Jeddah by then. This house belong to the Nasif family until 1975. Then it turned into a library and eventually became a museum.
Two pictures below are the souq (market) but because it's Friday morning the activity will not begin until after As 'ar pray time, that is around 3 pm.
Below are more pictures of old buildings with beautiful architecture that made Balad so enchanting. It's almost like in a fairy tale. -SK-
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