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A Walk in Al-Balad

Al-Balad is located in Jeddah’s old town, where retracing Saudi Arabian history is possible by taking a stroll discovering traditional architecture of souqs, rawashin and wooden balconies which decorate building facades.

1) Rawashin

Privacy is primordial in Islamic heritage. Houses must offer a safe space on each floor. Rawashin were built to cater to these needs, via a system of wooden grills which filter out heat and protect against unwanted gazes.

Previously, this semi-sealed space was used to cool jars of water through evaporation. Today, we can enjoy the architectural beauty of the rawashin in the streets of Jeddah.

Jeddah Al Bab
Street of Al-Balad in Jeddah – Credits : EyeEm

2) Al-Shafi’i Mosque

Built in the thirteenth century A.D. this mosque is a representation of early Islamic design. Its minaret is visible throughout the Al-Balad neighborhood and, thanks for a restoration process started in 2011, it is now possible to visit one of Islamic history’s oldest sites.

3) Souq Al Alawi

One can pick up different Saudi Arabian scents when crossing the Al Alawi souq in Al Balad. Incense, spices, dates and hibiscus flower – named karkadeh in Saudi Arabia – can be found at each street corner. Try the slightly bitter, reddish drink based off of the shrub, which supposedly helps beat the heat!

4) Bait Nasseef

Built in 1872 by Sheikh Umar Effendi al-Nassif, this house-turned-museum shows all the richness of Saudi Arabian culture. It is possible to visit the house, and its 106 rooms.

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5) Sharbatly House

The Sharbatly house was constructed in 1930. It represents an example of mashrabiya architecture, a natural system of ventilation which allows cool air to spread about the house’s interior.

In 1917, Lawrence of Arabia (the mythical British liaison officer during the Arab Revolt of 1916-1918) actually stayed in this house.