When you live somewhere you sometimes forget to see and photograph the places tourists would go to. You just take them for granted. While Ahmed and I did quite a lot of sightseeing the first few months I lived here, the only times we return to Jeddah’s historical town is when we have visitors (or sometimes during Ramadan).
Today we paid a visit to Al Balad – my parents are currently here – and we were positively surprised! Unlike in Europe, Jeddah’s old town used to be dirty, chaotic, and poorly maintained. While a major part still is, this time we saw the municipality had carried out a lot of work to restore buildings, clean and pave the streets, and even make some areas pedestrian zones only! Will Jeddah ever attract tourists from all over the world? The truth is its old town is charming indeed and could easily be included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. In fact, the municipality is working hard to get it on the list, but UNESCO have told them they need to show first they are able to take care of it.
We started our morning checking this mosque, which, by the way, is not in Jeddah’s Old Town. It’s quite different from most mosques in Jeddah (I’m planning to write a post about mosques soon); nevertheless, I had never noticed it. We then thought of going to the fish market, but the smell repelled us so much we decided to skip that. Next stop were some ruins of an interesting building. Rumour has it this used to be a church, built during Ottoman times. It does indeed look like a church. For sure it is not a mosque, because it is not built in the direction of Makkah. It is, however, unclear why the authorities do not demolish the ruins (as they would do with any other building (of importance) in this country. Some say the land belongs to the Vatican…
The church ruins are on the edge of Jeddah’s historical center, where we wandered for a couple of hours. We were amazed how much cleaner it was than the previous times we visited it. I took tens of pictures, but most of them do not have any information about what kind of buildings they were. Many are still inhabited, including the ones that are about to collapse.