Is Riyadh an open city

World HeritageJeddah - Saudi Arabia's gateway to the world

Jeddah, Saudi Arabia's gateway to the world. To the maritime world of sailors, traders, travelers who have been heading for the city on the Red Sea for centuries, supplying them and the hinterland with new goods and ideas. Seti has always been a place of exchange and trade. Therefore, according to the Islamic scholar Ulrike Freitag from the Berlin Center for the Modern Orient, it is only logical "that through the pilgrimage and trade, Jeddah has always been a particularly multicultural city - always influenced by Muslims, there were no Christian settlements worth mentioning. But Muslims very different nations, from Morocco to Central Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia and Black Africa. And in Jeddah the marriage between these different groups with native Arabs was not a major problem either. That means, the city is ethnically very different was shaped, albeit always in Arabic, of course, that had a very strong assimilative character. "

Jeddah is the counterpart to the desert, says the artist Reem al-Faisal about her hometown. But both desert and sea would have shaped the people. Which in this case means: You kept it moving. Al-Faisal: "The people of Saudi Arabia are travelers. Deep down they have remained Bedouins. That is why we have known a metropolitan, open way of life for a long time. We are the result of very different cultures. New beginnings and contact with foreigners are part of our culture .

Time travel into the past

In her photographic work, Reem al Faisal traced the traces of the old Jeddah. Her black and white photos appear timeless, as if the author had made a journey back in time: "In my work, I am interested in Jeddah as a hub of trade - for the merchants from Yemen, Sudan, Egypt and many other places that came here at some point and have lived here ever since. Their appearance is typical of Jedda's market and old town. My aim was to capture this old Jeddah. "

Residential houses, town villas and palaces, courtyards and marketplaces: the old Jeddah gives an insight into the way of life of an epoch that is in parts already bygone. The old town is sharply demarcated from modern Jeddah, which draws attention to itself with superlatives of modern times, such as the tallest fountain, the largest roof structure and soon the tallest tower in the world. And so the old town of Jeddah shows the different time frames in which the Saudis live. Jedda's old town, according to Ulrike Freitag, is testimony to an architecturally lost era: "The city was built from coral stones reinforced with wood, and this type of architecture, which was quite typical in the Red Sea area - albeit with regional variations on the East as well as the west side of the Red Sea - this type of architecture has largely disappeared in the other cities. Jeddah is the last remnant of this architecture, which combines both Indian and Egyptian elements. "

Trading city becomes a world cultural heritage

Saudi Arabia already has two world heritage sites. The first, the Mada'in Salih burial site in the northwest of the country, refers to the pre-Islamic period. The second, the Diriyya settlement near the capital Riyadh, is considered to be the center of Wahhabism, the interpretation of Islam that has become a state doctrine in Saudi Arabia. With Jeddah, a trading city has now been declared a World Heritage Site. A cause for joy for the Saudis, but also a little worry. Ulrike Freitag: "On the one hand, there is hope that the old town will actually be renovated in this way and not fall into disrepair, as has increasingly been the case in the past few decades the state is influencing the development in this old town much more than it has before and could possibly affect the rights of the private owners of these houses in this way. "

For the world, especially for the western world, Jeddah's designation as a World Heritage Site is an occasion to deal a little more with the comparatively unknown Arab country. Unlike the two cities, Mecca and Medina, which are holy to Muslims, Jeddah is also open to non-Muslims.