People are like cities; they have character, individual features and unique identities. I am proud to hail from Jeddah, a city with four major districts; Al-Bahr, Al-Sham, al-Yemen and al-Mazloum, and all its other landmarks and prominent features, once enclosed by the gates Bab Mecca, Bab Sherif and Bab Jideed.
This city is immersed in ancient mythical history, according to the testimonies of historians and early travelers. Jeddah derived its name from Eve, the Mother of Mankind, who is said to be buried in its oldest tomb. The city served as a setting for a significant period of Islamic history, inaugurated by Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan, making Jeddah the gateway of Muslims to Mecca and Medina. This deep-rooted history is testimony to the Red Sea metropolis, and its residents, whose nature has always reflected a great deal of acceptance for others, and openness to the world. This disposition has produced culture orientated towards creativity and success.
Every city has its own storyteller who loves it and adores its every blowing breeze. Just as Damascus had Muhammad al-Maghut, and Cairo had Naguib Mahfouz, Jeddah had Muhammad Sadiq Diyab, the kind gentleman who departed this life yesterday, leaving behind a legacy full of love and adoration for people, and for Jeddah.
Diyab had a charming writing style. By some subtle artistry between the lines, he would take us back to the good old days, and infuse his syllables with hope and contentment. Diyab faced his deteriorating physical condition with patience, faith and hope. He resisted his pains and insisted on sustaining interaction with his readers, via his sparkling wit.
Visitors of Riyadh’s latest book fair were sent into raptures with the publication of Diyab’s most significant and wonderful novel “Maqam Hejaz”, in which he wrote entire chapters on the history of his beloved Jeddah, within an enthralling chronological context full of excitement and literary craftsmanship, so befitting of the stature of the author.
Diyab was filled with passion in his love for art and music. He maintained a legendary relationship with late singer Talal Madah. He appreciated the value of Fawzi Mahsun, Ghazi Ali, Ibtisam Lutfi and Toha, all of whom are great artistic icons. Diyab also held the great Saudi poet Thuraya Qabel in the highest possible esteem. Qabel is a descendent of the well-known al-Jedaweya family, which the most famous street in Old Jeddah is named after.
Diyab was also enthused by Cairo and Beirut, and greatly enamored with their libraries and coffee shops, as well as their residents. Yet he was so interested in Jeddah’s history, customs and traditions, its notable figures, proverbs and its culture. Diyab wrote extensively on these subjects, and published several books in that domain. He had many friends and scores of fans. He was incredibly loyal, and always keen to stay in touch with former acquaintances, thus making lifelong friends.
He was so fond of Jeddah’s ancient history, from the architecture of its houses and columns, to its lampposts, pavements and benches (which resemble the famous diwan designs). Diyab was infatuated with the heritage and culture of Jeddah’s old coffee shops, and would enthusiastically elaborate on different ways of serving tea, on the traditional Yemeni drink known as “Jirac”, and on those who frequented the coffee shops, and the different subjects they talked about. Diyab used to regard the diversity in Jeddah as the product of an open society, which formed the population of the city. This diversity became part of Jeddah’s identity and a source of endless inspiration for poets and writers, to the extent that this sense of belonging – even amongst Jeddah’s non-residents – became entirely natural, and reflected upon people’s disposition.
Muhammad Sadiq Diyab was an ardent lover of his hometown, and became a mirror reflecting its splendor. His beautiful spirit and pure soul commanded love, respect, and a desire to interact with him, even during his long periods of absence. All those who knew him will unquestionably miss him and long for his return, and all those who heard about him will undoubtedly love him. He received well-earned, mentioned him a lot in their articles, messages, or prayers. This is evidence of the great status the man has earned in people’s hearts.
Rest in peace Muhammad Sadiq Diyab, who is being mourned by Jeddah and Saudis today. The man was a unique literary and moral figure which deservedly earned love, appreciation and respect. O Lord have mercy on his soul, make him dwell in Paradise, and grant his kinsfolk patience and solace.