Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- The celebrations held in Jeddah last 13 October evening marked the advent of Eid ul-Fitr and brought the people together in a festive spirit. The musicians played traditional music as the people danced by the Red Sea coast in the city’s cultural heritage village. The village lies along the coast and has over 60 handicraft shops that sell old traditional wares and approximately 50 other modern shops, in addition to a number of historic buildings and a variety of cultural events.
Hassan Mihwil Eissa, who is over 80 years old is a man who has witnessed Jeddah’s transformation, “This is the Old Jeddah in all its beauty and simplicity that you are seeing now,” he said in reference to the heritage village. He recounted stories of skills and crafts from days gone by in the Old City, including how they used to build their own houses.
One of the pioneering builders in Old Jeddah, Eissa used to teach construction and building skills and was the head of ‘al Majmoua’ group that was responsible for building Beit Jeddah, a cultural center, in the village. He added that the project took five days and revealed that they used approximately 15,000 stones to complete it.
There was a large family presence at the village as many flocked in to shop and celebrate on the first day of Eid. “It was very well organized,” said Umm Khaled who was there with her children and added, “but the best thing is that it is open to all.”
Umm Khaled said that what impressed her most was that all the ancient handicrafts and skills were readily available, in addition to various antiques; however, she noted that most of these shops did not have names.
For his part Engineer Sami Nawar, the director of the Historic Area Preservation Department and the head of Jeddah’s Tourism and Culture Department said that the village was the new face of tourism in Jeddah, in addition to being a cultural and recreational center.
Approximately 45,000 square meters, the village has a showroom for historical cars and a huge square for children’s games and competitions, as well as traditional Hijazi food stalls, a poetry hall, art exhibitions displaying paintings of heritage sites and buildings, in addition to traditional Hijazi clothing and accessories for women.
However, it is not simply shopping that the village offers, there are folkloric troupe performances, in addition to other cultural events and performances that take place in the newly built Beit Jeddah al Turathi, as well as in the open theatre, which is located in an 80 meter area.
In terms of the anticipated number of visitors, Nawar said that the village is expected to attract over 100,000 over Eid. He added that the Jeddah municipality has divided the village into three sections; the fist one is dedicated to ancient Hejazi heritage; the second to the cultural of heritage of other regions in the Kingdom; and the third is devoted to international world heritage so that it may attract all the different communities living in the city.