- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: Historic Jeddah on UNESCO World Heritage List
- Date: 24th June 2014
- Summary: JEDDAH, SAUDI ARABIA (JUNE 23, 2014) (REUTERS ) VARIOUS OF ONE OF HISTORIC JEDDAH GATES ONE OF THE SITES OF OLD JEDDAH STREET SIGN READING IN ARABIC AND ENGLISH 'HISTORIC DISTRICT' VARIOUS OF OLD HOUSES IN THE HISTORIC OLD CITY OF JEDDAH PEOPLE WALKING IN STREET VARIOUS OF DECORATION FOR MONTH OF RAMADAN NEIGHBOURHOODS OLD HOUSE VARIOUS OF RESIDENTS OF OLD CITY SEATED AT PLACE CALLED 'MIRKAZ' (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) RESIDENT OF HISTORIC JEDDAH, MOHAMED AL-AMODI, SAYING: "My mother was married in this house as well as me and my brothers, Thank God that the area is getting great attention and care (by the government) much more than before, before it was very much neglected." VARIOUS OF BUILDING UNDER RENOVATION POLICE OFFICER WALKING BY MOSQUE UNDER RENOVATION POSTERS OF ADVERTISEMENT FOR COMPOUND OF RESTAURANTS AND SHOPS TWO PIGEONS BY OLD WINDOW VARIOUS OF ONE OF THE OLD HOUSES WHICH WAS RENOVATED OPENING CEREMONY FOR THE INCLUSION OF OLD JEDDAH IN THE WORLD HERITAGE LIST BANNER READING IN ARABIC 'HISTORIC JEDDAH A WORLD HERITAGE SITE' (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) EMIR OF MAKKAH, PRINCE MISHAL BIN ABDULAZIZ, SAYING: "Today we celebrate with you the occasion of the adoption of the historical area of Jeddah in the World Heritage List after the approval of the World Heritage Committee during the meeting of the Committee of UNESCO at its 38th session in Qatar." OFFICIALS APPLAUDING (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) PRESIDENT OF SAUDI COMMISSION FOR TOURISM AND ANTIQUITIES, PRINCE SULTAN BIN SALMAN, SAYING: "This project coincides with the historic project passed by the Royalty in the name of King Abdullah to take care of the cultural heritage in Saudi Arabia, a Cabinet decision has been issued a few weeks ago, and historic Jeddah receive this care under the umbrella of this Grand National project. Its budget exceeds more than 5 billion riyals ($1 billion and 333 million) in the next three years with God's help." PRINCE AND OFFICIALS LEAVING CEREMONY
- Embargoed: 9th July 2014 13:00
- Location: Saudi Arabia
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAC79EU0MMX7RX2E1HFKZ8D0D3U
- Story Text: Welcome to historic Jeddah - the Gate to Makkah - in Saudi Arabia. Enter these gates and in the heart of Saudi Arabia's sprawling Red Sea port city of Jeddah, you will find centuries-old buildings tilt and buckle above the historic district's narrow alleys.
The seventh-century historic district, with its mud and coral town houses adorned with ornate wooden balconies, holds the only remnants of the traditional architecture of the Hijaz, as the western Arabian Peninsula is known.
But it is not an easy heritage.
Jeddah's humid climate rots the houses' wood and erodes their walls, meaning they require constant maintenance.
Local laws stipulate that this be done with mud and coral limestone drawn from the Red Sea, using costly traditional building techniques.
Sadly, for a very long time these beautiful buildings withered away neglected in the absence of decisive action to protect them.
This is now set to change.
On Saturday (June 21), UNESCO's World Heritage Committee finally included historic Jeddah in its World Heritage List. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities has taken on the responsibility to protect and renovate the city.
This is good news for some of its residents:
"My mother was married in this house as well as me and my brothers, Thank God that the area is getting great attention and care (by the government) much more than before, before it was very much neglected", said Mohamed al-Amodi.
The Saudi government had already previously tried to list the historic area as a UNESCO world heritage site, in the hope it would jump-start restoration work, but that effort failed in part because there was no realistic master plan.
Restoration efforts have been left largely in private hands because Saudi authorities cannot by law intervene to renovate the privately owned homes in the district. Locals say the government has not shown enough interest in resolving the problem, or in breaking a logjam in financing the improvement of the area's public infrastructure.
As a result, a quarter of the houses in the district's square kilometre have collapsed, burnt down or been demolished in the past decade because home-owners cannot afford costly renovations and have little interest or incentive to do so.
Houses where the wealthiest Jeddah merchants once lived are now cheap dwellings for poor foreign labourers, beggars and illegal immigrants. It is estimated that of the historic district's 40,000 inhabitants, fewer than 5 percent are Saudis.
Webs of intertwined cables cascade down the houses' dilapidated facades while satellite dishes hang from their cracked walls and rusty air conditioners protrude from their rotting wooden balconies.
But the Saudi government resubmitted its application to UNESCO earlier this year, in January, and this time has included proposals to encourage home-owners to restore their properties under expert guidance with loans and other financial incentives, as is the practice in some other countries with huge restoration projects.
It has also bought and restored some properties in the area, including a 13th-century mosque and the house where Saudi founder Abdul Aziz al Saud lived when in Jeddah.
At the opening ceremony to celebrate Jeddah's adoption into the family of world heritage sites the president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities Prince Sultan Bin Salman pledged a budget for the ongoing restoration work.
"This project coincides with the historic project passed by the Royalty in the name of King Abdullah to take care of the cultural heritage in Saudi Arabia, a Cabinet decision has been issued a few weeks ago, and historic Jeddah receive this care under the umbrella of this Grand National project. Its budget exceeds more than 5 billion riyals ($1 billion and 333 million) ) in the next three years with God's help."
Saudi Arabia has already listed two sites with UNESCO, the Nabatean rock-dwellings of Madain Saleh and the ruling al-Saud family's historical capital of Diriyah.
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