Collage - Journal 1932...

Collage - Journal 1932...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Destination Arabia and the "City of Consulates" - al-Balad....

Sun rises over Jeddah and a new day is born.......

Life is good, it is all our experiences which we one day will conform into a book of memories when the season of fall arrives in our lives.

Here is some photos I took during my last couple of weeks in Arabia and a little tale about al-Balad - Jeddah, an ancient port city by the Red Sea.

Here is a place were you can smell the past, incense, spices, mystic, and romance,the sun beating down on your unprotected head, your senses creates a mirage and the imagination visualizes caravans, Bedouins in their oasis with date palms, their beauty, shade, and medicinal properties in an arid desert were water is as precious as gold.

It was here in Jeddah the pilgrims arrive(d) on their way to the Holy cities of Medina and Makkah.

Once, this was not more than a small fishing village.
The city traces its traditions back approximately 2500 years.

Jeddah got to be the port for trading between the East and the Mediterranean, with Makkah and Medina pilgrims travels from around the world.

A melting of cultures, very different from Riyahd and Dammam. Well, it is about al-Balad - In the 1880s the Ottoman Empire had reach out and had control over the city - Diplomats started pouring in and the "City of Consulates" grew up or as it is known in Arabic "Bilad al Kanasil" , or al-Balad.

Beautiful, intriguing buildings made out of coral blocks were you can see pieces of coral and sea shells incorporated to the structure. The walls and the foundation are built entirely with coral taken from the seashore or from the surrounding hills which once were under the sea level. The blocks are held together with mortar made by mixing sand and lime, which was produced by firing coral in large vats.

The buildings are slowly falling apart and some of their wooden balconies looks like they will collapse at any moment. I observed some restoration of some of the buildings and was told that they were slowly undergoing restoration.

The balconies provided beautification to the buildings but were there for the practical use of keeping the afternoon breeze to cool and ventilate the house(s).

Blue, pistachio green or sun bleached brown wood - Wood brought back from destinations far away.The balconies were extensions of the house were there owners could sit comfortably and smoke a Shisha (water pipe) with herbal fruits or tobacco in the cooling breeze.To protect the wood from the heat, humidity and insects the wood was coated with a liquid extracted from the Al-Bisham plant found in the mountains. Shark oil was also used for the same purpose. The resulting brown stain was an effective preservative.

The more elaborated balconies with integrate carvings are called mushrabiyah and balconies are called roshan.Balad is a city within the city and a part of the souk.

(All photos in this post by Tavarua)
The rest of this tale? Maybe - you will have some sweet dates and some Arabic coffee under the shades of a palm tree somewhere in the desert...and continue to write the tale of a traveler - I will leave it up to your own imagination.....

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for those photos! You have a wonderful eye...and wonderful tales to tell!