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Explore Al Balad – Best Activities in Jeddah’s Oldest Neighbourhood Part 1

Take a minute to gather your bearings as you arrive at the colourfully painted pillars that welcome travellers to Jeddah’s Al Balad area. This will come in handy as you enter this World Heritage Site, where every street appears the same and the buildings have stories that will keep you engrossed for hours.

There are decaying developments and dusty streets but don’t be frightened off by Al Balad’s worn-down exterior. The history of the place is quite intriguing. It was created in the seventh century and was once the throbbing centre of Jeddah, the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia. The town arose as an old commerce harbour and served as the principal entry point to Makkah. It is now famed for its traditional structures made of coral stone and embellished with exquisitely latticed windows.

When you know what you’re looking for, you can easily explore Al Balad’s interesting labyrinth of streets. So here are a few things to do when you visit. 

Start at the village majlis

A dilapidated majlis may be seen a few steps from Al Balad’s main entrance, immediately beyond the replica Jeddah Gate, which marks the beginning of the historic neighbourhood. It’s easy to stroll right past this site, but take some time to reflect on the fact that this red-cushioned seating area is where all of the town’s community meetings are held. Across the street, you’ll find a three-story mansion with a series of small balconies and windows.

These bay windows, known as rawasheen, were originally a place where women would evaluate marriage prospects as men proposed in the majlis below. Nowadays, it’s a place to relax and unwind.

Visit Historical Nights

Historical Nights is a unique cafe with superb coffee and fantastic views of the city.  Enter and proceed to the second level for some fantastic rooftop views. It’s nice and cold inside, thanks to some strong air conditioning, and a great way to beat the humidity. Head to the comfortable majlis area to enjoy some delicious pastries and fine views as you relax in a comfortable majlis.

Go back in time at Baeshen House

Aside from Historical Nights, Baeshen House is an excellent example of the coral stone and timber structures that comprise the majority of houses in Al Balad. The merchants who were members of the Baeshen family are depicted in old pictures on the walls, and there is a multimedia room inside with books, newspapers, and additional information about the neighbourhood.

Take a seat on a rowshan, plural of rawasheen, which are common in the area. Because of its unusual construction, protruding out from the main wall and allowing for improved air circulation, these chairs have historically represented the coolest spot in the home to sit. This massive structure also houses a mosque that is painted a radiant white and sports Arabic calligraphy on its walls. 

Haggle on the district’s old pilgrimage road

The historic pilgrimage path, also known as Al Dahab Street, was formerly the sole way for pilgrims to reach Makkah. It’s a terrific spot to pick up a unique memento, with street sellers, carts stocked with souvenirs, and vividly coloured businesses offering nuts, shoes, spices, abayas, textiles, garments, and more. Remember to haggle with the shopkeepers for some great deals.

Keep an eye out for a three-­story structure surrounded by mossy green rawasheen as you walk. There, you’ll see one of the district’s most unique architectural feats, a cylindrical rowshan that spans two storeys of the home. It’s a design made with extravagance in mind and is a great photo op for any traveller. 

Check back for more great locales in Al Balad, Jeddah or check out the place yourself with Kanoo Travel.

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