We mostly see pictures of gleaming high rises and glittering malls when the news reports on the country. But there is beautiful domestic architecture in Saudi Arabia as well. The Farasan Islands are know for their wonderful sea life, but some beautiful remains of houses can be seen as well.
The historic centre of Jeddah, ”Al Balad” (the city) is much neglected and run down, an application for it to become a UNESCO world heritage site has been rejected. The representative said the dismissal of the Kingdom’s application was purely down to technical reasons, as Jeddah’s historical sites had been subjected to negligence and misuse from people who did not recognize its value. He said the negligence had greatly influenced ICOMOS’ decision.
Most of the restauration work has been done by individuals. Jeddah residents have moved away from Al Balad, which is now mostly inhabited by immigrants and very poor people. At Ramadan the place is very busy, All jeddawis visit Al Balad at Ramadan. The buildings are made of fragile coral rock, and many houses are crumbling and the rubble litters the streets according to visitors. Visitors also complain about the dirt and the litter and garbage yet all agree if one is in Jeddah al Balad is a ”must see”!
One of the most beautiful houses is Naseef house which has become a museum.
The Bedouin houses have a special charm, with their white decorations on mud walls. Building with mud is an ancient technique. While it needs frequent upkeep, mud structures can last for centuries. It’s cheap, eco-friendly and sustainable. And you can make beautiful buildings with mud.
This an old photo from maybe the 70s, so I suppose this amazing house has disappeared by now.
Old multiple story mud house in Najran. These ridges, sometimes made with flat stones, are to stop the rains from washing away too much mud.
Old house in Yanbu
Traditiona house interior