Jeddah – Al Balad

Jeddah – Al Balad

In 2014, Jeddah was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Jeddah’s historic port city was recognized for its role as a major Red Sea trade route ‎throughout its 2,500-year history as well as being a gateway for Muslim pilgrims ‎arriving by sea to visit Makkah. The city became a thriving multicultural center, characterized by a distinctive architectural tradition, including tower houses built in the late 19th century by the city’s mercantile elites.

Dar Amar
© Samir Nicolas Saddi, Dar Amar, Jeddah, 1986

Al-Balad can literally be translated as “The City”, and is located in the heart of Jeddah. Its heritage conveys the history of Jeddah city itself. This historic district is located in the heart of Jeddah and embraces many historical landmarks. Historic Jeddah’s most distinctive features are, the Old Jeddah Wall, which was built to protect the city against external aggressions, and its small districts and alleys that narrate the story of a beautiful past. There are a number of historic mosques and markets that are visited by the locals even today.

Traditional places of historic Jeddah are facing new changes and may be replaced by modern concepts. Two artists, Sarah Abudawood and Samir Nicolas Saddi offer their interpretation of “Old Jeddah”, as they are both directly implicated. The Empty Quarter gallery presents those images in Dubai city.


@ Samir Nicolas Saddi, Entrance of Baashen building. Jeddah,1985

As an Architect and photographer, Samir Saddi spent two years shooting the architecture of Al Balad between 1994 and 1996 and has a record of more than 1500 images of this unique heritage. “It is important not only to preserve and sustain Al Balad as part of the UNESCO World Heritage but most importantly to regenerate its urban fabric and research its wealth of architectural solutions to the climate and context of a historic city in hot-humid zone”.

Sarah Abudawood expresses contemporary photography of Old Jeddah, giving a modern touch to emblematic sites. “My objective as an Artist was to give a voice and create a platform for these buildings that have been deprived the opportunity to tell their long overdue stories”, she says.

Sarah Abudawood

Saudi Arabia, born 1979
Inspired by the architecture in the city of London, Sarah instantaneously found her eyes gravitate towards bold lines and geometric shapes, and that was the beginning of her professional career in photography. Sarah Abudawood was born and raised in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and is currently living in Dubai. She graduated in Graphic Arts at Arizona State University. “My mission is to create an image that captivates the audience through an un-conformist-compositional approach via the use of dramatic angles, theatrical lighting, plunging-oblique views and pared-down compositions that are vulnerable to abstraction. It is on that platform of exchange that a photograph comes to life.”

Samir Nicolas Saddi

Canada, born 1950
Through large architectural Saudi Arabian projects Samir Saddi got involved into, he found the urge need to preserve the historic Jeddah through photography. He has been documenting and researching contemporary architecture in Africa and the Arab World since 1976. He has a record of more than 30 solo exhibitions worldwide, mainly in the GCC. Samir’s passion for photography began 40 years ago when he started his architecture career contributing to the design of some major projects such as the Qatar Museum of Islamic Art, Banque du Liban Money Museum, Louvre Abu Dhabi among others.

Jeddah – Al Balad
until 15th September 2016

The Empty Quarter
Gate Village, Bldg 02
DIFC, Dubai, UAE

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