Close to the shores of the Red Sea and its enchanting natural beauty, you will find the authentic spirit of Jeddah manifested in the old highly crafted and masterly artistic houses. This urban pattern of Jeddah’s artistically imbued houses has a rich culture that spans to many decades ago. You will not cease to be amazed by the delicate balance these architectural designs strike between beauty and societal and environmental goals.
Islamic architecture traces back to the sixth century, in the Hijri calendar (the eleventh century in the Gregorian calendar), when the so-called “Mashrabiya” emerged, a breathable ventilation mechanism distributed along the entire facade of the house or only allocated to the windows of the high floors. The carefully detailed carvings and ornaments of latticed teak wood were used to create an unprecedented beauty in the surrounding alleys and streets. You can also witness the ingenuity of carpentry and the splendor of the " Mashrabiya " designs in the historic Al-Balad region. " Mashrabiya " was one of the most innovative tasteful creations to resolve problems such as privacy, ventilation, lighting, and humidity all at once while still maintaining high artistry indicative of high skill.
Derived from the concept of a window but falling shy from a balcony is the elegant idea of Rawashin. It is uniquely distinguished in two details: on one hand its protrusions from the house’s facade and the mix of glass and wood in their assembly; on the other hand, the astonishing delicate and crafty inscriptions lined sometimes with dark or colored glass that comes in different shapes, types, and details. The way the light peeks through them into the houses is a sight that lights up the soul. Rawashins are utilized as a view to the outside, or, when they are at the top of the house, a storage space. Today, you can still see the marvelous details in them at the 300-year-old Baeshen Palace. The emergence of external porches, which were called in the past “Rawashin” and more recently as “balconies”, was inspired by the same idea, and it was the first design of houses that contain external balconies with distinctive oriental designs in Jeddah.
Ancient buildings didn’t get their allure from the skilled carpentry alone. Additionally, instead of using cement, most buildings were uniquely made from special coral limestone extracted from the Red Sea called “Al-kashur” or “Al-Mangabi Stones”, which were used in almost all traditional constructions. A distinguished exclusive quality of these houses not found anywhere else in the rest of the world, at the time, is that they were constructed in a way that would allow them to be dismantled and reassembled if a part of the Hijazi house was damaged. This feature was feasible due to the use of "Teklela" or "Tekeel" wood to separate the light and fragile coral stones. You can go on an exploration tour of this art in "House of Jeddah and Our Good Days".
The entrance of the house is intended to greet guests. At the doorway, you will be met with a reception room called “dehleez”. This intimate charming room is furnished with seats, around four in small houses, sand-filled floors, and exquisite intricately made wall-hanging carpets. These houses overlook small yards, streets, and alleys bustling with street vendors and salesmen, a scene that takes you back to the wonderful old times like a scene from a theatrical play. Some of Jeddah’s historic sites preserved this feeling, such as Al-Balad.