Jeddah makes fresh UNESCO push

A festival will be held under the aegis of Prince Sultan Bin Salman, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities

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A festival in Jeddah’s historical Balad district will make a fresh attempt to get the area included on UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites.

The festival will be held under the aegis of Prince Sultan Bin Salman, head of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities.

During the event, a report about the historical area will be delivered to UNESCO.

Over SR80 million has been allocated to the area to fix its roads and lighting.

Jeddah has been included in SCTA’s historic cities development project, which is being carried out in cooperation with the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs.

The SCTA has also signed contracts with international investors who are now implementing their plan to protect the historical district.

According to specialists, the city has lost 90 houses of historical significance in the area. They have also expressed concern about the recent fires that took place in the region.

The last house that collapsed in the district belonged to the Al-Siraj family. The house, located near Al-Falah school, the oldest in Jeddah, collapsed last year following a fire on its second floor.

Another house belonging to the Shihata family that was 100 years old also collapsed following a fire.

The Jeddah development committee in charge of the historical district recently launched a special office for the area and has worked on the restoration of 18 old buildings, including one that will be converted into a hotel.

Sami Nawar, head of Balad Municipality, said the first phase of the area’s development includes restoration of buildings, fixing roads and lighting and providing fire safety equipment.

He said arsonists were responsible for the fires and they have been prosecuted.

According to him, there are 550 houses of heritage value.

The area has also been under threat because of the heavy seasonal rains.

When it rains, local authorities tend to evacuate buildings and disconnect electricity cables.

(This article was first published in Saudi Gazette on Jan. 14, 2014)

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