Al-Rawashin still stands tall in the city of Jeddah, as a witness of an architectural style in which Arab, Ottoman and Persian cultures blended together. By virtue of the unique geographical location of Jeddah, the city became a gateway to the two Holy Mosques. The name “Roshan,” originally derived from the Persian word “Rosen,” meaning balcony, evolved over time into “Rawashin,” in reference to the prominent traditional wooden panels used to cover windows and external openings.
Rawashin is considered one of the most prominent architectural features in Jeddah, especially in the old neighborhoods. Although the industry of crafting Rawashin has declined due to the influence of contemporary life, the interest in the historic area of Jeddah is renewed after this area received recognition as a World Heritage site. The buildings are now restored to preserve this original style and sustain its ancient aesthetic beauty.
The engineering consultant, Dr. Nabil Abbas, pointed out, in his interview with alarabiya.net, that the Rawashin industry was established in Jeddah during the Abbasid period, but flourished in the Ottoman era, where it almost completely spread in the city. It has found its way to the facades of palaces and public buildings, and has been proved quite effective in achieving a comfortable internal environment despite the extreme heat.
Abbas said that the Rawashin was imported from India, the East African coast, and the Malay, and that it was engraved with decorative flowers, but with time the Rawashin was locally crafted in Jeddah and Mecca. However, this local industry evolved in shape and nature as it grew bigger and larger to reach the upper floors and cover the entire fronts of buildings.
Dr. Nabil Abbas explained that the Rawashin achieves as well privacy within the building, which provides the opportunity to see outside and does not allow pedestrians to see inside the building because of its small engravings. It also contributes to providing high-efficiency lighting without increasing temperatures inside because the wood is inherently insulating. Besides the heat protection, the artistic beauty that the Rawashin gives on the residential buildings, adds to the aesthetic value of the streets and the cities.
It is worth mentioning, that many modern buildings now embrace the importance of highlighting the aesthetic element of the facades of its buildings and insist on utilizing Rawashin to add more beauty that reflects the history of the traditional Islamic architecture. The modern Roshan stands out in the central area of Makkah, in modern hotels and government buildings. From all directions Roshan is present in its traditional color covering dozens of modern architectures.