Pages from Saudi history on show at Jeddah Festival

One journalist showcased some 50,000 news articles he has accumulated over the years on the history of the old parts of Saudi Arabia

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Exhibitions and events at the recently held Historic Jeddah Festival have gained widespread attention in Saudi Arabia.

Among those that attracted the curiosity of visitors was an exhibition by Jaber Al-Ghamdi, a seasoned Saudi journalist with over 30 years experience.

In his exhibition, Al-Ghamdi showcased some 50,000 news articles he has accumulated over the years on the history of the old parts of Saudi Arabia in particular. What made his exhibition all the more unique was that he was at hand to guide visitors.

“The happiest moments of my life were when I worked as a journalist,” said Al-Ghamdi, adding that some of the themes that he covered are as relevant today as they were over 50 years ago.

“The story of Jeddah’s water problem was covered in the past and the problem persists today.

In 1367 AH (1947), a news article was published explaining the importance of water and sanitation projects,” he said.

“The article called on the government to focus on infrastructure projects to resolve the water problem in the city.

Unfortunately, this problem persists in both Jeddah and Makkah,” he added.

Some of the articles contain interviews with members of the public who wished to see Jeddah improve.

“This article, titled ‘Thoughts for Sale,’ was written by Mohammed Fakeih around 1375.

The article suggests, for the benefit of Jeddah’s Municipality, the need to leave some space between the beach and residential homes to allow people the opportunity to properly enjoy the beach in Jeddah.

Now, after some 66 years, a royal order has been issued to remove cafés and homes in the Corniche area of the city,” said Al-Ghamdi.

Al-Ghamdi collected, over 30 years, over 1 million documents and so decided in 2008 to organize the documents.

He therefore created over 150 topics under which to categorize the articles he had accumulated.

The veteran journalist believes that the golden time for Saudi journalism was between the rule of King Abdulaziz and King Faisal, and that journalists of the past were visionaries who seemed to predict the future as if they were living 50 years ahead of their time.

“Journalism in the past had a clear voice and vision. Today the reader may find that a newspaper could have several opinions about the same topic.

Journalists loved their city and they had affiliation to it,” he added. Speaking about the old Balad area of Jeddah, Al-Ghamdi is of the opinion that the area will not be the same after the death of Mohammed Al-Farsi.

“Mohammed Al-Farsi had a deep sense of affection for the old Balad area. In 1395, he had a meeting in the house of Prince Majed.

The result of this meeting was the reconstruction of Bayt Nasif (an old historic building once home to Jeddah’s famous Nasif family) and reviving old Jeddah,” said Al-Ghamdi.

“In Al-Farsi’s era, districts had lighting and the streets were renovated. Old Jeddah was clean.

Today, though there is a festival going on, visitors will find things very different if they were to venture into other parts,” he added.

Some of the articles published in the past still impress today’s readers. Pointing to one article, Al-Ghamdi said, “This article about the first mini market in Jeddah.

It was owned by a Greek. Two days ago, the man’s granddaughter came and saw her father’s picture in the article. She became very emotional.

This is another article about the first doctor in Jeddah. He was a barber and a doctor at the same time.”

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