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World Heritage Convention

Decision 38 COM 8B.21
Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah (Saudi Arabia)

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Documents WHC-14/38.COM/8B and WHC-14/38.COM/INF.8B1,
  2. Inscribes Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii), (iv) and (vi);
  3. Takes note of the following provisional Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

    Brief synthesis

    The Historic Jeddah represents a unique development of the Red sea architectural tradition, a construction style once common to cities on both coasts of the Red sea, of which only scant vestiges are preserved outside the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the nominated property. The style is characterized by the imposing tower houses decorated by large wooden Roshan(s) built in the late 19th century by the city`s mercantile elites. 

    Its strict association with the Muslim annual pilgrimage (Hajj) gave Historic Jeddah a cosmopolitan population where Muslims from Asia, Africa and the Middle East resided and worked, contributing to the city`s growth and prosperity. 

    The Outstanding Universal Value of Historic Jeddah relates to its unique development of the Red sea architectural style, to its preserved urban fabric, and to its symbolic role as a gate to Makkah for Muslim pilgrims reaching Arabia by boat throughout the centuries

    Criterion (ii): The cityscape of Historic Jeddah is the result of an important exchange of human values, technical Know-how, building materials and techniques across the Red Sea region and along the Indian Ocean routes between the 16th and the early 20th centuries. It represents a cultural world that thrived, thanks to international sea trade; possessed a shared geographical, cultural and religious background; and built settlements with specific and innovative technical and aesthetic solutions to cope with the extreme climatic conditions of the region (humidity and heat). 

    Jeddah was, for centuries, the most important, largest and richest among these settlements and today, Historic Jeddah is the last surviving urban site along the Red Sea coast that still preserves the ensemble of the attributes of this culture: commercial-based economy, multi-cultural environment, isolated outward-oriented houses, coral masonry construction, precious woodwork decorating the facades, and specific technical devices to aid internal ventilation. 

    Criterion (iv): Historic Jeddah is the only surviving urban ensemble of the Red Sea cultural world. Jeddah’s Roshan tower hoses are an outstanding example of a typology of buildings unique within the Arab and Moslem world. Their specific aesthetic and functional patterns ---absence of courtyard, decorated Roshan façades, ground floor room used for offices and commerce, rooms rented for pilgrims--- reflect their adaptation to both the hot and humid climate of the Red Sea and to the specificity of Jeddah, the Gate to the Holy City of Makkah for the pilgrims arriving by sea, and an important international commercial pole. The development of the Roshan tower hoses in the second half of 19th century illustrates the evolution of the patterns of trade and pilgrimages in the Arabian Peninsula and in Asia following the opening of the Suez Canal in (1869) and the development of steamboat navigation routes linking Europe with India and East Asia. The extraordinary relevance of Jeddah’s tower houses is further increased by the fact that they are not only unique within the Red Sea culture region, but they are also the sole remnants of an architectural typology born in Jeddah that, at the end of the 19th century, spread to the nearby Hejaz cities of Al-Madinah, Makkah and Taif from where it has since completely disappeared under the pressure of modern development. 

    Criterion (vi): Historic Jeddah is directly associated, both at the symbolic intangible level and at the architectural and urban level with the Hajj, the yearly Muslim pilgrimage to the Holy City of Makkah. 

    Jeddah was the landing harbour for all the pilgrims that reached Arabia by sea, and for centuries, up to the present, the city lived in function of the pilgrimages .The goods the pilgrimage brought with them from Asia and Africa and sold in the city, the religious debates with Ulama(s) from Java and India, the spices, the food, and the intangible heritage of the city were all related to the pilgrimage that has immensely contributed to defining the identity of Jeddah. The association with Hajj is also very evident in the urban structure of the nominated property and is found in the traditional souks running East –West from the sea to Makkah Gate, the Ribat(s) and the Wakala(s) that used   to host the pilgrims; in the architecture, notably in the facades and internal structure of the hoses; and in the very social fabric of the city, where Muslims from all over the world mingled, lived, and worked together. The ensemble   of these elements, tangible and intangible, demonstrates the intimate and long-lasting connection between the pilgrimage and the nominated property and is an example of the very rich cultural diversity resulting from this religious event unique in the whole Islamic World. 


    The nominated property covers about one-third of the original walled-in city and contains the ensemble of the attributes that convey its Outstanding Universal Value, such as the main examples of Jeddah`s Roshan tower houses, outward-oriented houses, coral masonry construction, precious woodwork decorating the facades and specific technical devices for internal ventilation, Furthermore, Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah is an urban environment boasting a strong trade-based economy intimately associated, both at the symbolic intangible level and at the architectural and urban level, with the Hajj, and a multi-cultural social framework where Muslims from all over the world live and work together. Its complete representation of the features and processes conveying its significance.

    Notwithstanding the inevitable decay of the historic structures and the overall evolution of its urban surroundings, the nominated property still possesses all the necessary attributes complying with the concept of "intactness", including the commercial processes, the social relationships and the dynamic functions essential to define its distinctive character. 


    Historic Jeddah, the Gate to Makkah is a living urban environment primarily hosting residential and commercial activities, with mosques and charitable structures. The nominated property represents an authentic and traditional urban environment where the headquarters of century old economic enterprises, retail shops, traditional souks, small cafes, popular restaurants, and street food vendors are still concentrated. A surprisingly rich human environment where Yemeni, Sudanese, Somali, Pakistani and Indian migrant workers purchase and market their products to Saudi and non- Saudi clients in crowded traditional souks. Far from a frozen and dead tourist attraction, the nominated property is an authentic sector of the city that still fully conveys the image of what this Red Sea commercial and pilgrimage city used to be. Its historic houses have not been substantially altered by modern additions and in-depth transformations, and the high "Roshan tower houses" from the second half of the 19th century are mostly well preserved. Historic mosques have preserved their function and role for the community and most of their original features. Buildings have only been subject to minor maintenance that has rarely reached the original masonries and their embedded wooden beams, preserving the overall authenticity of the site. 

    Protection and Management requirements

    The general strategy for the preservation and revitalization of the area has been drawn by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) in coordination with the Jeddah Municipality and the participation of the civil society. 

    The daily management of the nominated property is the responsibility of the local branches of the Municipality of Jeddah and SCTA, located in the heart of old city. Their staff is in charge of supervising maintenance, cleaning, protection and presentation of the site. A parallel, traditional system, depending from the Ministry of Interiors, is responsible of the social welfare of the population and of the security arrangement in the area in coordination with Police and Civil Defense. This traditional mechanism, based on the charismatic figure of the Umdah(s), permits to reach the ensemble of the population and to involve merchants, and owners’ associations in the management of   the property. 

    The preservation of the Outstanding Universal   Value of the site is guaranteed by the new Urban Regulation approved by the Jeddah municipality that sets precise and strict obligation when nominated property and its buffer zone. 

    The key long-term requirement and most relevant priorities for the protection and management of the property include the reduction of the rate of decay of the historic houses, which are often abandoned and squatted by poor immigrants and the control of the speculative moves that jeopardize the ensemble of the historic city. The new Urban Regulation defines standard and official rules that can be verified and implemented on site. The involvement of merchants and owners, and punctual restoration and revitalization projects are expected to set a new virtuous circle     to tackle the most significant threats to the property reducing its vulnerability to negative development that could affect its authenticity and integrity.

  4. Recommends the State Party in managing the property following inscription to:
    1. Establish the management system proposed in the nomination file,
    2. Ensure effective presentation of the property to provide high quality visitor experience,
    3. Paying particular attention to the conservation of the authenticity with regard to the ongoing projects and development work,
    4. Reinforcing the monitoring system for the building in place where they are tending to deteriorate,
    5. Continue strong processes of local community engagement in the property;
  5. Encourages the State Party to establish a detailed database of all attributes relating to the Outstanding Universal Value of the property and in particular details of all the tower houses, other urban houses, the wikalas, mosques and Zawiyas and of the urban form and defined urban quarters;
  6. Recommends that the State Party, in cooperation with the World Heritage Centre and ICOMOS launches a programme in order to develop a comprehensive strategy for the conservation of the property based on the historic urban landscape approach;
  7. Requests the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre by 1 December 2015, a report on the state of conservation of the property and the state of implementation of the above, including a 1-page executive summary for examination by the World Heritage Committee at its 40th session in 2016.
Decision Code
38 COM 8B.21
Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties 1
Report of the Decisions adopted by the World Heritage Committee at its 38th session (Doha, 2014)
Context of Decision