“Jeddah, Jeddah, the place to be…” Some years ago I heard about the song. It brought memories of the place. This is a place where I grew up. That is my memory came, and I was in Jeddah. At that time I was 4 years old. The year was 1977. Well I got there since my dad worked for King Abdul Aziz University, or alias KAAU. In Arabic, called “Jameah Malik Abdul Aziz”. I have glimpses in my photographic memory of visiting a grocery shop where they had a Black and White Sanyo TV, I think. That was to watch the final match of Muhammad Ali Live. At that time I did not know who he was and what everybody was talking about,
King Abdul Aziz University-KAAU
King Abdul Aziz University is located in Jeddah ,nearby to just way to Makkah. It usually takes twenty five minutes from this locality. This is known as Hai Al Jameah. Hai” meaning locality. It is like this ,say your locality is known as X’. It would be known as Hai Al X’. Al is an article in Arabic language meaning The ,it is same as in Spanish ,El’. Have you wondered why they are similar?. It is because the Moors who ruled Spain for 600 years were speaking Arabic.
KAAU for short was founded in 1967. The idea being placed by Mohamed Ali Hafiz earlier . He along with Hisham founded the Arab News in 1975. This university was founded as a private university. Many expatriates worked here and it was stable job that made a positive change in their lives. The Bengali community who worked here made great bond amongst themselves. Many of the professors and Engineers coming from Bangladesh originally ,were from BUET. It was professors and engineers from various parts of the world worked here. The hospital King Abdul Aziz University Hospital provided free treatment to employees of the KAAU. It was one of the best hospitals in Jeddah . In late seventies Irish nurse used to work here and the hospital was running smoothly then. Here is a Facebook group for KAAU and KAUH Employees who had worked in Saudi Arabia. KAAU offers a fully funded scholarship for international students provided one full fills the criteria.
King Abdul Aziz University Hospital (KAAUH)
Jeddah in the late seventies was an utopian society. I remember the black African ladies selling, if remember correctly was, selling gold coins! That’s not the part to be surprised of, but when the Adhan (Muslim call to prayer) was given. The ladies placed a cloth on top of the gold coins and went to pray. Nobody touched them. There were hardly any thieves at that time. Something unthinkable around the world. The king in charge of Saudi Arabia was late King Khalid bin Abdul Aziz. As I grew up in Jeddah, I felt like the locals, I could relate which my parents could not that much due to the language. We heard Makkah was attacked! At that time, I was kid in Jeddah. At that time it was all desert, the roads were sandy and dusty.
Growing up, the internet did not exist then. But it was not so boring. There was social interaction. Mostly my father’s friends came to visit us. They were Bengalis from Bangladesh mainly. But we mixed like as if they were our own relatives. We still have this NO BLOOD but CLOSE ENOUGH BOND with the neighbors we met in Saudi in the later 70s to 90s. . I have created a face book group for people who worked for KAAU in the 70s and 1980s in Saudi Arabia.
A destination was going to Al Balad. A nice shopping area with old houses nearby. I always wondered what’,s the connection. Why their designs like this? But of course, no internet or no Google, right.
Al Balad means, The Town’’. It had a rich history. Not that I knew then. It was a happening place. Something like Dharmatala of Kolkata. A hangout place. I would recommend Khalid Al Amery who is doing a good job of presenting Muslim and Asian Culture to do a video on Dharmatala, located in Kolkata, West Bengal, India.
He is a youtuber from UAE ,who is famous for his videos of Middle East and Asia.
History of Balad
It was founded in the 7th Century. Hey I did not know this when strolling around the area with my parents. It is a part of UNESCO’s heritage city. That saves it I guess. You walk with on the foot path looking at the shops as you pass by. Some to enter and bargain. Some to browse. This place was the polished part. You had to enter Al Balad through Bab Makkah, meaning door to Makkah. This place had very old buildings and shops. Shops filled cardamom, lentil, and other ingredients. It was an unique bazaar. It still is the historic district. Eating with shopping is a great way to explore. Most foreigners shop here or come here to give adda’. Adda is a Bengali word, means hanging out with couple of friends. This is a part of the Bengali culture.
Food -Al Balad
The informal is having:
- Musakil-cocktail of fruit juice, made by Lebanese or Turkish people.
- Shwarma-sandwich made from Samoli’. The English version would be baguette. Don’t forget to eat these if you in Balad. Swarma can be beef, chicken or lamb. Just ask for chicken. It is equally delicious. The taste of Swarma in Saudi Arabia is not found anywhere in the world, except Middle Eastern counties.
Traditional Eating near Balad
Saudi Arabia’s answer to the KFC brand. It is a chicken with Khubs or bread. Most of all the finger lickin chicken with Garlic. The garlic sauce is a unique. They started somewhere in 1974, when late Shakour Al Ghazalah saw there was need for quality and affordable food in Saudi Arabia. Basically then it was just empty with very few businesses. It was called Broast Chicken and few restaurants opened. The 1st restaurant opened in Al Sharafiyah district.
Naji Al Harabi
For traditional Kababs.
Al Maqliah Al Baladi
Taste Al Maqilah , a traditional dish similar to fritters made out of flour. Supposed to be delicious.
Baisa Al Ras Al Mandi
Raw traditional meat and rice.
Koshary Abu Tarek
The Koshary dish consists of: rice,lentils ,chickpeas
Al Saidi Bakery
“Sauborah”or rusks from the traditional bakery.
Sites to see near al Balad:
- Village Majlis-place for relaxing and hanging out.
- Historical Nights-having traditional coffee.
- Nasseef House-constructed for a wealthy businessman called Omar Nasseef Effendi in 1872. He was a governor of Jeddah.