Atareek: Where old meets new

Atareek: Where old meets new

Jeddah historical festival attracts more than 130,000 visitors in three days


By Abdul Aziz Hammad


Saudi Gazette


THE Jeddah historical festival “Atareek” attracted more than 130,000 visitors in the first three days of its launch.


The festival, in Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad district, will continue for 10 days.
Atareek is a traditional kerosene lamp, which was used to light homes in Jeddah during celebrations in ancient times. It has therefore become a Hijazi legacy and a symbol of celebrations.


The visitors were particularly attracted by the women’s stalls and kiosks where many heritage products have been showcased.


The visitors showed special interest in the women’s stalls and the women coffee sellers who sold the Hijazi coffee.


On display at the festival is a variety of light food and snacks, including raw liver, baleelah, other popular dishes, Hijazi sweets and juices.


The festival has special women-only shops to sell traditional Hijazi dresses, handicrafts, perfumes, toys, incense and a number of other traditional products.
The visitors were keen to purchase souvenirs to have within their households a scent of old Jeddah.


The festival is open from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.


The visitors of the festival can watch live the construction of a mud house by 65-year- old Ahmed Abdou, who had spent 55 years of his life building such houses.


Abdou, who worked as a mason for more than five decades, said he inherited the art from his father and his grandfather.


Abdou said he dropped out of school when he was in the fourth elementary year to help his father in his trade.


Abdou maintained and repaired a number of mud houses in old Jeddah on his own and by supervising other masons doing the job.


“My trade is difficult and entertaining at the same time. I am extremely proud to have built, repaired or maintained a number of the traditional houses in downtown Jeddah,” he said.


Abdou got married when he was 19. One of his sons, Mohammed, helps him in the business.


Hala Mohammed, a woman visitor who insisted on standing before the old houses, said she was reminiscing about the accommodations of her grandparents and imagined how their life used to be.


The festival organizers for the first time this year blended the ancient with the modern to give the visitors a mixed flavor of the past and present.


They also introduced the “horizontal dancing” by an international troupe, which was appreciated by many visitors.


Prince Sultan Bin Salman, chairman of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, visited the festival and said historic Jeddah needed combined efforts from all concerned to complete its rejuvenation.


He said the presence of a large number of citizens at the festival was a manifestation of their longing to see their heritage and acquire knowledge about the country’s past.