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Jeddah History

Before Islam:

Some archaeologists' studies suggest the existence of inhabitants in the region now known as Jeddah since the Stone Age seeing as they found some artifacts and 'Thamoudian' writings in Wadi (valley) Breiman east of Jeddah and Wadi Boib northeast of Jeddah. Some historians trace its founding to the tribe of Bani Quda'ah, who inhabited it after the collapse of Sad (dam) Ma'rib in 115 BC. Some believe that Jeddah had been inhabited before the tribe of Bani Quda'ah by fishermen in the Red Sea, who considered it a center from which they sailed out into the sea as well as a place for relaxation and well-being. According to some accounts, the history of Jeddah dates back to early times before Alexander the Great, who visited the city between 323 and 356 BC.

Islamic Era:

In 647 AD, Othman bin Affan chose the city as a major port for entering the city of Makkah and accessing it by sea. At that time, it was named 'Balad Al-Qanasil' (country of consulates). In their travels, Ibn Jubayr and Ibn Battuta mention that the city had Persian architecture when they visited it.

Al-Maqdisi Al-Bishari (died 990 AD), the author of the book called 'Ahsan Al-Taqaseem fe Ma'rifat Al-Aqaleem' (Best Regions to Know), says of the city: "secure, full of people-people of trade and wealth. It is the treasurer of Makkah and the residing place for Yemen and Egypt. It has a secret mosque, but people have trouble getting water although the city has a lot of ponds. Water is carried to them from afar and inhabitants have a majority of Persians, who have wonderful palaces. It has straight alleyways and its overall condition is good, but very very hot".

Nasser Khosro, a Persian Muslim traveler, describes Jeddah when he visited it in 1050 AD as a thriving city of many good things to trade, and a city of great construction. He also gave a description of its markets as being good and clean; and he estimated its population at around 5000 people.

In the 6th Hijri Century, the people of the city of Jeddah experienced economical hardship say Ibn Jubayr (who died in 1217 AD). Of the population and their religion he says, "Most residents of this town along with those from the neighboring desert and mountains are Ashraaf Alaweyoon (Hasanyoon, Husainiyoon, and Ja'fariyoon) in terms of religion-may Allah be pleased with their ancestors. They are enduring such hardships that inanimate objects would feel sympathy for them. They use themselves in all professions: renting camels, selling milk and water, picking up fallen dates, or cutting down timber. This would extend to their gentlewomen as well". These economic trials were a natural result of the general situation in the Islamic world affected by the Christian Crusades and the disruption between Seljuqs and Ayyubids. After almost a century, another Arab historian, called Ibn Al-Mujawir, tells of the flourishing of the city of Jeddah in his times.

Under the Mamluks Rule:

Jeddah remained under the continued influence of the successive Muslim rulers, beginning with the Ummayyads, then Abbasids, followed by Ayyubids, and finally the Mamluks. During their reign, the Mamluks extended their influence over Jeddah to ensure trade and pilgrimage routes, and to protect the two Holy Mosques. The Mamluks' Sultan appointed a Governor General for Jeddah, on whom he bestowed the title 'Jeddah Deputy' and whose residence overlooked the port to oversee its progress. Moreover, the desire of the Mamluk Sultans to promote the use of the port of Jeddah made them take several measures including: the reduction of customs duties, preventing traders from Egypt and Al-Shaam (now Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Palestine) from stopping at the port of Eden, and the increase of customs duties on merchants who set down at the port of Eden before arriving at the port of Jeddah. In 915 AH (1509 AD), Sultan Qansouh Al-Ghori built the Jeddah wall for protection from raids by the European ships which had attacked the city only after the arrival of the Ottomans. Qansouh was the last of the Seljuqs Mamluks, who ruled Jeddah in the 10th Hijri Century. Some historical sources cite that the city has remained independent in governance for most of the 15th Century AD until it came under the Ottoman rule.

The Moroccan traveler Ibn Battuta (died 1377 AD) said, "It is an ancient town on the coast of the sea ... there was little rain this year, and water was brought to Jeddah over the course of an entire day; and pilgrims would ask for water from the residents of its houses".

During the Othoman Rule:

Al-Shareef Barakat, Governor of Hijaz (including Jeddah) declared his loyalty to the Ottoman succession in 931 AH. Jeddah, at the beginning of the Ottoman Empire, was attacked several times by the Portuguese fleet in the 16th Century AD (10th Hijri Century) as well as being exposed to the Dutch pirate raids in the 17th Century AD. The Portuguese fleet of Lobo Soarez arrived in front of Jeddah in 1516 AD, but was obstructed by the Ottoman defense led by Suleiman Basha, who captured a ship and sent it to the 'Astana'.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, world maritime trade routes were owned then by the Portuguese, Dutch and English, which made the economic value of Jeddah as a port decline; and were it not for the delegations of pilgrims and Umrah performers, Jeddah would not have lived or continued.