Jeddah: City of Eternal Love

The most common etymology of the name Jeddah is derived from the word “jaddah”, which means “grandmother” in Arabic referring to Eve, the grandmother of all humanity. The tomb of Eve is documented to be located in Old Jeddah. “In 1975, the religious authorities demolished the tomb because of some pilgrims praying at Eve’s tomb thus breaking religious traditions. Consequently, the tomb was sealed off from the public”. According to Islamic historians, Adam and Eve were reunited on Mount Arafat (after 200 years of separation and their descent the heaven for eating the forbidden fruit. Mt. Arafat, east of Mecca is also known as Jabal-Al-Rahmah or the Mountain of Mercy. Also in this mountain, Prophet Muhammad delivered The Farewell Sermon to Muslims during his farewell Hajj. At present, a khutba is delivered religiously to the same place addressed to the entire Muslim world.

More than 2,500 years ago, Jeddah was known as a popular fishing port. In 647 A.D., the Muslim caliph Uthman ibn Affan turned Jeddah into a port for Muslim pilgrims performing Hajj to Makkah, and it became known as Bilad al Kanasil — the City of Consulates. In the 16th century, the Ottomans built stone walls around the city, Bab Sherif opening towards the south, Bab Makkah facing east, Bab Madinah in the north wall and a west gate facing the Red Sea. These stone walls protected the city from the Portuguese ships that were not able to enter the fortified city.

Over the years, Jeddah played an important role during Hajj and Umrah. It serves as a gateway to the holy city of Makkah for millions of pilgrims from all over the world who arrive by air, land or sea to perform religious obligations. But Jeddah today suffers many calamities; its 3.4 million inhabitants complain of poor infrastructure, absence of an adequate sewage system, shortage of water and electrical supplies, poor road conditions and traffic services, severe flooding and a very high rate of pollution.

Jeddah has always been known to symbolize tolerance and diversity, but unfortunately, as the historical cycle accelerated, something got lost along the way, and new generations were brought up not educated in the city’s past, and somehow the culture of the city began a process of gradual erosion. However, being the gateway to the holy lands to millions of Muslims from the around the globe and a harbor to different and diverse African, Asian and European cultures, the city’s history should transcend these social and physical obstacles.

One should truly marvel and contemplate the fact that our region is the birthplace of all monolithic religions, and as such is the best place to practice tolerance and acceptance of the other.

Even though the story of Adam and Eve in historical scripts does not revolve around the concept of love initially as much as it revolves around life, offspring, and the beginning of civilization, there is no doubt that it was the first account of a human love story on earth. For if roaming the earth for 200 years looking for your significant other is not love, then I don’t know what is! But can Jeddah oust Rome for the title of eternal love? Whether or not it is the city of eternal love depends really on a person’s experiences and convictions, and symbolic consideration to the graveyard and tomb of Eve that lies in Old Jeddah today.

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