Jeddah Islamic Port is the major port for Saudi Arabia and the capital of the Makkah Province. Located on the country's central western coast on the Red Sea about 70 kilometers (42 mile) west of Mecca, Jeddah is one of Saudi Arabia's largest cities. Jeddah Islamic Port is about 290 kilometers (180 miles) south-southeast of the King Fahad Industrial Port in Yabu, Saudia Arabia. Jeddah Islamic Port is also about 158 nautical miles (287 kilometers or 178 miles) northeast of the Port of Sudan on Africa's east coast. More than 3.4 million people live in the Jeddah Islamic Port and city.
At one time, the city's economy depended on pilgrims and fishing. With long history of trading, Jeddah (also spelled Jiddah) is home to many of the most successful businesses and merchants in the world. Today, Jeddah Islamic Port is Saudi Arabia's commercial capital. It is also well-positioned between the Africa and the Middle East, making it a commercial center for the subcontinent as well. It is also the country's third busiest industrial city.
The city of Jeddah was founded more than 2000 years ago as a fishing village by the Yemeni Quada tribe. In 647 AD, Muslim Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan created the Jeddah Islamic Port as a gateway for Islamic pilgrims making their obligatory Hajj to Mecca.
For centuries, Jeddah Islamic Port was the primary city in the Hejaz province and the most important port for pilgrimages to Mecca. In 1177, Hejaz and Jeddah Islamic Port became part of the Ayyubid Empire led by Sharif Ibn Abul-Hashim Al-Thalab. In 1254, Jeddah Islamic Port became part of the Mamluk Sultanate.
In 1497, explorer Vasco da Gama attacked ships carrying Muslim pilgrims and cargo from India to the Red Sea, creating a general panic in the Muslim world. Turning to Egypt for help, Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri created a 50-vessel fleet to protect the pilgrims and freight. Under forced labor, Jeddah Islamic Port was fortified and became a refuge harbor for Arabia and the Red Sea; however, the Indian Ocean was still subject to Portuguese attacks.
The Ottoman Turks defeated the Mamluk Sultanate in Syria and Egypt in 1517, bringing Mecca and Jeddah Islamic Port under Ottoman rule. They refortified Jeddah’s weak city walls after defeating a Portuguese armada in a Red Sea battle. Adding six new watchtowers and six new city gates to defend against the Portuguese, the Turks also constructed a small castle for soldiers called the Qishla of Jeddah.
Nejdi armies took Mecca and Jeddah Islamic Port from the Turks in 1802, and Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II ordered that his Egyptian viceroy retake the cities. Muhammad Ali, Pasha and viceroy, conquered the city in the Battle of Jeddah in 1813, and the Ottoman’s held the area for another hundred years.
Sharif Hussein bin Ali declared a revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I, seeking to create a single Arab state. After victory and independence, King Hussein set up the Kingdom of Hejaz. When Mecca fell to the Sultan of Nejd in a war with Ibn Saud, Hussein resigned. His son, Ali bin Hussein, took the throne of what remained of the Kingdom of Hejaz.
In a few months, Ibn Saud’s Nejdi clan took Medina and Jeddah Islamic Port in the Second Battle of Jeddah. Hussein fled to Baghdad and then Amman, Jordan, where his descendants became the Hashemite royal family. Jeddah Islamic Port came under the rule of the Al-Saud dynasty in late 1925. Since the historical province of Hejaz was divided into smaller provinces, the city of Jeddah Islamic Port has lost its important political status. It is now a city in the province of Makkah, of which Mecca is the capital.
Modern Jeddah has exploded beyond its historic boundaries, with much growth along the Red Sea coast. The ancient walls and gates of the city were razed in 1947. In 1982, a fire destroyed many ancient buildings in the old town (called Balad), but the city has withstood many temptations to tear down the surviving old structures in the rush to modernization. In 1979, a house-by-house survey confirmed that as many as a thousand traditional buildings still stood, although few of them held significant historic value. In 1990, the Jeddah Historical Preservation Department was founded to protect the city’s precious heritage.