With the festive season upon us, now is the perfect time to delve into your culture quest. Whether you’re visiting Jeddah’s contemporary-art galleries or discovering its iconic landmarks, the city’s rich history and long relationship with art is definitely worth experiencing – it’s no wonder the city is dubbed the Kingdom’s culture capital.
Jeddah has always been a creative melting pot, with artists, sculptors, and painters merging creativity and heritage to create spectacular pieces of art that reflect Saudi culture. Read on to discover Savoir Flair’s edit of the best landmarks and exhibitions to visit this summer.
Jeddah Sculpture Museum
Since the early 70s, there has been a focused effort to beautify the streets of Jeddah by scattering sculptures all over the city, each with its own story and background. It’s hard to believe it, but some of the world’s most renowned artists feature here – think: Henry Moore, Juan Miró, and many more. Though some of the most notable sculptures have been weathered by the wind and sea salt, many have been restored and are now housed at the newly opened Jeddah Sculpture Museum.
Located along the Jeddah Corniche, the park gathers Jeddah’s most famous sculptures all in one place, where you can walk through the open space exploring each piece and learning about its backstory. A unique experience by the sea, it solidifies Jeddah as one of the biggest open-air museums in the world and will have you doing a double take whenever you next pass another sculpture.
Opening its doors over eight years ago, Athr is not only Jeddah’s go-to art gallery for collectors and enthusiasts alike, but also a creative hub, helping both up-and-coming Saudi and international artists reach international exposure. It boasts an impressive repertoire of contemporary artists, such as Ahmed Mater and Basmah Felemban, who now show at Art Basel Hong Kong and the Smithsonian in Washington.
Athr’s talented curators focus their efforts on creating memorable exhibitions and events that resonate with the Saudi public. The most recent exhibition here showcases the work of Saudi artist Ghada Al Rabea who, in her first solo exhibition, used candy wrappers to produce collages that “Saudify” famous artworks, such as the vivid and colorful collage of Frida Kahlo wearing a traditional Hejazi headdress. So, whether you’re looking for inspiration, to buy art, or to simply browse through a captivating space, Athr is the place to visit.
Serafi Mega Mall, Tahlia Street
(+966) 12 284 5009
Darat Safeya Binzagr
One of Jeddah’s best-kept secrets, Darat Safeya Binzagr is truly a lens into Saudi history through the brush of highly acclaimed artist Safeya Binzagr. Opened in 2000, the private art gallery celebrates her full body of work, showcasing all of her celebrated series that have been exhibited in prestigious galleries around the world.
An instrumental figure in pioneering the fine-art movement in Saudi Arabia, Binzagr has the ability to vibrantly depict the social life in her local environment of 1970s Jeddah, capturing fading tradition through impressionist paintings of daily activities and traditional costumes. At this gallery, you can explore traditional Saudi culture through the point of view of a modernist painter – the artworks here are products of Binzagr’s own emotions and memories.
King Abdullah Branch Road, Al-Baghdadiyah
(+966) 12 657 1030
Bait Nassif (or Nassif House) is the place to visit for history, heritage, and architecture in the heart of old Jeddah. The five-story, 106-room house provides a rare opportunity for locals and tourists to explore traditional Hijazi architecture. From the pristine woodwork and Arabic calligraphy to the large terrace overlooking the city, Bait Nassif is one of the oldest and most visited houses in Jeddah.
Today, the Nassif house has been converted into a museum, complete with informed tour guides who will transport you back to bygone times. Locals used to distinguish Bait Nassif as “the house with the tree” as it was the only house that was able to grow one in harsh desert conditions. The tree stands just north of the house, and is just as historic and fascinating as the house itself. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the call for prayer from the kushk on the highest floor, where you can take in the view while hearing the 36 neighboring mosques calling for prayer in unison.
Suq Al Alawi, Al Balad District
(+966) 12 647 2280