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Jidda

JIDDA (also written JEDDAH, DJIDDAH, DJEDDEH), a town in Arabia on the Red Sea coast in 21 28' N. and 39 10' E. It is of importance mainly as the principal landing place of pilgrims to Mecca, from which it is about 46 m. distant. It is situated in a low sandy plain backed by a range of hills 10 m. to the east, with higher mountains behind. The town extends along the beach for about a mile, and is enclosed by a wall with towers at intervals, the seaward angles being commanded by two forts, in the northern of which are the prison and other public buildings. There are three gates, the Medina gate on the north, the Mecca gate on the east, and the Yemen gate (rarely opened) on the south; there are also three small posterns on the west side, the centre one leading to the quay. In front of the Mecca gate is a rambling suburb with shops, coffee houses, and an open market place; before the Medina gate are the Turkish barracks, and beyond them the holy place of Jidda, the tomb of " our mother Eve," surrounded by the principal cemetery.

The tomb is a walled enclosure said to represent the dimensions of the body, about 200 paces long and 15 ft. broad. At the head is a small erection where gifts are deposited, and rather more than half-way down a whitewashed dome encloses a small dark chapel within which is the black stone known as El Surrah, the navel. The grave of Eve is mentioned by Edrisi, but except the black stone nothing bears any aspect of antiquity (see Burton^ Pilgrimage, vol. ii.).

The sea face is the best part of the town; the houses there are lofty and well built of the rough coral that crops out all along the shore. The streets are narrow and winding. There are two mosques of considerable size and a number of smaller ones. The outer suburbs are merely collections of brushwood huts. The bazaars are well supplied with food-stuffs imported by sea, and fruit and vegetables from Taif and Wadi Fatima. The water supply is limited and brackish; there are, however, two sweet wells and a spring 7$ m. from the town, and most of the houses have cisterns for storing rain-water. The climate is hot and damp, but fever is not so prevalent as at Mecca. The harbour though inconvenient of access is well protected by coral reefs; there are, however, no wharves or other dock facilities and cargo is landed in small Arab boats, sambuks.

The governor is a Turkish kaimakam under the vali of Hejaz, and there is a large Turkish garrison; the sharif of Mecca, however, through his agent at Jidda exercises an authority practically superior to that of the sultan's officials. Consulates are maintained by Great Britain, France, Austria, Russia, Holland, Belgium and Persia. The permanent population is estimated at 20,000, of which less than half are Arabs, and of these a large number are foreigners from Yemen and Hadramut, the remainder are negroes and Somali with a few Indian and Greek traders.

Jidda is said to have been founded by Persian merchants in the caliphate of Othman, but its great commercial prosperity dates from the beginning of the isth century- when it became the centre of trade between Egypt and India. Down to the time of Burckhardt (1815) the Suez ships went no farther than Jidda, where they were met by Indian vessels. The introduction of steamers deprived Jidda of its place as an emporium, not only for Indian goods but for the products of the Red Sea, which formerly were collected here, but are now largely exported direct by steamer from Hodeda, Suakin, Jibuti and Aden. At the same time it gave a great impulse to the pilgrim traffic which is now regarded as the annual harvest of Jidda. The average number of pilgrims arriving by sea exceeds 50,000, and in 1903-1904 the total came to 74,600. The changed status of the port is shown in its trade returns, for while its exports decreased from 250,000 in 1880 to 25,000 in 1904, its imports in the latter year amounted to over 1,400,000. The adverse balance of trade is paid by a very large export of specie, collected from the pilgrims during their stay in the country.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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