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  • Cited by 13
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
February 2020
Print publication year:
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Book description

Known as the 'Gate to Mecca' or 'Bride of the Red Sea', Jeddah has been a gateway for pilgrims travelling to Mecca and Medina and a station for international trade routes between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean for centuries. Seen from the perspective of its diverse population, this first biography of Jeddah traces the city's urban history and cosmopolitanism from the late Ottoman period to its present-day claim to multiculturalism, within the conservative environment of the Arabian Peninsula. Contextualising Jeddah with developments in the wider Muslim world, Ulrike Freitag investigates how different groups of migrants interacted in a changing urban space and how their economic activities influenced the political framework of the city. Richly illustrated, this study reveals how the transformation of Jeddah's urban space, population and politics has been indicative of changes in the wider Arab and Red Sea region, re-evaluating its place in the Middle East at a time when both its cosmopolitan practices and old city are changing dramatically against a backdrop of modernisation and Saudi nation-building.


'A painstakingly researched urban history of conviviality, mobility and diversity. Freitag brings to life the true power of place through a granular, deeply felt and skilfully executed study of Jeddah’s peoples, spaces and institutions over one hundred years or so of the city’s more recent history.'

Nelida Fuccaro - New York University, Abu Dhabi

'Drawing on a wealth of sources in many languages, Freitag’s textured and compelling analysis succeeds brilliantly at showing Jeddah’s unique position in a rapidly changing, interconnected world that spanned the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East, and the Indian Ocean region from the mid-nineteenth through the mid-twentieth centuries. A must read.'

Thomas Kuehn - Simon Fraser University

'Drawing on a dazzling array of sources in Arabic and other languages, this rich and brilliantly researched book offers a conceptually sophisticated history of a major Arabian port and the ‘Gate to Mecca.’ Dynamically interweaving the global, regional and the local, and with a nuanced sensitivity to insider and commoner dimensions, Freitag makes a phenomenal contribution to the study of urban cosmopolitanisms in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean worlds.'

Jonathan Miran - Western Washington University

'An in-depth and lively history of Jeddah. With her command of both local and foreign literature and the use of an astonishing documentation, Ulrike Freitag make us dive into the history of Mecca’s 'entrance' up to the present, and into the connecting point of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean.'

Philippe Pétriat - Panthéon-Sorbonne University

‘Ulrike Freitag has given us a book that is as erudite and well-founded as it is interesting, even exciting, and which deserves to be disseminated beyond professional circles.’

Alfred Schlicht Source: Orientalistische Literaturzeitung

‘A History of Jeddah is based on careful and competent historiographical scholarship. It provides a comprehensive and analytical account of Jeddah's history and fills a significant void in the literature on Ottoman and Middle Eastern urban history, history of the Hijaz, and of port cities.’

M. Talha Çiçek Source: Kadim

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