An entrance to Jeddah’s non-Muslim cemetery. (AFP)
The cemetery has 300 or so graves
Updated 29 min 55 sec ago
November 12, 2020 01:45
MAKKAH: Jeddah’s non-Muslim cemetery has provided many foreigners residing in the Kingdom’s west coast city with a final resting place in a land that welcomed them.
Located near the city’s downtown area, the historic 1,000-square-meter “Khawajat (foreigners) cemetery” has been a well-kept secret in the city, with its high walls and large trees that provide shade for the 300 or so graves. Historically, foreign representatives and their relatives living in the Kingdom were buried here due to the difficulty of transporting the deceased home.
Dr. Abdulrazzaq Abu Dawoud, a historian and researcher, told Arab News that the cemetery does not have a sign and can only be identified from outside by the dense trees surrounding its walls.
He said that there are unreliable stories about the origins of the cemetery, which some people say is up to five centuries old.
“Some claim that the cemetery was established during the Portuguese attempt to seize the city of Jeddah, led by Vasco da Gama in 1519. When diplomatic representations were set up in the Hijaz region during Ottoman rule, Western countries asked for a cemetery for their citizens, so it was set up in southern Jeddah, outside the city’s ancient walls,” he said.
Talaat Ghaith, former mayor of Ash Shati district for about three decades between 1985 and 2015, said: “The cemetery was called the Christian Cemetery, and it was run by the embassies of foreign countries through their consulates in Jeddah” — its care and supervision rotates annually.
He said that the cemetery is the burial place of the former representatives of those countries. He had never heard of any attack before inside the cemetery.