Guide to Jeddah's Balad Al Fan, from markets to music

The event celebrates the historical district of Saudi Arabia's second biggest city

Jeddah Old City Buildings and Streets, Saudi Arabia
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The historical and cultural richness of Al Balad will be celebrated in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Running until March 9 at the district, Balad Al Fan will remind visitors of the site’s significance as a cultural and trading hub through art exhibitions, music festivals, stage performances and markets.

Translating as The Town, Al Balad is the historical centre of Jeddah and dates back to the seventh century.

Designed as an ancient trading port and gateway for pilgrims visiting Makkah, it is renowned for its labyrinth of streets and alleyways and traditional buildings constructed from coral stones.

With more details yet to be revealed, here are some of the highlights of Balad Al Fan.

The exhibitions

A number of exhibitions will take place, showcasing the region's past and future.

Running until March 9 at Shurbatly Annex, Sinbad: I Can See Land explores the notions of home and journey through paintings and multimedia art installations from more than 80 artists.

At Beit Nassief until March 2, students from The Royal Institute of Traditional Arts, located in Al Balad, will also present their projects and handicrafts inspired by the kingdom's heritage.

Sculpture and mixed media installations by regional and international artists are included in Matters Through Time.

Running from January 4 to March 9 at Shurbatly Annex and Alkhunji Alsagheer, the featured works will encourage visitors to question their notions of connectedness and autonomy.

Hot Cities, from January 7 to March 1 at Beit Aramco, features architectural designs providing clues at how Arab cities could cope with climate change in the future.

The concerts

While Balad Al Fan's music programme began with intimate concerts by electronic music artists El Wailli and Hassan Hujairi, but more gigs are on the calendar.

The marquee event is the Jeddah Jazz Festival on January 25.

According to organisers, the event will highlight the Hijazi musical mode indigenous to the region with more than 30 local and international artists set to perform. The full line-up will be revealed soon.

Up and coming music acts will also have the chance to show their worth in the Talent Market on February 1.

Small stages will abound Al Balad with many Saudi artists making their debut live performance.

On stage

Al Balad will be a training ground for the next generation of stage talent.

Improvisation workshops, with a focus on quick thinking and creative risks will run at Nawar House from January 31 to February 3.

For a well-rounded look at the craft, one-hour acting workshops will take place at Stage at Mazloom Courtyard on February 1 and 3.

Aspiring comedians and playwrights should also check out the Professional Comedy Workshop at the same venue on January 31 and February 2. There, they will be guided on how to present their material with the perfect punch lines.

Arts and crafts

Pieces by Saudi artisans will be available for display and sale during Balad Al Fan.

Souq Al Balad market will take place on January 14 and Nass Albalad 2, the following day, is called “a celebration” of the artisans that made the district a historically important cultural hub.

More information is available on the official Instagram account @baladalfann

Updated: January 02, 2024, 7:26 AM