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Jazan Heritage Village: An amazing treasure of traditions
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 20 - 03 - 2015

Hassan Cheruppa
Saudi Gazette

JAZAN is called the Pearl of the South, nature's treasure, and a place of generosity, kindness and finest hospitality. It abounds in historical and heritage sites from different time periods, each representing a key archeological feature of the region.

Jazan was witness to the passage of many Haj caravans during the early Islamic periods and that caravan contact with locals led to urban development and trade. It is also rich in heritage sites, which are known for their numerous villages, forts, stone homes, and huts that reflect the architectural style of the region. It is also known for its many traditional handicrafts inherited and passed from one generation to the other. These crafts have helped create jobs for the locals. Also spread among them is a soft cultural heritage represented by folk dances, songs, poems and performing arts.

Above everything else, Jazan is distinguished by the generosity and hospitality of people, who will welcome you to enjoy their unique culture and heritage, as well as the beauty of Jazan and its surrounding areas. The region is renowned for its popular souks where many visitors enjoy purchasing local goods and traditional products including rare animals and birds.

The southern region bordering Yemen is a place of diversity with many excellent destinations such as the glistening sea, unique islands, majestic mountains and vast plains. Its forests, lakes, and waterfalls offer picturesque settings for visitors to relax and enjoy nature. All these make Jazan a diverse and memorable place to visit.

The Jazan Heritage Village is a miniature of what the southern province is. Saudi Gazette's recent visit to the refurbished village was an amazing experience. It houses all the features of heritage, culture, lifestyle, cuisine etc. of the people from 13 regions of Jazan Province. The village combines the authenticity of traditions with the nobility of the present. Visitors can experience the handicrafts section displaying a variety of handmade items.

Saudi Aramco supervised the refurbishing of the permanent model village to preserve Jazan's unique heritage in a way keeping pace with the international standards and criteria. There are English titles and signboards in all parts of the village. The frontal arch and gates have been decorated with illumination and a new logo was coined for the village.

A group of experts in designing and engineering shouldered the responsibility of refurbishing the pavilions of the village with world-class standard and designs. The distinctive features of Jazan's heritage and architecture have been preserved in a meticulous way. Saudi Aramco completed the refurbishing works in a short span of time prior to its organizing the Jazan Economic Forum last month.

Saudi Gazette saw that people in Jazan have maintained a close rapport and deep affectionate relations with the village. The very entry to the village will take the visitors to an amazing world of traditional stone homes of Tihama, known as Baitul Jabali, featured by chiseled rectangle stones with wooden doors and windows, giving an air of mountainous life. Inside the home, there are models of people living in mountainous regions in their traditional dress. They display everything related with their life, including models of weapons, utensils, swords, cuisine etc. There are also models of layers of farms used for cultivation of various products.

Adjacent to the mountain home, the visitors will be enthralled by the beauty of the traditional Jazan Hut (Baitul Ousha) made of mud and grass with two doors — one from west and the other from south or north, where the dwellers can enjoy air while sitting in chairs made of rope. One of the doors always opens on to the west side and the other opens either the north or to the south, and this helps the distribution of air inside the hut and makes better use of the area within.

The media center at the village is seen bustling with activity with three enthusiastic Saudi officials, who are also journalists plus one photographer, to receive the guests and explain to them each and every detail and salient features of the village. Hamad Ali Mohsin Dugdagi, director of media center, said that a large number of visitors from all parts of the region and outside are visiting the village. Several guests, including ambassadors and diplomats accredited to the Kingdom, visited the festival. There are a number of permanent pavilions in the form of traditional houses known as Baitul Jabali, Baitul Farasan and Baitul Ousha, he said.

Hamad, who also works as a journalist, told Saudi Gazette that there are 24 types of dances from 13 regions of the province that are being performed at the village as part of the Winter Festival. These included As-Saif, Al-Masha, Azawi, Delaa and Ardha. As-Saif is a drum-based dance, performed by two dances silently and lasts for around 45 minutes. Unlike Al-Saif, Ardha is performed in a wide area to the rhythm of drums. Dancers should stand in long well-organized rows and its movements are heavier than As-Saif. Azawi is a quick and light dance, performed by youths under 30 because it needs body flexibility. It could be performed in different ways, standing up, bowing or even sitting down. Delaa is a quick dance performed only while moving from one place to another, Hamad said.

Local journalists Ayisha Nahri, and Fatima Rajhi are working as women assistants at the media center. They said that there is a tremendous response from Saudi and expatriate women to visit the village. Muhammad Ahmed Subai, the photographer, is busy taking pictures of all guests visiting the village.

Ayisha Nahri said that there are around 7,000 visitors daily during the weekend days of Thursday, Friday and Saturday. On workdays, the visitors are estimated at around 600. Every Friday, there are performances of folk dances and songs. There are 50 productive families who display their products at the pavilions. They display perfumes, clothes, honey and other traditional products, earthenware and ceramics.

Amina Khuman Ali, from Sabya, was found displaying 20 products at her open stall in the village. “Since four years, I have been here to display home made products and earn a livelihood. I also showcased products at Janadriyah National Heritage Festival for three years in a row,” she said. Khadeeja Abdul Ghoraim from Khamis Mushayt was also among the women at the stall.

Many of the Jazan's traditional products are found showcased at these stalls. There are many unique traditional industries in Jazan, which has various environments, mountains, reefs, coasts and marines, and therefore these industries differ according to lifestyle. Many of the traditional industries are old and inherited, and these included industry of jars and cups. Jars are mainly made of clay and there are different sizes of jars, and large closable jars called Dashah. Cups (Finjan) and coffee containers (Jabnah) are also made of clay. Mijanah is a special large round burned clay container used to knead dough. It could also be used for serving milk and other liquid food and washing clothes.

There are also rock-based industries, like special kinds of rocks sculptured and used for lamps known as Seraj, in addition to rock foodware industry in which special rocks are sculptured as bowls, pots, plates and are used to store, serve and cook food. Trees like Al-Athl and Al-Seder form the main source of traditional wooden industries, and the products included mihrath, which is plow used in cultivating land and seeding, masarif (handi fans) made of palm of dome tree leaves, and Zanabil, made of fronds. Zanabil is a hollow bucket with two handles to be held and hanged.

At one corner of the village, visitors can see camel powered oil mill, which rekindles sweet memories of people in Tihama producing oil from traditional mills. There was no house in Tihama in the past without a camel, which they used for carrying loads as well as to produce sesame oil.

Isa Rajhi is managing the traditional mill at the village. “I have engaged in this trade for 20 years after inheriting it from elder members of the family. I sell about 25 liters of oil produced from the mill,” he told Saudi Gazette. Jazan is famous for sesame harvests and so it is natural that sesame oil production has become a traditional industry. Sesame mills are made of Seder tree branches. The machine is attached to a camel that rotates around it in order to operate the mill and extract oil, which is used for many purposes such as cooking and greasing hairs.

Bait Farasan (Farasan Home) is another marvelous treat for visitors at the village. Visitors enter into a passage that moves northwest toward the sea and on both sides of the passage they can see some old boats used for fishing. The passage leads to Bait Farasan. When visitors enter the right corner of the pavilion, they get the impression that they are inside a giant fish that's a length of 20 meters. On both sides, they can see an exhibition of marine life with fishing nets, and lanterns used by fishermen while they were out in the deep sea.

Abdul Saleh, and Malik Ilaki were among several students from the University of Jazan who were seen at the village, serving the guests as guides. The university recorded significant presence in the village during the Winter Festival under the supervision of the Deanship of Community Service. The university also participated in the gallery by the productive families, organized by the Chamber of Commerce at the Festival. The university plays a role in serving the community through presenting to the visitors actual works, activities and achievements of the productive families at the village.

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