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Stefan Maneval (Alumnus BGSMCS)


The Architecture of Everyday Life in Twentieth Century Jiddah

The Transformation of Urban Space in 20th century Jiddah.

Throughout its 1400 year old history, the city of Jiddah has served the function as a harbour for Mecca. Until today, the international trade and the pilgrimage to Mecca are of highest importance for the economy of the city and continue to have a strong impact on its social structure.

In the course of the 20th century, however, Jiddah has experienced vast changes. Until the middle of the century, a wall enclosed the urban area of the city, about 1 km2. At that time, the number of inhabitants did not exceed 30.000. In the past 60 years, the oil-based economic development of the country has attracted working migrants from the whole world, which has brought about enormous urban sprawl. Jiddah was transformed into a cosmopolitan city of 4 million inhabitants, encompassing a large range of heterogeneous life styles. By now, the urban area has grown to 1.765 km2, which is about twice the area of Berlin, and it keeps growing fast.

These facts only give a vague impression of the enormous social changes that accompanied the urban growth, the wealth and the rapid modernization of the city. The question how daily life in the built environment of Jiddah changed under these circumstances stands in the centre of my research. The underlying assumption is that architecture is an integral part of any society, and therefore it can be an important key to the understanding of societal change.


In order to analyse architectural and social change in Jiddah during the 20th century, I intend to inquire questions like:

- How did the annual pilgrimage to Mecca shape the physical and social   structure of the city and its architecture?

- How were social activities organized in the past in terms of architecture?

- How was social life organized in the traditional houses, which were made of      coral stone and teakwood?

- How did new building materials like concrete and technical equipment such as air conditioning change the practices of daily life from the 1950s onwards?

- How were social networks influenced when separate nuclear families moved      away from the old town into new single family units in different quarters?

- Which architectural settings are framing social activities today?

Investigating these questions I work with written, visual, and oral sources alike. The written sources are travelogues and earlier accounts of Jiddah’s urban and architectural history. The body of visual sources consists of historical maps, floor plans and photographs. I use qualitative interviews because they can be illuminating with regard to the spatial arrangement of daily life. The theoretical framework of my thesis is informed by the closely related sociology of space and sociology of architecture.

In broader terms, my study is a contribution to Saudi Arabian regional and urban history, which is still not well researched.


First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Freitag

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Schirin Amir-Moazami

Third Supervisor: PD Dr. Heike Delitz