New Books Network

Ulrike Freitag

A History of Jeddah

The Gate to Mecca in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

Cambridge University Press 2020

NBN Special SeriesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Islamic StudiesNew Books in Middle Eastern StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in SociologyNew Books in the Indian Ocean World August 10, 2020 Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi

Ulrike Freitag’s A History of Jeddah: The Gate to Mecca in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Cambridge University Press), offers a rich urban and...

Ulrike Freitag’s A History of Jeddah: The Gate to Mecca in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Cambridge University Press), offers a rich urban and biographical history of Jeddah.

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.

Ulrike Freitag is a historian of the Modern Middle East with a special interest in urban history and the Arabian Peninsula in its global context. She directs Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient and teaches at the Freie Universität. She is author of Indian Ocean Migrants and State Formation in Hadhramaut (Brill, 2003).


Ahmed Yaqoub AlMaazmi is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University. His research focuses on the intersection of law and the environment across the western Indian Ocean. He can be reached by email at almaazmi@princeton.edu or on Twitter @Ahmed_Yaqoub. Listeners’ feedback, questions, and book suggestions are most welcome.