The Nasseef House of Jeddah
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The Nasseef House is without a shadow of a doubt one of the architectural jewels in the town of Jeddah, and one of its main tourist sites. The building is situated in the historic Al Balad district, where the whole history of the Arab Peninsular is condensed, from the birth of Islam through the Umayyad domination and the Abbasid caliphate. For a long time the locals called it 'the tree house'. Up until the 1920s, the scarcity of water made it difficult for plants to grow. At that time, the tree next to the house was the only one in the whole town!
The Nasseef House is located on Suq al-Alawi, the main street of Old Jeddah. Its construction began in 1872 and was completed 9 years later. Built by a Turkish architect, the house was originally commissioned by Omar Nasseef Efendi, governor of Jeddah, who came from an illustrious merchant family. Later it served as a temporary royal residence for King Abdul Aziz, the first monarch and founder of the third Saudi State, now Saudi Arabia.
Apart from this short interval, the house remained in the hands of the Nasseef family up until the 1970s, in which decade one of the family members transformed it into a huge private library. At that time it contained an impressive number of works, estimated by historians at around 16,000 books. Today they belong to the central library of the University of King Abdulaziz.
Precious testimony to the history of the area, the Nasseef House has since been transformed into a cultural centre and museum. Its visitors can today take their time admiring the fine details of the Ottoman Turkish-inspired architecture and the fabulous examples of Arab calligraphy. Arranged around a vast central hall, the building includes around 106 separate bedrooms, evidence of the opulence of the Nasseef family.