Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hejazi Angawi House Tour

The character of a location is often formed by its architecture. In Jeddah, the Angawi house is a truly amazingly well-executed example of the features that can be found throughout the area. It's probably the top tour I'd recommend to anyone visiting Jeddah.

Photo: The Angawi house atrium


On the northern edge of Jeddah, on a relatively generic street of all-too-common white, high-walled villas, you can find the Angawi house. It is built and designed in the traditional Hejaz style. If you've read our earlier post about the Al-Naseef House, you'll see that this place has more in common with those dilapidated coral houses in Jeddah’s Al-Balad (old town) than these affluent suburbs. Angawi’s family home was designed and built around his "al mizan" philosophy, and uses a mixture of modern and traditional materials and techniques.
Excellent example of a roshan
Its unusual form is immediately notable. The house is wider in the north than the south to catch the northerly wind in every room. The wind is drawn in through the roshan (wooden window boxes) which also act as screens to provide privacy. The house has air-conditioning throughout, but it is only used when it is really needed. Remember, A/C didn't exist back in the day but wealthy people have always preferred to be comfortable. This is how that's done in Jeddah.

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Exterior over main entrance
This mixture of old and new, of both roshan and air conditioning, is also reflected in the materials that Angawi used to build the house. The exterior is made of stone and wood, utilizing traditional woodwork and local builders, but at the same time the structure is reinforced by concrete beams and columns.
 Access to natural light is another important factor in the house, and Angawi designed the structure so that every room receives sunlight. But it is not just a mix of old and new that is epitomized by Angawi’s home, it is a mixture of architectural styles and techniques which, like Hejazi culture, has been formed over generations of travelers to the region during Hajj.
That table is on a glass floor over a fountain!
The overwhelming presence of wood in the architecture of Jeddah, Mecca and Medina is because the ships that transported pilgrims back home would return to Jeddah laden with wood, while the techniques and traditions of designers and laborers from Syria, Iraq, Persia and North Africa influenced the region’s architecture. The stone work in much of the house is a mixture of Moroccan ceramics and the Syrian stone, with the yellow stone coming from Syria and the green from Morocco. 
You don't find indoor pool tile work like this very often.
On the floor of the pool is a Persian carpet design, made with Turkish ceramics. There is also a smaller water feature that connects to the pool through a tiny channel (you can just barely see it under the woman in the photo below). The level of detail in this place is extremely well-done...everything just seems to flow together. (Sorry, couldn't resist the pun).
Angawi points out that it is a often thought that all of this intricate work is expensive, but this is a misconception – one of the principles of al mizan is striking a crucial balance between affordability and beauty.
The roof deck is primarily for socializing.
The view down from the top floor to the pool can be best appreciated from the following two photos. The mostly green one on the left is looking down on the pool area, and the "arrowhead" window is basically centered on the location that the second picture is taken from. You can see the same arrowhead shape in the yellow ceiling area, the middle one of the three shown in the photo.
The last factor to consider at Al Makkiyah is the social function of the house, something that is as important in Saudi Arabia as it is anywhere in the world. Firstly, the house achieves a separation between the public and private areas. Angawi receives hundreds of visitors a month, but his family is still able to live in the house in relative peace.

Above all, Angawi is keen to stress that his house is not an example of Saudi Arabian architecture, but of Hejaz. His house would not work in Riyadh or Al Khobar, it is suited to Jeddah’s coastal climate, where architects have been using similar techniques for generations.

You can find out more about tours by sending an email to info@amarcenter.me

While Suzie of Arabia organized our tour, some of the more detailed descriptions of the house in this post were pulled from this article.

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