Yanbu’s luminous night market is full of wonder

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MAKKAH: Yanbu’s night market, which overlooks the Red Sea, has been pulling in the crowds, young and old, for generations.

After a period of decline, it has undergone restoration and a revival in recent years, and is considered one of the most important historical sites on the Kingdom’s west coast.

Traditionally, residents thought of this market as “the soul of the sea,” as they welcomed sailors with chants and folk songs inspired by their culture. Today, the market is seen as an important tourist destination in Yanbu, especially downtown. The historic market, dating back to the last century, is famous for selling local products, fish and fishing tools.

Artefacts and heritage specialist, Abdulelah Al-Fares, said: “The historic night market in Yanbu embodied the civilizational and cultural heritage of the place. It was a meeting spot for merchants to exchange goods and make commercial deals.”

Al-Fares said that it was one of the oldest markets in the historic area of Yanbu. 

“Its history extends back hundreds of years as it was a destination for sailors and merchants coming from Africa to the port of Yanbu, to exchange goods, cut commercial deals, and provide supplies to fishermen who used to go there at night before setting off on their journeys by sea. It later became known as the night market.”

“It was built over 500 years ago close to the seaport and overlooks the sea. The market stood all these years as the commercial port of Yanbu,” he said.

Among the popular local food products sold in the market are ghee, honey, dates and fish. The presence of the market and urban development encouraged shop owners to migrate closer to it. 

The historic night market in Yanbu embodied the civilizational and cultural heritage of the place. It was a meeting spot for merchants to exchange goods and make commercial deals.

Abdulelah Al-Fares, Artifacts and heritage specialist

“Shop owners chose locations close to the market to maintain communication with customers, to keep their view of the sea, and hear the chants of sailors returning from their fishing and diving trips, making these traditions part of their heritage,” Al-Fares said. “The market is currently an important tourist destination in Yanbu, especially downtown.”

In the past few years a number of successful projects have been launched to revive the market and restore it to something approaching its former glory, after several decades of decline during which the number of traders and visitors fell.

Traders have returned to its ancient shops after their restoration and the reinstatement of the market’s authentic identity and heritage. This comes within the framework of the restoration of the Al-Sour neighborhood, or what is known as the historical area, which celebrates Yanbu’s heritage with its buildings ornamented in a traditional coastal way, making the area one of the most attractive destinations for tourists. 

Entertainment events for families are held annually at the night market, as part of the historic Yanbu festival. Al-Fares said that the market supports productive families and shop owners “to improve their income and is supervised by the Jana Center.”

The night market’s significance has grown in recent years and it has contributed “to reviving tourism and the economy in the region,” Al-Fares said.

“The restoration and revival of the popular night market plays a major role in the revival of the region, which has a positive impact on shop owners and those who inherited businesses from their ancestors.”

Some parts of the market had been damaged and were in need of repair. “However, the concerned authorities took the initiative to restore it to preserve the heritage and highlight the historical area of Yanbu, which consists of ancient archaeological buildings, some of which are more than 100 years old and are still standing,” he said.

“The market is considered a cultural interface and part of the cultural identity of Yanbu. It is renowned for its products that may not be available in other markets, whether in Yanbu or the surrounding areas,” Al-Fares said.

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