AIR at Cityscape, Jeddah 2010

King Fahd's Fountain - projection onto spray, nice!
King Fahd's Fountain - projection onto spray, nice!

A place few non-muslims visit is Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With visas reserved for business trips only it’s someway off  the tourist path. So on returning from a recent trip to the Cityscape Expo, by invitation of our design partners Jeddah based, Blueprint Communciations – one feels that a unusual and rare cultural experience has been had.

True to our British traditions, no blog entry would be complete without an observation on the weather – put simply, it’s extremely hot! (and in Jeddah, humid due to coastal location). With the mercury topping out at about 39c during the stay its easy to see why everything is air conditioned and you simply don’t walk – and we were lucky – Riyadh was experiencing 46c…

The Old Town - Al Balad
The Old Town - Al Balad

One highlight (aside from the expo) was a fascinating evening trip into the old city  – Al Balad – to have dig around in the  the old market. As Blueprint CEO Rakan Tarabzoni explained to me the old buildings (some up to of a couple of centuries old) are suffering from a lack of preservation. There’s a plan to regenerate the area, so the hope is that alongside the new, the old will be preserved and restored as a cultural and historical marker.

Having teamed up with Jeddah’s principle property marketing agency, we spent two productive days at the property expo introducing our wayfinding and signage design services to end clients, architects and engineers. We’ll be looking forward to returning to progress discussions on a number of projects under Rakan’s expert guidance.

The Kingdom’s property market, whilst not unaffected by the global shenannigans, is nevertheless still in relatively good shape. An new mortgage system will be introduced, possibly later in the year, which will open up the residential housing market to help facilitate the demand that currently exists for about 2 milion new homes. Projected spend will be about $180billion by 2015 in order to build enough homes and, one assumes, the associated infrastructure to meet this demand. No surprise, therefore, that there are some significant projects in various stages of the development pipeline.