The History Behind Jeddah’s Khawajat Cemetery

Located in Jeddah’s Al-Balad district western Saudi Arabia, the Khawajat cemetery has a very interesting background story. Hidden from sight by high trees, the 500-year-old cemetery is dedicated to burying Christians since Jeddah has historically been associated with them. A small community, most of them of Greek origin, they had previously lived in the city during the Mamluk era (1520) and were buried in this cemetery.

Jeddah’s cemetery gained more prominence when the bodies of a few British soldiers were buried there during the two World Wars. If you were ever to visit the cemetery you’d definitely notice the tombstones of soldiers who lost their lives during WWII, including the tomb of an unidentified British soldier, as well as the body of an Australian soldier buried in 1885, and a German in 1912.

Currently, the Khawajat cemetery is used to bury the Christian foreign residents of Saudi Arabia, especially Filipino nationals.

The cemetery is surrounded by a high wall with an area that takes up to a thousand square meters, and inside are hundreds of graves arranged in neat rows, topped by gravestones engraved with names and dates, many of which are surrounded by flowers. The shrines inside the cemetery are organized according to age, as children and adults have separate corners. The relatives of the deceased must bring the death certificate first and the burial permit from the embassy to which he/she belongs in order to legally complete the burial ceremony in the cemetery.

Several foreign consulates in Jeddah, including the American, British, French, and Ethiopian consulates oversee the cemetery, with an annual rotation to take care of the plots, greenery, as well as security.

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