Source: Jeddah Water & Power Forum
Ever since its origins, a lack of water was the main problem for the inhabitants of Jeddah. As early as one thousand five hundred years ago, while the city was under the domination of Persian rulers, more than three hundred wells and cisterns were dug to provide a water supply for the growing population. Most of these sources eventually dried up and in 1761 a Danish visitor Carsten Niebuhr, reported that “the city is entirely destitute of water and the inhabitants have to rely on what is collected in reservoirs among the hills and carried in by camels.”
Early in the twentieth century, Jeddah made its first attempt at producing its own sweet water supply by installing a seawater distillation condenser. The experiment was not a success for the “kindasah,” as the residents pronounced condenser, produced very little water but made a great deal of noise. “Save us from the clamour of the kindasah”recited the poet Mohammad Said Otaibi at the dedication ceremony.
In contrast to the few gallons of drinkable water produced each day by the kindasah, supplies improved dramatically immediately following the Second World War when income from oil exports funded the pumping of three million gallons of water a day from the wells in Waadi’ Faatimah fifty miles away to the south. But as the oil wealth flowed in, so did more and more people and water became more precious than oil. The situation was finally solved in the late 1970s by the installation of four modern desalination plants on a coastal lagoon in the north of Jeddah. This huge and powerful complex has the capacity to desalinate eighty million gallons of seawater a day, converting it to potable water while at the same time producing a low-cost electricity supply for the entire city.
As a delightful finishing touch, the municipality of Jeddah collected the scrap metal parts remaining from the early kindasah and commissioned an artist to assemble them into sculptural forms that are now located on the roadside lawns close to the new desalination plant, preserved for future generations as a historic reminder of Jeddah’s past.
Halcrow.com states: “In 1907, the Ottoman Turks installed Saudi ‘Arabia’s first desalination plant in Jeddah. It was replaced in 1928 and now serves an artistic role as one of Jeddah’s famous traffic island sculptures. Its British origin has survived in its name, ‘Al Kindasah’, an obvious transliteration of its function.”