The Boston-Jeddah Connection

By Ann Lopez | May 23, 2012 | Saudi Arabia


Inside Dr. Angawi's housePhoto: Ann Lopez

It was to be an ethereal experience. An opportunity to sit on a roof top garden and watch the sunset with one of Saudi Arabia’s leading intellectuals.

It sounded so romantic. I was looking forward to it but I never thought I’d find a little bit of Boston here in the western port city of Jeddah.

It happened twice on a single visit to the house of Dr. Sami Angawi.

Dr. Angawi is an architect, a preservationist, a Sufi leader in the Hijaz region and a descendent of the Prophet Muhammad.

He has been building his house in Jeddah since the 1980s and he says it’s still a work in progress.

Yup. That’s the inside.

Now, any Boston resident will tell you that this atrium bears an uncanny resemblance to the interior of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

Dr. Angawi is involved in preserving the architectural history of Saudi Arabia. Especially in Mecca. There is some concern that old Mecca is being sacrificed to new construction.

Dr. Sami AngawiPhoto: Ann Lopez

The tour of the house continued. This time Dr. Angawi stopped at a drawing of a mosque.

The building looked strangely familiar.

That large bronze dome, the tall red brick minaret that looks like a smoke stack, I’ve seen them before.

Of course!

It’s the mosque in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

I lived in Roxbury for nearly 10 years. I watched this very mosque being built.

One of my colleagues on the Gatekeeper’s trip, Christa Case Bryant of The Christian Science Monitor, also lives in the neighborhood. She passes it every day on her way to work.

So did I.

Twilight in JeddahPhoto: Ann Lopez

Dr. Angawi was involved in the development and construction of the mosque, which generated a heated debate in the neighborhood.

He was in Roxbury the day the mosque was dedicated.

So was I.

We didn’t meet back then.

So it was beyond cool to share a moment at twilight on his roof and watch the Jeddah sky turn into night.

Ann Lopez, studio director of Public Radio International’s “The World,” traveled to Saudi Arabia on a Gatekeeper Editors trip with the International Reporting Project (IRP).

View All Posts By Ann Lopez

Your donation helps continue the IRP's work to inform the public about international issues.

Make A Gift

Are you a Journalist?

Apply for a fellowship trip or a gatekeeper trip