City of Jeddah Water Supply.Westminster [Jeddah], Balfour and Son, (Gellatly Hankey,) 1947-8 Stock Code: 138324
NotesOne of a limited set of detailed planning documents for the important modernization of Jeddah's water supply in 1947, this copy inscribed by the British civil engineer leading the project to Ahmad Ashmawi of the local engineers who presented the scheme to Emir Saud. Likely produced in small numbers for key stakeholders, we find no other copies or references to this publication.
The copy has the gilt presentation supralibros "To A.A. From D.R.B." David Ross Balfour led the project as a partner in his father's Westminster and Newcastle-based civil engineering firm, D. Balfour and Son. The recipient was most likely Ahmad Ashmawi, assistant director of Gellatly Hankey's Jeddah office. Both men sat on the Technical Committee. Ashmawi attended the inauguration in 1947, where he presented the scheme to Emir Saud.
Prior to the discovery of oil, the new Saudi kingdom relied on revenues from the hajj. The improvement of facilities for pilgrims in the Hejaz was therefore of vital importance. To improve water security, Abdulaziz Ibn Saud drove forward a project to tap new sources at Wadi Fatima in time for the 1947 hajj. He awarded the contract to a British shipping and trading firm, Gellatly Hankey, who nominated the British engineering concern Balfour and Son to design and lead the project. The first stage was completed on time, with the rest in place by 1950. Faisal was to further expand supply in the 1960s.
Ibn Saud had inherited the creaking 19th-century Ottoman system that piped water from wells at Waziriya seven miles away, and from a coal-fired sea water condenser built in 1907 that mainly benefited the city's expatriate community. During the hajj, additional supplies would be trucked in from Mecca.
Minor improvements had been made by resident British and US engineers, including Karl Twitchell supported by Aramco and Charles Crane. In 1933, prompted by Sheikh Muhammad Dehlavi on behalf of Mecca's Ain Zubeyda Committee, new sources were tapped in Waziriya but Dehlavi failed to persuade the Jeddah authorities to repair the deteriorating pipes, so had to bring the matter to the attention of Ibn Saud himself.
In 1941 Ibn Saud asked Twitchell "to interest US companies in developing water and agriculture in Saudi Arabia". Twitchell instead proposed a US government mission to review the matter. Twitchell, then working for the Saudi Arabian Mining Syndicate outside Jeddah, led the mission in 1942. For Jeddah, he proposed springs in Wadi Fatima and Hadda 25-40 miles away. Ibn Saud approved, and in November 1946 he agreed with landowners and Jeddah notables to source eight springs in time for the hajj in November 1947. He nominated Gellatly Hankey to carry out the work. They had assisted Ibn Saud with financing and procurement in the early years of his reign, had several offices along the Red Sea, their own caravanserai in Jeddah, and facilitated the movement of pilgrims. The company formed a Technical Committee, nominating Balfour to design and lead, the Egyptian Company for Concrete Cement Works (Cairo) to lay the pipes, and local contractors Mohammed and Abdullah bin Laden to dig the trenches.
On 21 November 1946 David Ross Balfour arrived in Jeddah to investigate whether a daily yield of 500,000 gallons was possible from Wadi Fatima, a requirement that was doubled on his arrival. He advised that 750,000 gallons was viable. Owing to time constraints, it was agreed to connect just the well nearest the city, Abu Sheib, with the rest to follow. Water from Abu Sheib reached Jeddah on 15 November 1947. Three days later, completion was marked with a ceremony led by Emir Saud, attended by several hundred local and foreign dignitaries, with Qur'an readings, speeches, and a formation of Saudi Dakota aircraft flying overhead. It would not be until December 1950 that full capacity was reached. "Jeddah, partly due to that new and wonderful water supply, has now burst out of its ancient walls. They have literally come tumbling down as victims of the horns of plenty" (Blake, Gellatly's 1862-1962, p. 142).
The planning documents are offered together with a very good copy in the publisher's green leatherette binding of the detailed standard history of the project, excellently illustrated: AL ANSARI, Abdul Qaddous. History of Aziziah water supply Juddah, and Glimpses on the sources of Water in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Compiled by Abdul Qaddous Al Ansari, English Version by Fayez Audeh Ilyas, Printed at the Expense of the Administration of Aziziah Water Supply in Juddah (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). (1972 /1392). This is itself an extremely uncommon piece, with just four institutional locations worldwide, at Cambridge, Exeter, Harvard, and New York University, Bobst Library.
Red leatherette wallet (150 x 200 x 50 mm), internally divided into 3 sections, brass clasp closure, titled in gilt to front "City of Jeddah Water Supply, December 1948, To A.A., From D.R.B"; containing 5 hand-coloured maps, plans and sections on 4 large folding linen-backed sheets.
Sheet 1. Drawing No. 1A: City of Jeddah – Water Supply Key Section (top) / Drawing No. 21: City of Jeddah Water Supply General Plan (bottom), 11 Dec 1947. Opens 810 x 750 mm, folds 140 x 190 mm, blue grained cloth covers with printed title label "City of
Wallet just a little rubbed, the contents similarly slightly handled and lightly toned with a few minor splits, but overall very good indeed.
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