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April 19, 2002

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Religion plays a major part in everyday life. The government requires stores to close at prayer time, which is held five times per day (at daybreak, noon, mid-afternoon, dusk, and after nightfall). Itís illegal to publicly proclaim any other religion besides Islam. While shopping in a busy mall, the mid-afternoon prayer call emptied the mall and the shopkeeper forced us out of his store. We went to the alleyway and watched it fill with people who knelt for prayer. After ten minutes prayer time ended, and the people filled the mall and resumed shopping.
Before oil brought wealth and modern transportation brought huge numbers of pilgrims, Jeddah occupied one square kilometer. In the last fifty years it's grown one thousand fold.
Narrow streets, over hanging balconies, and tall minarets invoke old Saudi Arabia.
The ancient Al Shafee mosque stands in the heart of the Al-Balad district, Jeddah's old town.
Shops close and streets fill with people heading for evening prayer.