Jeddah (جدّة, also spelled Jiddah) is on the Red Sea in western Saudi Arabia. It the kingdom's second largest city, with a population of approximately 3,400,000, and a major commercial center in the country. Jeddah is also the main entry point, either by air or sea, for pilgrims making the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, the two most sacred cities of Islam. Both are a few hours inland from Jeddah.
The historic Jeddah has been inscribed to the World heritage list since 2014.
Jeddah has been a port and trading city for centuries, which is reflected in its cosmopolitan mix of inhabitants. Today, it is a major commercial center in Saudi Arabia. It also has many government offices. Jeddah is known in the kingdom for its shopping districts, restaurants and cafes. It also hosts the Jeddah Corniche (waterfront area), which is the largest in the Kingdom with a great bunch of hotels, beaches and resorts clustered around it.
To the North of the city, a string of beach resort compounds are off-limits to the mutawwa (religious police) and are known as party spots where many of the social mores of the rest of the country are flouted, especially by rich, liberal families from Jeddah.
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The climate is dry and hot. The best time to visit is on January and February, when it is the least hot.
The sea water becomes quite hot from July to October.
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Jeddah is a huge city that sprawls along the coast of the Red Sea, connected together by the Corniche, a seaside avenue full of bizarre sculptures and nearly 30 km long. The old city or al-Balad, on the southern side of modern Jeddah, is a crumbling but fascinating warren of multi-story houses made from coral. The main thoroughfare Medina Road starts from the northern side of al-Balad and runs all the way to the city.
King Abdulaziz International Airport, (IATA: JED), is the largest airport in the Kingdom and is well served by airlines from around the world.
Unfortunately, despite its importance and the Kingdom's wealth, the airport has been known for being in miserable shape with dust, flies and poor to nonexistent signage. In 2011 renovations to the airport were completed.
There are two regular terminals and they are located on opposite sites of the massive apron and are nearly 8 km apart. The only formal access between the two terminals is by taxi.
- Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia). All Saudi airlines use this facility, including domestic services.Nas Air, a privately-owned Saudi low-cost carrier, also operates domestic and some international flights to and from this terminal. Air France, Korean Air, and Kenya Airways, being part of the SkyTeam alliance along with Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), also operate flights to and from this terminal.
Used by all other international flights.
There are also two special terminals, used exclusively for Hajj pilgrims heading directly to Mecca, which are basically enormous tents of fiberglass fabric on reinforced concrete poles and steel cables. Driving to the normal non-Hajj terminal, you pass between the two. In season, this lets you admire long rows of large aircraft parked alongside the Hajj terminals.
Connections to the city
A taxi to the city from either will cost around SR50, so agree on the fare before you set off.
Also there are many bus routes to neighboring countries, especially Jordan. Usually bus trip starts in Syria down to Amman, Jordan then to most Saudi major cities. However, make sure before booking your seat that you don't have a "by air only" entry visa. Most bus companies in Amman are located in Abdali. Ticket price is around 25 JD, some companies have daily trips to large cities like Jeddah. Make sure to check buses before booking, as some companies have old and small seats buses (this is a long trip, so make sure to pick a company with "business class" buses, some companies offer business class buses at a price cheaper than "normal buses" companies!). Trip is about 18 hours nonstop through Medina route (there are two routes for the trip, sea route passing by Yanbua which is a rough one but short, and Medina route)
Jeddah is one of the major ports along the Red Sea and cargo ships arrive here from all over the world with plenty of choices for travellers, too. Al-Blagha is one of the largest shipping companies and operates several ferry routes, most notable a once-weekly service from Suez taking 42 hours (1st/2nd/3rd class SR845/695/395, car from SR850). There's also a service from Suakin, 50 kilometres south of Port Sudan, three times a week with journey time of 10 hours (1st/2nd/3rd SR470/370/300, car from SR460). A more irregular ferry service is available from Al Hudayda in Yemen.
Ferries fill up quick during high season, meaning Hajj and Ramadan, so book early.
Many of the hotels chains have a "water taxi" or a small minivan that will take you to the mall and main shopping areas. Taxis are very inexpensive, with most 10 minute rides costing about SR10-20. There are two types of taxis: one is yellow and will have a sign that says, simply, TAXI. They are usually cheaper, but a little "rougher" on the inside and out and usually are not air conditioned. But they are very rare in Jeddah now. Also, most of them are now air-conditioned new cars. If you're looking for better quality, opt for the white "Limousine" taxis which are of better quality. There is a rule in KSA that a Limousine must not be older than 5 years. So, you find all the new cars in Limousines. Limousine taxis are about $1–3 more expensive. There are also "unlicensed" taxis, which are normal cars (usually a Toyota Camry) without the "TAXI" sign. Those taxis are cheaper than "Limousines" but are not legal. Police take strict actions against such taxis, so to avoid them. Normally they honk or flash lights when they see you standing in street (you can't recognize them as they're normal cars).
It can be cheaper to negotiate a fixed price than to use the meter. This requires some experience with Jeddah and its streets. Sometimes, a taxi driver will pretend to be "lost" as a pretext to turn on the meter or make you pay extra in exchange for his "lost time". Whatever the situation, never consent to pay more than the price you agreed on before the beginning of the ride. Also, some Saudi drivers ask for a higher price and don't treat clients very well, so look for Indian or Pakistani drivers.
Many rental agencies like Avis or Budget will rent you a 2008 mid-size car for the price of SR100-140 per day. You'll also find a bargain when it comes to fuel, as Saudi Arabia has some of the cheapest petrol prices in the world. The streets are wide and signs are written in both Arabic and English. Look for maps in the libraries or big supermarkets.
Buses are not a commonly-used means of transportation in Jeddah even though you can ride one for SR1-2 from certain main streets to Albalad (downtown). It is, however, a very interesting way to enjoy traditional Arab music and the sound of people mixing together all while enjoying sights during the ride. Smaller buses are mostly private so the owner is responsible for cleanliness. Larger buses are provided by the government, which are big and clean but don't follow a schedule, so consider using the smaller buses if you're on a specific timetable.
Boats are not particularly a means of transportation, but rather a way to enjoy the views of the Red Sea. You can catch boats in Obhur north of Jeddah at the marina; a one hour ride in a small boat is around SR200 (US$55).
Al-Balad (Old Town)
Jeddah's top sight is al-Balad, or the old town. The city wall has long since been torn down, but the old gates still mark where it once stood. Within you'll find a warren of ancient buildings and traditional souqs (markets), and the teetering, multistory coral houses that Jeddah is famous for. Unfortunately, coral is not a very durable building material, and most of the buildings are in disrepair. Spend time wandering around the old city and get lost in the seemingly endless souks. You will find yourself in another world and entirely 'in' the world, surrounded by people from all over the Arab world, Asia and Africa.
- Souq al-Alawi. At the heart of the old city, coral houses line both sides of this busy market street. A photography permit is theoretically necessary (inquire at the office behind Naseef house), but in practice nobody seems to bat an eyelid as long as you don't stick your camera in people's faces without permission.
- Naseef House (بيت نصيف, Bayt Nasseef). 5-9PM (closed Fri?). The former house of one of Jeddah's main trading families is now being renovated as a museum and cultural center. Great views from the top floors when it's open. SR20.
The Jeddah Corniche offers spectacular views of the Red Sea. Check out the main shopping street on Tahliya for interesting wares, and if you're looking for good quality gold, try the Gold Souq where you can bargain for 18k and 24k gold by weight. The King Fahd Fountain is not only the tallest water fountain in Jeddah, but also the world.
Scuba diving is a major draw for expats in the Kingdom, although the Saudis themselves seem oblivious to the treasures that await offshore.
Visibility can be spectacular (30-40m is common) and the corals are virtually untouched. There are plenty of interesting sites to explore like the Chicken Wreck, a boat carrying tons of frozen chicken that hit the reef and sunk at a depth of 10-18m. Most of the better dive sites are around one hour out to sea by speed boat.
The Red Sea gets chilly in the winter, with water temperatures dropping to 22°C, so you'll want to use a 5 mm wetsuit with hood. In summer, temperatures climb up to a much more balmy 29°C, and 3mm shorty or 1 mm diveskin is plenty.
- Desert Sea Divers, Obhur (40 km north of Jeddah), ☎ +966 2 6561807. The oldest and largest diving outfit in Jeddah, which puts three boats out to sea on a busy weekend. Uses fast and comfortable custom-built dive boats, and all trips include a tasty hot lunch. Gear rental and transfers to/from central Jeddah (SR150 return) extra. Offers on-site accommodation and can also arrange tourist visas to Saudi for diver groups with at least 2 months' notice. SR200/250/300 for 1/2/3 boat dives.
- . Water park at Sail Island - a good spot, especially for families, when the blazing Saudi Arabian sun becomes too much to bear. The park was built on an artificial peninsula and is covered by several sail-like tents, which offer shade while you enjoy the pool and recreation facilities.
- Atallah Happy Land Park (Jeddah Corniche), ☎ +966 2 699 1157. 5PM. An amusement park with indoor and outdoor rides and attractions, ice skating and bowling, dining and shopping, 6D theatre and live shows. SR25.
- Al-Shalal Theme Park (Fakieh Poultry Farms), Jeddah Corniche near end of Sary St.. The park boasts of having the largest double looped roller coaster in the Asian continent. Operational since 2004, the roller coaster at the Theme Park is 34 m high and caters to more than 700 visitors/hr. The two storey entertainment building at the centre of the Park features an ice skating rink and a theme area, a roller skating rink and the Amazon Ride with a jungle theme, complete with life-size figures of animals, light and sound effects. The Amazon Ride is spread over an area of 1800 m2 with a lagoon and 15 m high waterfall. Seven restaurants, party rooms and a games arcade are housed in the entertainment building. The party rooms can be reserved by the public for birthday parties and private gatherings at reasonable rates. The park also has a European village theme area, a Far East village area and a large number of retail outlets for souvenirs and soft toys for the children. The complex has a separate building for car parking which can accommodate 300 cars plus an additional open air parking facility which has an additional capacity of 300 cars.
There are many places to find work in Jeddah and jobs are plentiful, but unemployment among Saudi nationals remains high especially among the youth population. One must obtain a visa to work in Saudi Arabia and the complicated process can only begin with a sponsorship from a company or individual already located in the Kingdom. Western expats cannot simply arrive in Saudi Arabia and then look for employment; needless to say, Western women will experience great challenges in finding employment.
There are a number of shopping malls in Jeddah.
- Hera'a Mall. located on Madina St
- Mall of Arabia. Recently opened and claims to be the biggest shopping mall in Saudi Arabia on Madina St, rivaling Hera'a Mall.
- Red Sea Mall. It is one of the biggest shopping malls in Jeddah on King Abdulaziz Road.
- Star's Avenue. One of the newest malls on Al-Malek Road, featuring a Saks Fifth Avenue
- Tahlia Center, Tahlia St.
- Jeddah Mall, Tahlia St. Not a lot of variety but has a great food court to hang out in
- Al Khayyat Centrew, Tahlia St. Find international designer brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, LV, Fendi, and Dior
- Al Basateen. A favorite hang out for teenagers.
- Le Mall. First Starbucks branch in Jeddah
- Coral Mall. Rivals Le Mall's Starbucks with a large Bert's Cafe
- Mega Mall. The best mall for all ages
- Hera'a Mall.
- Aziz Mall, (close to the Airplane roundabout opposite Abdul Latif Jameel).
- Roshan Mall. King Abdulaziz Rd.
- Roshana Mall. Altahlia St.
- Al-Andlus Mall. (on the road to King Abdul Aziz University (KAAU))
- Jeddah International Mall. Oldest Mall in Jeddah, specialising in Gold and Filipino food
- Jamjoom Center.
Jeddah is full of restaurants with almost every cuisine imaginable and eating out is part of the city's culture. All the restaurants have separate sections for single men and for families. Dating is theoretically forbidden but widely practiced, and most restaurants will allow a couple into the family section without question. All businesses close for prayer for about half an hour at noon and at sunset. They close again an hour after sunset for about 45 minutes. If you like to eat early, you can often stay in a restaurant during prayer time. Saudis tend to eat late, well after the evening prayer. To eat and have fun, Vertigo Cafe and Grille is one of the best American-Italian restaurants in Jeddah. They also serve shisha, and they have a very nice music. A top class restaurant.
The standard cheap meal is the shawarma - giant layers of beef or chicken turning on a vertical spit. Thin slices are cut off and served with vegetables, garlic, and sauce in pita bread. You can also find a few falafel shops or eat at boofias (cornershops). Another thing that is very cheap is Homus, which is the paste of white chickpeas mixed with olive oil, and is very tasty. Try the Filipino Souk near Saudia City. Ask for the Pakistani area Kababish. There's a group of shops and restaurants with very low prices. Most of the American Fast Food franchises can be found in Jeddah, including McDonald's, Applebee's, Subway, and numerous others.
- Al Baik. One of the most popular fast food chain of Saudi Arabia available in Jeddah, Makkah, Madina & Yanbu. Al Baik has 25 branches in Jeddah. Saudi dishes as well as fast food.
- Haifa mall, Madina & Palastine Crossing Rd.
- Barrio Fiesta, Al-Mahmal Centre top floor (al-Balad). Very popular Filipino eatery offering a gamut of Filipino fare like kare-kare. Basic fried rice and such for under SR10, but most main courses (SR30-50) come in huge portions designed to be shared.
- Khayal, Prince Sultan Road, History Roundabout. One of the best Turkish restaurants in Jeddah. It offers a variety of Turkish food to its customers. Especially, fresh fruit juices and kunafah (a traditional dessert) are delicious. (SR 50-100).
- Bice, Qasr al Sharq. Italian restaurant with sea views.
- Mataam Al Sharq, Qasr al Sharp. Lebanese cuisine.
- Al Khayyam Restaurant. Persian cuisine at the Jeddah Hilton.
- Cafe Vienna. Italian Cafe at the Jeddah Hilton.
- At Layaly Al-Hejaz, (Hejazi nights). Tahliya Street.
- At Al-Nakheel. Corniche area. Traditional food with sheesha.
- Villa d'Este Cafe. Al Tahliah Street. Al Khayyat Centre 2. (behind Jeddah Mall). Italian coffee shop with a very special garden.
- Bubbles. Corniche Jeddah waterfront.
- Senses. Japanese cuisine.
- Caffe Aroma. Theme-fusion food located on Corniche.
- Papaya. International food next to Sawary Mall.
- Yildizlar, ☎ +966 2 653 1150. In front of Saudi American Bank, Al Hamra Area. Excellent Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese, and Palestinian food.
Like all Saudi Arabian cities, you aren't going to find much nightlife revolving around alcohol in Jeddah, as as the manufacture, sale and consumption of alcohol are illegal throughout the kingdom. What you should be able to find are shisha cafes and a large variety of coffee shops such as: Barncafe, Java Lounge, Vertigo, Starbucks, Mugs & Beans, Costa Coffee and Second Cup. Non-alcoholic beer is available in restaurants as are non-alcoholic cocktails and other drinks. Alcoholic drinks are usually served in private compounds and beaches for Westerners, where Saudis are usually not allowed in.
Outside Hajj season, hotels in Jeddah are generally cheaper than those in Riyadh. The usual international chains are well represented.
- Al-Hamra managed by Pullmann, Palestine St (easy access to the beach), ☎ +966 2 6602000, fax: +966 2 6604145, e-mail: email@example.com. From 469 S.A.R..
- Crowne Plaza, Al Corniche, Al Ma'adi Rd, ☎ +966 2 6611000, fax: 966 2 6606326, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2 pm, check-out: 3 pm. From 750 S.A.R..
- Jeddah Marriott, Falasteen Rd, ☎ +966-2-6714000. Older but well-maintained property. Deep pool but for men only, large gym, good breakfast. The main downsides are the mildly awkward location with little of interest nearby and the poor soundproofing, esp. as there are four mosques nearby. US$120.
- Radisson Blu Royal Suite Hotel, Medina Rd (10 minutes from the King Abdul Aziz Int'l Airport), ☎ +966 2 652 1234, e-mail: email@example.com. Health club, indoor swimming pool, 83 high end suites, three meeting rooms, free internet access.
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Medina Rd (20 minutes from the King Abdul Aziz Int'l Airport), ☎ +966 2 263 0000, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Health club, Oasis gym, 292 rooms, meeting rooms, free wifi throughout the hotel.
- Rosewood Corniche, ☎ +966 2 257 8888, fax: +966 2 257 8111, e-mail: email@example.com. Five star luxury hotel with amazing sea view and amenities.
- Westin Jeddah, ☎ +966 2 6588200, fax: 966 2 6588550, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Resort in city center with roomside views of the sea.
- Intercontinental Jeddah, ☎ +966-2-2295555, fax: +966-2-2295556, e-mail: email@example.com. Check-in: noon, check-out: 3PM. Luxury resort with all amenities.
- Durrat Al-Arouse. Jeddah's main resort.
- Le Méridien Jeddah.
- The Signature Al Murjan Beach Resort Jeddah, North Obhur Rd, ☎ +966 2-656 0666, +966 2-6588200, fax: +966 2-656 0555. Resort hotel right next to the Red Sea.
- Park Hyatt Jeddah–Marina, Club and Spa Resort, Al Hamra District, Southern Corniche, ☎ +966 2 263 9666, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-in: 2PM, check-out: 12 noon. 142 rooms and suites with views of the Red Sea, Arab-Andalusian ambiance, walk-in-closet, tea and coffee making facilities. Separate ladies and gents spas and a gentlemen's club. Great views of the Red Sea and King Fahd fountain. This resort is a remarkable engineering feat having reclaimed prime waterfront land from the Red Sea.
- Qasr Al Sharq, North Corniche Road, ☎ +966 2 659 9999, fax: +966 2 659 6666, e-mail: email@example.com. The "Palace of the Orient" is Waldorf-Astoria's attempt to create a "seven-star" luxury hotel in Jeddah. Decoration is opulent, and prices are a splurge. Food is primarily Venetian. All amenities can be found.
While not as strict as Riyadh, Jeddah still falls under Islamic law. Read, understand, and follow the guidelines in the Saudi Arabia article to stay out of trouble.
Local women normally wear a hijab (headscarf) and abaya (long black overgarment) to cover their heads and entire bodies. Abayas, not only hijabs, are also required for Western women; however, this is not strictly enforced.
While you may be able to find alcohol at private parties, it is still forbidden in Saudi Arabia. Corporal punishment for Westerners is rare, but it has happened on occasion.
Most shopping malls have Internet cafes. Coffee places such as Costa Coffee, StarBucks Coffee, Barnies, Second Cup and many more provide WiFi access to customers.
- Canada, 11F Ali Reza Tower, Madinah Rd, ☎ +966 2 653-0597, fax: +966 2 653-0538, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sa-We 8AM–3:30PM.
- Greece, Nour El Hayat. plot 187 AL Andalus District, ☎ +966 2 667-4064, +966 5 3067-6885 (Emergencies), fax: +966 2 656-228, e-mail: email@example.com.