Jeddah is a port city on the Red Sea and is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. It is a modern commercial hub and gateway for pilgrims to the Islamic holy cities of Makkah and Medinah. Jeddah was actually the capital until 1982 and today it continues to be the most cosmopolitan city in Saudi Arabia. The city is an interesting mix of ancient architecture and the latest modern luxuries and is packed with things to do all year long.
Things to do and see: There is actually a range of different things to do in Jeddah. In this post I will be focusing on the 2 most interesting places I visited whilst in Jeddah and would highly recommend.
The first being the Jeddah Waterfront and Corniche. Jeddah was built first on the bay and later expanded along the Red Sea shore creating a seafront that has become the beating heart of Jeddah’s social life. Resort hotels, beaches and outdoor sculptures line the Corniche, a seafront promenade is anchored by the iconic King Fahd’s Fountain, the highest fountain in the world. Also located here is the Al-Rahmah Mosque, known as the floating mosque. There are many facilities along the water front including restaurants, shops, hotels, a cultural center, water fountains, blossoming gardens and children’s play areas. There are several different seating areas that you can enjoy both during the day and evening. It is a very popular place for great place for families to gather on weekends and evenings.
The area has recently been improved and developed to include free wifi, charging stations and toilets for convenience. There is also a dedicated space for running and cycling. The development also boasts Jeddah’s Sculpture Museum, an open-air exhibition that showcases designs by local and international artists.
Jeddah is also home to private beaches including the Silver Sands Beach, where visitors pay to enter and access the private beach along the Red Sea with where you can swim, snorkel and dive into gorgeous turquoise waters.
The second place to visit is the city’s historic district, called Al-Balad. Al Balad is translated means ‘The Town’ and refers to the old city. Al-Balad was founded in the 7th century and historically served as the centre of Jeddah. In the 1970s and 1980s the people of Jeddah moved away from Balad, towards North Jeddah. In 1991 the Municipality of Jeddah founded the Jeddah Historical Preservation Society to preserve the historical architecture and culture of Al-Balad. In 2014 Al Balad was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Balad is divided into number of different districts and is home to historical houses dating back 500 years old. These building are now subject to restoration. A number of cultural and entertainment events take part in Balad including art exhibitions and scavenger hunts. Balad is best explored on foot, early in the morning to miss the hot midday sun. You can also book guided tours around Balad.
Historically Balad was a thriving multicultural neighborhood. Nowadays it is an interesting mix of old crumbling houses and modern museums, galleries and cafes. It is an eclectic and interesting mix and has lots to see and explore. Balad is also home to a souk or market. There are lots of different eating and drinking places including quirky cafes and bakeries.
Also found in Balad is the city’s oldest mosque, Masjid Shaffie, also known as Umary mosque after Umar, who was the second caliph of Islam. The site is more than 1,400 years old, but the building is in good shape, having been rebuilt 400 years ago, and then renovated again around 2009.
Driving around Jeddah you find a range of different streets from those along the beach and those in residential areas. You will also find lots of interesting roundabouts and structures throughout the city including the Jeddah flagpole, which has been the tallest flagpole in the world since its erection in 2014.
Like most Gulf cities Jeddah has an array of malls and shopping centers. The biggest ones are the Red Sea Mall and the Mall of Arabia. Both are home to a range of different local and international store and restaurants. They both also have entertainment facilities including cinemas and arcades.
Jeddah is a great place to visit for families with children. There are lots of facilities for children including different indoor play centres, theme parks, arcades and an aquarium.
There are lots of future plans for Jeddah including the kingdom tower, destined to be the world’s largest skyscraper.
Final Thoughts: I would definitely recommend visiting Jeddah, especially if you are already in the country as a pilgrim. Or if you are looking to a explore a beautiful, unique country like Saudi Arabia. Outside of Jeddah the country of Saudi has so much more to offer visitors including mountains, Red Sea reefs and date palm oasis. However the gentle pace of life in Jeddah offers a lovely, relaxing and Halal holiday.