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Jeddah 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.
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Points of Interest in Jeddah
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. 5-9PM (closed Fri?). The former house of one of Jeddah's main trading families is now being renovated as a museum of sorts. 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.
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.
Scuba diving is a major draw for expats in the Kingdom, although the Saudis themselves seem oblivious to the treasures that await offshore.
Because of Jeddah's location on the Red Sea, the flora and fauna are quite similar to what you'd see on Egypt's Red Sea Coast or off the Sinai Peninsula, only minus all the tourists.
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 familes, 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.
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. 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.
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 Second Cup coffeeshop
- 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
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Jeddah on Wikivoyage.