Places to Visit in Jeddah
The fact that Jeddah is one of the oldest cities in the world is proved through various excavations in which it is described as a fishing hamlet in 500 B.C. Although it was visited by Alexander the Great as well, the city gained prominence only after having been converted into a port by the ruling Caliphs during the 1st century A.D. Therein began a long chain of Sultanates and Empires which eventually culminated in the city becoming a part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1925.
Jeddah could be described as a coastal plain bordering the Red Sea which lies towards the west of Saudi Arabia. Since this region is mountainous, it is not as arid as the rest of the country and nor is it characterized by the typical desert climate. Hence, even though summers are very hot and rainfall is sparse winters are relatively warm and sometimes even feature hail and heavy thunderstorms. Unusual weather conditions like dust storms are also known to happen during the summer months.
Ethnically, Jeddah is more diverse than any of the Saudi cities and this existence of mixed population is attributed to the pilgrims who have been coming here from all parts of the world for the last thousands of years, many of whom stay back in the city. Another reason is the oil boom of the past 50 years which has attracted many immigrants to the city. As a result, the dilution of religion is visible in the society in form of greater freedom of movement enjoyed by women and religious places being less active.
Things to doin Jeddah:
While in Jeddah, a visit to the protected Old City, known as Al Balad, is a must as this is probably the only place in the world where houses are made from corals of the Red Sea. Wandering through the ancient streets would not only reveal multi-storey coral houses but also traditional souqs and buildings constructed from the same material. Since coral is not very durable, most of the buildings are in dilapidated state and the only two noteworthy traditional family houses which have been restored and hence can be safely viewed and truly appreciated are Naseef house and Sharbatty House.
The busy street market of Souq al-Alawi located in the heart of the old city is worth a visit and is one of the few areas in which photography is permitted.
Owing to its proximity to the Red Sea, scuba diving is an important and prevalent activity in Jeddah and apart from the diverse flora, fauna and corals, there are interesting diving sites like the Chicken Wreck which are exciting to explore. Diving occurs throughout the year but be warned that temperatures during winters may be low and hence a wetsuit is recommended.
Recreational parks like Sail Island, Jungle Land, Al Shalal Theme Park and Abraj Al Nawras could be included in the itinerary as these provide an insight to the lives of the local population.
The Municipality Museum located opposite the National Commercial Bank is the only one of its kind in the city since it is the remnant of the British Legation of Jeddah during the First World War. In order to visit this museum, it is imperative to acquire permission from the curator and once granted admission thereafter is free.
There is also a Christian cemetery in the city which is no longer in use and the last burial in it was carried out in 1950s. Walled within a high enclosure and guarded by a large gate, this cemetery is visible from the upper echelons of some of the neighbouring buildings and is maintained by the western consulates of the city.
Shopping in Jeddah is not an issue at all because there are shopping malls dotting every nook and corner nor is eating because of the presence of hundreds of restaurants serving every imaginable cuisine and suiting a range of budgets. Shawarma is a typical meal here and although sheesha cafes and coffee shops are plenty, alcohol is prohibited. Hotels in Jeddah are believed to be cheaper than those in Riyadh and most of the international hotel chains have a representative here.