Jeddah's mix of stunning architecture, history and commercial buzz makes it an intriguing place to visit – and live. An expat herself and founder of the popular Jeddah Blog, Sabaa Ali shares her insights on the city's finest attractions.
"Jeddah is a cosmopolitan city and quite unlike other cities in Saudi Arabia," explains Sabaa. "Not only are there places to see within the city, but we are within easy driving distance of Mecca, the holiest city of Islam."
The city's location on the Red Sea also makes it a favored destination for diving and fishing. "Hotels here will be able to locate a diving instructor for a trip into the water," she says. "One can also hire fishing boats to take a ride out into the deep sea. It’s quite common to encounter many beautiful species of fish and dolphins out there."
The city is also home to King Fahd's Fountain and, as of 2014, the tallest flagpole in the world. "The fountain can be viewed from main vantage points in the city," Sabaa says. "It is the highest fountain in the world and sits inside the sea overlooking the entire city." The 170-meter flagpole is located in King Abdullah Square.
"A trip to Balad, the open souk, is a must," Sabaa adds. Expect "lots of old architecture with wooden window shutters. You can even find the remnants of the train station belonging to the Hijaz railway."
Sabaa also suggests a visit to the Floating Mosque on the Corniche, which "extends into the Red Sea, being built on stilts." A piece of advice: "There are restrictions on non-Muslims visiting mosques here, so one must be careful to find out the rules first."
Museums and aquariums
The Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum of Jeddah has artifacts dating back to the fisherman tribes who first inhabited the region, while collections in the Al-Tayibat City Museum cover everything from old coins to pottery and Islamic manuscripts. "For a glimpse into sea life we have the Fakieh Aquarium, which boasts a large variety of fish and a dolphin-and-seal show," Sabaa says. The aquarium is about a 25-minute drive from our Radisson Blu Hotel, Jeddah.
Sabaa also recommends the "wonderful open-air art sculptures scattered all around the city. The Athr Art Gallery on Tahlia Street is a great place to view exciting Saudi art."
"The Tomb of Eve is a place that most people do not know about," says Sabaa. "It is said to be the tomb of the first woman on this earth (known as Hawwa in Arabic), after whom the city is named (Jiddah means grandmother in Arabic)."
Next on the list is "Well-known architect Dr. Sami Angawi’s house," which Sabaa describes as a "stunning sight to see. Visits can be arranged for groups."
Tips for visitors
"Traffic can be quite manic at times, but taxis are readily available," she says. "Please be aware that shops and restaurants close for prayer. Plan your trips around these times."
"For pure Saudi street food, try mandi (rice with roast chicken or lamb) or kabsa (long-grain rice mixed with meat vegetables and spices)," Sabaa advises. "Be aware that some eateries will have separate family entrances and areas, and separate areas for single men."