JEDDAH (جدة)

The motto of the city is “Jeddah is Different.” And they are right. The city is the perfect blend of old and modern. The historic crossroads of pilgrims and traders and the traditional gateway to Mecca, Jeddah is the most fascinating of Saudi Arabia’s major cities, with a cosmopolitan and liberal air not present anywhere else in the Kingdom.

Historic Jeddah is situated on the eastern shore of the Red Sea. From the 7th century AD, it was established as a major port for Indian Ocean trade routes, channeling goods to Mecca. It was also the gateway for Muslim pilgrims to Mecca who arrived by sea. These twin roles saw the city develop into a thriving multicultural center characterized by a distinctive architectural tradition, including tower houses built in the late 19th century by the city’s mercantile elites and combining Red Sea coastal coral building traditions with influences and crafts from along the trade routes.

We spent a pleasant full day crawling around the historical Al-Balad. The municipality is trying hard to develop tourism, and they are successful. The historical center has several cozy cafes and places to sit and relax around winding streets without any cars. Also, many restoration works are in progress, powered by the Ministry of Culture. On every corner, you will meet someone from the “cleaning team” and the “municipal police,” you will also see thousands of surveillance cameras. So it’s probably the most safe city for tourists in the world. One friendly officer gave us a tour around the highlights and invited us to his home for a cup of coffee served by his amiable wife’s sister. In the end, he was called back on duty, and the lady rushed to the market, so they just told us to shut the door after we finish our coffee (we can’t imagine experiencing hospitality like that in the EU).

We also tasted Sobia, a traditional locally made fermented beverage consumed mainly during Ramadan. Sobia is produced by the fermentation of wheat and is prepared by fermenting bread with cardamom, cinnamon, sugar, and baker’s yeast.

Parking location – Jeddah: 21.493126N 39.181721E (🚻 at Naft)