Jeddah

Saudi Arabia’s second largest city is without a doubt the most inviting for tourists. The locals are friendly; the vibe about town is as welcoming as it is exciting; and Islamic law, while still present, is less strictly enforced than in other big Saudi cities. There’s also the beautiful waterfront stretch of Jeddah Corniche - a buzzing strip of resorts, restaurants, beaches and stunning coastal architecture.

Equally as alluring as the glitz and modernity of Jeddah is its charming historic centre, Al-Balad. Founded in the 7th century, Al-Balad served as the cultural and business centre of Jeddah until the oil boom of the mid-to-late 20th century began changing the face of the city. The district remains one of Jeddah’s star attractions thanks to its enchanting coral buildings and high concentration of bargain-filled souks and historic mosques.

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Book Flights to Jeddah Book now
Languages Arabic: Hejazi dialect
Area 1,600 km2
Population 3.9 million
Time Zone UTC+3
Holiday Packages to Jeddah Book now
Currency Saudi Arabian Riyal
Dining

When in need of a quick, cheap but tasty meal, grab a shawarma. Similar to a kebab or gyros, a Shawarma is a pita or wrap filled with meat that has been shaved off a vertical spit, along with other toppings like tahini, hummus, cheese and onion. Shawarma vendors are commonplace throughout Jeddah, meaning this tasty treat is never too far away when the craving hits.

When it comes to sit-down dining in Jeddah, the options are endless - with just about every cuisine and dining style imaginable on offer. The waterfront districts of Al Hamra and Al Zahra are great places to start, with many of Jeddah’s best restaurants within close proximity of one another.

Those lucky enough to visit Jeddah during the month of Ramadan should make certain to visit Qabel Street in Al-Balad. For Ramadan only, Qabel Street transforms into street food heaven, with numerous food vendors selling traditional Hizaji treats such as balilah - a delicious chickpea salad.

Another Jeddah favourite with both locals and tourists alike is the Al Baik chain of broasted chicken restaurants, of which there are 40 in Jeddah alone. Broasting is a hugely popular method in Saudi Arabia, where by the chicken is marinated in a precise mix of ingredients, breaded, and then cooked using a process that combines pressure cooking with deep frying. Best of all, a big feast of Al Baik will only cost around seven or eight dollars.

Shopping

One of the few public activities women are permitted to do freely in Saudi Arabia is shop. Combine this with the oil wealth of Saudi Arabia and the innovative character of Jeddah, and the result is one of the Middle East’s foremost shopping meccas. Some of the malls here are almost tourist attractions in their own right, with much more on offer than just shops and food courts.

The big boss of Jeddah’s shopping centres is the Mall of Arabia, consisting of four huge levels of retail bliss. Boasting intricate architecture, more than 300 retail stores its own full-scale amusement park, the Mall of Arabia promises hours of entertainment for all ages. The mall’s nautical theme gives the impression of being on a cruise ship, further adding to the whimsical nature of the whole experience.

In complete contrast to the shimmering malls are the modest souks of Al-Balad. Wander around the colourful stalls and take in the unique atmosphere as local vendors hawk their wares. All manner of goods can be found in the souks, from handmade jewellery and perfumes to irresistible herbs and spices. Fashionistas will enjoy the many high-end boutiques dotted amongst the souks.