“Jeddah Ghair”: Jeddah is different
Jeddah, the coastal city of Saudi Arabia, tells a bewitching and enchanting tale of old and new. Its unofficial slogan; "Jeddah Ghair", which translates to "Jeddah is different," only scratches the surface of Jeddah's reality. This influential city is full of intriguing contrasts, folkloric fantasies and modern wonders. It is a spiritual gateway to Mecca and Medina, a dynamic cosmopolitan centre for investment and wealth, and an emerging holiday destination with unique experiences.
Effervescent and dazzling, it rests on the shores of the Red Sea, beckoning tourists to explore its endless waterfront entertainment options, resorts, shopping districts, outdoor art sculptures and much more. Despite being the second largest city in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is a city of firsts; It holds multiple Guinness Records and is a pioneer in engineering, architecture and entertainment facilities. Whatever type of holiday experience you are looking for, Jeddah has it all and is full of curiosities. For adrenaline junkies, history buffs and spiritual or peace seekers.
Jeddah's rise in importance began in the 7th century when the 3rd Caliph Othman ibn Athan made Jeddah the official gateway to Mecca. This would shape the future of the city and make it an axis of continuous multicultural influx. Muslims from all over the world came to the shores of this thriving Islamic site, bringing trade and ideas with them. The city's architecture is a standing example of the enormous influence of international merchants who oscillated between Asia, India and Europe. This site of Islamic excellence has thrived over the centuries. Visitors can now stay in lodgings built to accommodate the great arrival of pilgrims. It is easy to see that there are social differences between housing for hajjis and permanent residents. The city was built around multicultural and social interactions and retains that warm, welcoming atmosphere to this day.
Grave of Hawa
According to legend, Hawa (عليها السلام), the first and only wife of Prophet Adam (AS), is buried in Jeddah. It is estimated that her tomb originally measured around 120 metres long and three metres wide, but that over time, its condition began to deteriorate. No headstones or names mark the exact location where Hawa is buried to prevent people from venerating the site. It was also levelled in 1928 and then sealed with concrete by religious authorities in 1975 to avoid pilgrims praying at tombs. Some storytellers say that Jeddah was named after Hawa since Jeddah means grandmother in Arabic. Biologically and Islamically, Hawa is considered everyone's ancestor. Biology has recognized that we all have the Mitochondrial Eve or the Y-Chromosomal Adam.
Jeddah’s main sites
Hovering on Jeddah's coast, the Al-Rahmah Mosque is an architectural marvel. The basic structures of the mosque are located under the sea surface, which gives a miraculous effect of the mosque merging with waves and water. The mosque accommodates 21,000 worshipers with a stunning white marble interior, modern and classic Islamic art and a domed turquoise dome. Access to this beautiful site is free and open 24 hours a day.
Jeddah Waterfront, Jeddah Corniche
The 30km stretch of Jeddah Waterfront is the vibrant place of life in Jeddah. The waterfront has been designed to attract the whole family with bathing bays, manicured lush landscapes, a good selection of restaurants, perfect bike paths, glittering piers.
King Fahd’s Fountain
Luminous until midnight, the King Fahd Fountain is the world's tallest major water jet, the center of Jeddah's nightlife and attracting both tourists and locals.
The South Corniche is the least frequented bay and is 45km from central Jeddah. The coast of Jeddah is divided into three sections due to its 110 km span. Along the South Corniche you will find restaurants, parks and even flamingos. This is a great place for those looking for peace, sea and sand.
Bustling UNESCO World Heritage-listed Al-Balad is a neighbourhood in the centre of the modern capital whose ancient walls, rugged roadsides, and quaint restaurants retain the charm of rustic tradition that has witnessed many centuries. Al-Balad has protected a variety of colourful historical buildings. The best way to explore this time capsule is on foot. Stroll the streets that are filled with the enchanting scent of coffee beans, syrupy lokum and heady scents of incense. Browse the stalls displaying silk webs, heaps of dates, and goods from across the Islamic world.
Al-Balad is a beautiful place, reminiscent of its central position throughout history. Signs mark the "Historical Hajj Route" for the visitors of the new era, which Jeddah occupied as a stopover on the journey of Hajj and Umrah for the visitors of the olden times. Al-Balad is a journey through time for Muslims as it connects their paths with Muslims of the past who often started their journey to Mecca up to 6 months before the Hajj period, hoping to arrive on time.
The historic Makkah Gate (Baab Makkah) is a popular attraction built opposite Mecca and was an important landmark for pilgrims on their way to the holy city. Passing through Al-Balad was emotional and relieving as they were finally close to their destination.
Here are other must-see sights of Al-Balad:
Nassif House Museum - The Nassif House Museum is a marvellous cavern of historical and cultural treasures. The museum and cultural centre houses 106 rooms with artwork, artefacts, and ambiance dating back to the Umayyad and Abbasid eras.
Salloum Residence, Bayt Jeddah - The Salloum Residence is a museum that allows visitors to imagine what it was like to live in Jeddah in the past. With furniture from India, cotton from Egypt, bonbonnieres from Europe and Hijazi-style seating, the house is a fine example of multicultural Islamic exchange.
Bab Jadid - Start your tour around Al-Balad at Bab Jadid (New Gate), which was once the main entrance to the neighbourhood. It stood guard, protecting the bustling old centre of Balad. It is now one of the few remaining city gates that were part of the old city walls.
Al-Balad cafes - The Al-Balad cafes are a great way to unwind in Al-Balad. Whether you sit in a cafe on the street in the middle of the action or on a rooftop overlooking the skyline of rainbow buildings and hazy skies, you are bound to have a blast.
Al Tayebat City - The International Tayebat City of Science and Knowledge is a museum complex in the Al Faisaliyah district of Jeddah. The complex, which was once a palace, showcases its cherished traditional Hijazi architecture in hundreds of rooms and several buildings. The use of the word "science" in Islamic scholarship and teaching was much more than the scientific subjects we recognise today, it was a holistic approach to knowledge. The museum brings Islamic history to life with the Islamic Heritage House, the International Heritage House and the Heritage Public Exhibition. Visitors can explore everything from manuscripts to weapons to historically authentic clothing.
Abdul Raouf Museum - The Abdul Raouf Museum is home to Jeddah's history and knowledge. It shows the city's long history stretching back 2,500 years, as well as ancient archaeological, Ottoman and Saudi history. The museum's building is an excellent example of Rawashin architecture, characterised by latticed wooden windows that let in light but block heat.
The soaring hot temperatures, clear skies and warm waters make Jeddah a perfect beach holiday destination. The turquoise waters of the Red Sea lap pristine golden sandy beaches. Jeddah's coastal bay offers endless beaches open for camping, picnicking, extreme water sports or just lounging.
King Salman Bay Beach
A tranquil beach considered one of Jeddah's most beautiful beaches, ideal for watching the sun set over the sea horizon.
When one thinks of beaches, one rarely thinks of mosques. Thuwal Beach is named after the neighbouring seaside mosque, which is open for your daily prayers after a day in the water.
Numerous private beaches offer amenities such as golf courses, water parks, beach villas and easy access to water sports. Makarem Annakheel Hotel on HalalBooking.com offers a private stretch of beach.
Experiences in Jeddah
Your trip would not be perfect without a full immersion in the culture of Saudi Arabia.
Coffee culture in Saudi Arabia is a symbolic display of hospitality and a form of communication. Be sure to try the Saudi coffee, which is infused with cardamom and spices to warm the soul. However, if you are looking for a taste of other specialty coffees, coffee shops offer a huge variety of coffees from around the world. Every country has a special connection to a drink and in the Muslim world, due to alcohol bans, coffee or tea are often the heartiest way to socialise.
Arabia is home to the famous Oudh, which dominates the perfume market. Oud is the resin extracted from the agar tree and its strength and depth come from the ageing process. A trip to Jeddah would be incomplete without igniting your senses with the scents of this liquid gold. A tour of the traditional bazaars can highlight the many uses of Oudh. The traditional form of oil or perfume spray are popular souvenirs, but you can also buy bakhoor, the tree's wood chips that are burned to release its enticing scent. This is traditionally used on Fridays due to its sacred meaning and on feast days.
Moon Valley is a mysterious pearl. Although referred to as a valley, it is a tranquil stretch of desert that provides the perfect canvas for sunsets and stargazing, an ideal campsite and a favorite spot for locals looking to escape the urban hustle and seek a spiritual connection with Allah and nature.
Dune bashing is an adventurous and unforgettable way to experience the dunes and the special character of the Saudi desert. It is possible to book a tour online or at tourist centres. Each tour is unique and offers different experiences including camping, desert night shows, hiking, rock climbing, sand skiing, 4x4 jeeps, buggies or mountain bikes.
Shopping in Jeddah
Shopping in Jeddah can be spectacular. There are countless international chains and shops offering everything you could desire. The malls with their impeccable architecture envelop shoppers in a maze of shops. The markets and counters sell simple women's fashions, halal treats and the latest technologies.
Mall of Arabia
The largest mall in Saudi Arabia has over 300 shops, services and entertainment venues, with a Kidzania to pamper children and is very close to the airport for last minute shopping.
Red Sea Mall
The Red Sea Shopping Centre is home to Jeddah's first 12-screen, multi-class cinema. The Mall welcomes its visitors with one of the largest indoor water fountains and a wide selection of restaurants and fast food outlets.
This classic market revolves around the Shatee Mosque. The market is an open-air shopping bazaar with street food and hundreds of shops ranging from everyday essentials to luxury items. Due to the heat during the day, the market comes alive in the cooler evenings.
Entertainment in Jeddah
Al Shallal Theme Park
Opened in 2005, Al Shallal Theme Park is not just an ordinary theme park, but a complex that attracts over a million visitors each year. It has it all, thrilling rides for adrenaline seekers, family rides for all ages, fine dining restaurants, ice skating rinks and arcades. Ladies Nights is every Wednesday from 5pm to 1:30am. The park is divided into 3 areas: an Amazon jungle themed area, a European village and a Far Eastern village.
Atallah Happy Land Park
Atallah Happy Land Park is one of the largest amusement parks in Jeddah. Easily accessible and offering great views of the Red Sea, it offers a range of outdoor activities like bungee trampoline, climbing walls and indoor activities such as bowling, ice skating, air hockey and billiards.
Bay La Sun Marina & Yacht Club
Bay La Sun Marina & Yacht Club is the place for all water sports, tourists can dive, snorkel and even fish with rented fishing gear. The Marina is home to Aqua Fun, a unique water experience with a floating park for the whole family. For those looking for something a little more relaxed, Yam Beach is a beautiful swimming experience with coral reefs, clear water and all the facilities to make a day at the beach enjoyable.
The unique Fakieh Aquarium is definitely worth a visit and offers an insight into the exotic flora and fauna of the Red Sea. The tunnels of the aquarium make it possible to experience over 7000 exotic sea creatures up close. The daily dolphin and sea lion show is a great way to experience the beauty of Allah's underwater creatures.
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