Welcome to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia!
The local motto of Jeddah is “Jeddah is different,” and that is certainly true. Saudi Arabia might have certain connotations in the west about lifestyle, and while some of it is true, some of it is also just a stereotype. The reason why Jeddah is so “different” is that, in comparison to a lot of other areas in the country, Jeddah enjoys a slightly more liberal take on its day-to-day cultural customs. However, western women are still required to wear an abaya when visiting.
Jeddah is the gateway to Mecca, the holiest site for the followers of Islam, making it a popular place for tourists. In addition, it is a very old city--the oldest neighborhood was built in the 7th century! Jeddah is an interesting city that is very different than anything someone from the West might expect, but a worldwide local knows that experiencing those different cities is what makes traveling fun. This insider’s guide will grant you access to a unique visit, through the lens of a local.
Worldwide Local Tip: Similar to a lot of Saudi Arabia, the Jeddah weather is hot all year round. The average winter temperature is 76 degrees (25 Celsius) and the average summer temperature is 90 (32 celsius). Make sure you dress accordingly for the weather and Islamic law--and be sure to stay hydrated.
Jeddah at a Glance
Jeddah is quite spread out with many districts connected together that form the city. The old city is known as “Al-Balad,” and it’s where you’ll find a lot of multi-story houses and traditional merchant dwellings. The area is pretty well-preserved, but there have been local complaints in recent years due to modern buildings being built in the area, resulting in the loss of identity in the old town.
Don’t miss a stop by the partially completed Jeddah Tower, progress on which was halted in 2018. Meant to be the world’s first one-kilometer tall building, it now stands as a monument to labor issues in Jeddah.
Of course, one of the best spots around town to hang out and be with the locals is by the waterfront. Jeddah borders the Red Sea, and the waterfront is where every Jeddah local comes to hang out. There are restaurants, beaches, parks, fountains, and even free WiFi access.
Worldwide Local Tip: Getting around Jeddah is probably best done through taxis. Most hotel chains will have a service that can take you to a nearby mall for a small fee (between 3-6$ USD), but for the most part, taxis are affordable and accessible. Services like Uber are also a good option, especially for traveling to and from Jeddah airport. The bus service exists but is unreliable. If you’re not in a rush, it’s a good way to be among locals and see the city.
Eat Like a Local
A worldwide local knows that in order to get acquainted with a city you need to go where the locals go and eat what they eat. Although there is no alcohol in Jeddah (officially at least), there is a wide variety of delicious food and drink around. One of the most popular is Al Baik. Putting Colonel Sanders to shame, Al Baik is probably the most popular fast food chain in Saudi Arabia, serving delicious fried chicken in a garlic sauce, and best of all, a hearty meal will only cost you about $4 USD.
Worldwide Local Tip: Because of Saudi Arabia’s location there are a lot of international food options available in Jeddah. Everything from Indian to French to Japanese can be found, but a local favorite is always shawarma and falafel. Ask the locals where they like to go, then try out a couple of spots not found on travel guides.
Enjoy Shisha with the Locals
Hanging outside by the waterfront is a popular pastime in Jeddah. Heading to a cafe or shisha bar is a great way to hang out with friends, chit chat, and catch up. Popular chains for cafes exist, like Starbucks or Second Cup, but you probably didn’t come here to have Starbucks. Hang out like a local, hit up the nearest shisha bar and smoke a hookah, or if you’re not a smoker, order tea and get to know the locals.
Worldwide Local Tip: If you’re looking for something a little more fun and exhilarating, bid farewell to the comfortable hotels in Jeddah and head out into the desert to do a little off-roading. There are tours that offer treks into the desert via car or camel, but a truly amazing way to experience the vastness of the desert is to pack some gear and go camping for a night.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Jeddah might not be on everyone’s travel radar, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t be. Much like the city’s motto says, Jeddah is in fact pretty different, but a worldwide local knows that sometimes “different” is exactly what’s needed.