A converging point for pilgrims and traders for centuries, Jeddah is probably the largest cultural melting pot in the world. The tremendous foreign influence is reflected not just in the faces of its multicultural inhabitants, or in its range of restaurants, souqs and shops, but even in the peculiar, hotpotch accent of the liberal, laidback Hejazis.
Considered the most cosmopolitan town in the Kingdom – and somewhat wild, degenerate and dangerous by some Saudis! – it has a palpably relaxed, seen-it-all feel. Don’t be surprised if you see bikini-clad girls on jet skis at the beaches here.
Jeddah is also the undisputed commercial capital of Saudi Arabia. If you fancy a spot of shopping, this is the town to trawl.
The Al-Balad district, the heart of Old Jeddah, is a nostalgic testament to the bygone days of old Jeddah, with beautiful coral architecture casting some welcome shade over the bustling souqs beneath. Occupied largely by the poorest of the poor – mainly over-staying Haj pilgrims – they crumble visibly before your eyes. There’s now a local race to save the old town before it too disappears under the concrete.
Last updated: Feb 17, 2009
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