Jeddah skyline from the Red Sea, Saudi Arabia © Meshal Obeidallah
As the main point of entry, by air and sea, to
Saudi Arabia, the flashy city of Jeddah is more cosmopolitan than
Saudi's capital, Riyadh. Hundreds of thousands of Muslim pilgrims
making the traditional pilgrimage to the holy cities of Mecca and
Medina, pass through two enormous, futuristic special terminals
with a fibre-glass tent-shaped roof at the international airport
during the Hajj season. Other visitors are few and far between,
since Saudi Arabia has extremely strict entry requirements.
Those who do gain entry to this splendid modern
metropolis are rewarded with experiencing a city where luxury is
the norm. Fabulous seven-star palatial hotels give on to wide
boulevards, encircling the ancient central old city, Balad, filled
with colourful souks (bazaars) and mysterious medieval buildings
built of Red Sea coral.
The Red Sea shoreline is lined with a seemingly
never-ending corniche, giving on to beautiful sandy beaches.
Jeddah's restaurants and shopping malls are legendary. One of the
unmissable sights in Jeddah is the King Fahd Fountain in the
harbour, which is spectacular at night when it sends illuminated
coloured jets of water 853 feet (260m) into the air.
Jeddah is named in honour of the Biblical Eve.
'Jadda' means 'grandmother' in the context of Eve, who according to
legend is buried near the historical old city, although the actual
site of the tomb is not marked by the Saudi Government.