Travel Postcard: 48 hours in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH Fri Dec 24, 2010 5:10am EST

Fireworks explode above a giant video screen in Jeddah December 8, 2010. REUTERS/Susan Baaghil

Fireworks explode above a giant video screen in Jeddah December 8, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Susan Baaghil

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JEDDAH (Reuters Life!) - Saudi Arabia's second largest city, located on the Red Sea coast and dubbed the "bride of the Red Sea," is a growing city of over 3 million and a gateway to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.

Jeddah is a port in the Western region of Hijaz and a popular trade route for centuries. Residents have been influenced by many cultures in their food, speech and even attitudes. The city has come to be known as the most liberal and diverse in the conservative desert kingdom.

Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a visit. The weekend in Saudi Arabia is on Thursday and Friday. Shops close during prayer times, and on Friday only open after five in the afternoon.

There is not much to do in terms of evening entertainment but for a list of upcoming events we suggest you get a hold of Jeddah Destination Magazine and for a comprehensive dining guide visit (www.sufrati.com) to browse the various restaurants, cafes, and menus available with ratings, location maps and price range to help you find exactly what you are looking for.

THURSDAY

1 p.m. - Start your exploration of Jeddah in the old district, also known as al-Balad. Walk through the narrow streets of the old district to see the old Hijazi style houses. Some of the houses are not well maintained while others show a mixture of the old and new styles. Take a tour guide with you to get the full experience and point out some of the houses of prominent Hijazi families.

3 p.m. - It's lunch Time! There are many restaurants in Jeddah but if you are a fan of Lebanese food you can try Byblos (02-6697655) which has a nice ambience and good service. Choose from a large selection of mezze and grilled meat, as well as traditional Lebanese dishes. They also have interesting deserts such ice cream with rose water flavor.

5 p.m. - For a bit of cultural activity you can also visit the Safia bin Zuqar museum (02-6571030) or Abdul Rauf Hasan Khalil (02-6830049) museum to get an idea about the heritage, customs and traditions in Saudi Arabia. Safia bin Zuqar is a Saudi artist who is known for her paintings that illustrate the old Hijazi lifestyle.

8 p.m. - Of all the cities in Saudi Arabia, Jeddah is the most renowned for having a variety of restaurants which cater to different needs. There are many international chains but for a more traditional experience try dinner at Al-Nakhil, one of the most popular restaurants among the locals. It is always full after 9 p.m. and you can enjoy a variety of Middle Eastern cuisine along with smoking a Shisha or Argila water pipe, otherwise known as the hubbly bubbly.

FRIDAY

9 a.m - 6 p.m. - The call to prayer will be ringing out across the city at prayer times and shops are closed until after 5 p.m, so visitors might like to take the opportunity to explore the colorful coral reefs lying off the Red Sea coast of Jeddah.

Rent a boat and go diving, snorkeling, fishing, or just enjoy the breeze on a jet boat. Ask your hotel concierge to arrange the trip or contact one of the following diving shops that can help arrange trips for you: Blue Reef Divers (02-2212707); Dream Divers (02-2886242); Desert Sea Divers (02-6561807); The Arab Circumnavigator (02-6651304).

A walk along the Corniche can also be a lovely experience if the weather is good.

8 p.m. - Have dinner on the Hayat Park Hotel's Fountain restaurant (02-2639666) which overlooks the sea and has a view of the Jeddah fountain. About 312 meters (yards) tall, this landmark which was built in the 1980s is said to be the tallest fountain in the world and can be seen from various parts of the city.

(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Paul Casciato)

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