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

Arriving in Jeddah

Arriving in Jeddah

King Abdulaziz International Airport (KAIA) provides travellers with access to Jeddah, the second largest city in Saudi Arabia.

The most notable feature of the airport is the Hajj Terminal, which was built to serve the millions of pilgrims who travel by plane to visit the Islamic holy city of Mecca each year.

This special terminal features an unusual tent-like roof and covers an area of more than 100 acres, making it one of the largest airport buildings of its kind in the world.

KAIA is located to the north of Jeddah, although it is worth noting that its two main terminals are quite far apart. The south terminal is roughly 25 km from the city centre, while the north terminal used by foreign airlines is 35 km from the centre. Travellers generally travel to Jeddah from the airport by taxi.

Exploring Jeddah

Jeddah's long history as a major port and trading centre explains its present status as an extremely cosmopolitan and multicultural city.

As well as being Saudi Arabia's most important commercial centre, it acts as a gateway for pilgrims heading to Mecca. This further enhances Jeddah's reputation for welcoming travellers from all over the world.

The city is home to roughly 3.2 million people, covering an area of 1,500 sq km on the Red Sea coast. First-time visitors may be surprised by the laidback atmosphere on the streets of Jeddah, which contrasts with other areas of the country.

Lonely Planet has described the city as having a "palpably relaxed, seen-it-all feel", which perhaps reflects its long-standing status as a unique point of convergence for merchants, pilgrims and travellers of all kinds.

Local legend has it that Eve, the grandmother of humanity, is buried in Jeddah. This is because the name of the city is derived from the Arabic word for 'grandmother'.

Jeddah's top five attractions

Jeddah's top five attractions
Scuba diving is a highly popular pastime for visitors to Jeddah, due to the city's location on the Red Sea. However, the activity is not widely practised by the Saudis themselves. 

There are several wrecks lying in waters close to Jeddah that can be viewed by divers. One of the most popular is the Chicken Wreck, a boat carrying a cargo of frozen chicken that hit the reef and now lies submerged at a depth of about 15 metres.

Said to be the most popular museum in the city, Abdul Raouf Khalil's Museum traces the history of the various civilisations that have inhabited the region and shaped present-day Jeddah.

King Fahd's Fountain is located within the Jeddah Corniche, which is the city's coastal resort area. It is the world's tallest fountain, sending jets of water to a maximum height of 312 metres above the Red Sea.

The Mall of Arabia is a huge shopping complex that opened in 2008, purporting to be the largest mall in the country. Visitors will find plenty of designer brand outlets and restaurants here.

Direct Flights travel tip for Jeddah

Jeddah is a paradise for retail addicts, with both the plentiful new malls and the traditional souks offering visitors the opportunity to shop until they drop. Holidaymakers should take the time to seek out a bargain during their stay.

When to go to Jeddah

 People who dislike extreme heat are advised to visit Jeddah in January, February, March, April, November or December. This is because temperatures can exceed 40 degrees C during the summer months.