Known as the gateway to Mecca, Jeddah has been an influential cultural hub since early Islamic times. With such rich history comes a number of hidden attractions. These twelve destinations in Jeddah are not often seen by tourists from the West, but you will certainly not want to miss them.
1. Traditional souks in Al-Balad
Wander through the narrow alleys of Al Balad, Jeddah’s historic centre, and you’ll find traditional souks (markets) brimming with colours and aromas. Some of the notable markets include Souk Al Alawi, Souk Al Baddu, Souk Al Samak and Souk Al Saghah.
Of all the traditional souks, Souk Al Alawi is the largest, carrying a variety of goods like prayer mats, frankincense oil, incense burners, abaya (traditional dresses), scarves, spices and coffee. For jewellery, visit Souk Saghah.
2. Roshan tower houses
Old Jeddah is the only urban site along the Red Sea with Roshan tower houses. These tower houses are known for their Roshan facades with decorative windows and doors. The bases of these tower houses are made from rocks quarried from Arba’een Lake.
If you only have time to visit one, go to Al Naseef House. Climb to the rooftop to catch the sunset and listen to evening Adhan (call to prayer).
3. Bab Shareef
Visit Bab Shareef, one of the popular ancient gates of Old Jeddah. It is the most accessible of the ancient gates, as it is close to the traditional souks. If you’re visiting Bedouin market, check out Bab Makkah, another ancient gate, located right at the front.
4. Ancient mosques
Hidden between houses and shops you’ll find little neighborhood mosques. Among these early Islamic treasures is Al Shafi’i, the oldest mosque in Jeddah. Architects and archaeologists believe it was built in the 13th century. Another ancient mosque to discover is Othman bin Affan, also known as Ebony Mosque.
5. Mother Eve’s tomb
According to Muslim tradition, Eve, the wife of Adam, moved to Jeddah after her banishment from the Garden of Eden. Moqbara Umna Hawwa (Mother Eve’s tomb) is said to be the burial place of Eve.
6. Jeddah Municipality Museum
Don’t miss the Jeddah Municipality Museum (Bait Al Balad) for a dose of Saudi Arabian history, featuring artifacts from pre-Islamic times and the Middle Ages. In the museum you’ll find handicrafts, fishing tools, traditional furniture and more.
7. Jeddah Corniche
When locals want to enjoy the sea breeze, sunset and a cup of tea, they go to Jeddah Corniche. This 30-kilometre coastline has restaurants, cafes, picnic areas and recreation spots for young and old to enjoy. Save some time for a dip in the beautifully landscaped InterContinental Jeddah hotel pool located at the edge of the Red Sea.
8. King Fahd’s Fountain
No trip to Jeddah is complete without photographing King Fahd’s Fountain. This saltwater fountain is illuminated at night and visible from all over Jeddah. It is the world’s tallest fountain, shooting water over 300 metres (1,000 feet) in the air. Spears Restaurant is one of the few restaurants at the Corniche that offers unobstructed views of the fountain.
9. Untouched coral reefs
Join Desert Sea Divers on Fridays and Saturdays for guided diving or snorkeling trips to the untouched coral reefs of the Red Sea.
10. Red Sea water sports
Jeddah’s playground extends to the Red Sea, where jet skiing, wind surfing, fishing, and boating are some of the water sports you can participate in. Red Sea Marina in Obhur Creek, located about 24 kilometres north of Jeddah has yachts and boats for rental.
11. Jeddah Alandalus Mall
The best way to beat the Saudi desert heat is by booking a Jeddah hotel conveniently connected to a large, air-conditioned mall. The shopping and dining choices are endless at the Jeddah Alandalus Mall.
12. Al-Shallal Theme Park
Al-Shallal Theme Park is a great place to explore if you’re traveling with children. There are thrill rides catered for all ages, and there is even an ice skating rink.
Jeddah’s stock is rising. It is soon to be the city of the world’s tallest building, and thanks to its rich history and notable sites, Jeddah’s profile around the globe continues to grow. Is Jeddah on your bucket list?