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Book a flight to Jeddah with Qatar Airways and you'll see why Saudi Arabia's most touristic city is so popular with visitors. This cosmopolitan city is renowned for its cafés, restaurants and shopping districts as well as its sprawling old town and luxurious beach resorts. The al-Balad district, or Old Town, is filled with bustling souqs and coral houses, providing an authentic Arabian experience for visitors.
It's here you'll find colourful carpets and clothing, local spices, handicrafts and more and it is easy to lose yourself for hours amongst the maze of alleyways and market stalls. Flights to Jeddah are available from most international departure points, so the jewel in Saudi Arabia's crown is never more than a few hours away.
The traditional coral houses of Old Jeddah may be a little time worn, but there is a simple charm in the architecture and history contained in these ancient dwellings. The best preserved of the houses, Naseef House, can be found near souq al-Alawi. Once owned by one of the most powerful trading families in Jeddah, the house even has its own camel ramps for messengers, installed by King Abdul Aziz.
Take a trip to Jeddah and discover the souqs and markets of the Old Town, one of the city's most popular attractions. At the heart of the city souq al-Alawi, the most extensive of all the city’s markets, is always buzzing. Traders ply their wares of brightly coloured clothing, rugs, spices and more against the backdrop of the evening call to prayer at sunset. A day spent exploring al-Balad is the perfect way to absorb the sights, sounds and smells of Old Jeddah.
From shopping at the colourful souqs to scuba diving in the Red Sea, there is plenty to do in Saudi Arabia's commercial capital. Take a tip from the locals and stroll along the 35-km long Jeddah Corniche. Here you'll find families and couples sharing picnics amongst the famous sculptures, with spectacular views of the Red Sea.
Scuba diving here is comparable to Egypt's Red Sea Coast, and although diving enthusiasts travel to Jeddah throughout the year, it is still considerably less crowded than dive spots in Egypt. There are many interesting sites to explore, with visibility of up to 30-40m common. Take a group tour with Desert Sea Divers on their custom-built diving boats and explore the many wreck sites off the coast.
With temperatures reaching the mid-40's during the summer months, you may wish to cool off at Sail Island water park or enjoy the rides, ice skating rink and games arcade at the Al-Shalal Theme Park on the corniche.
Eating out is a popular pastime here in Jeddah and international cuisine is easy to find. However if it is local specialities you're looking for, try Shawarma, which is thin slices of chicken or beef cooked on a vertical spit, served with sauce, garlic and vegetables in pita bread. Make sure you try local falafel (chickpea fritters) and hummus, a delicious dip made with olive oil and chickpeas.
Restarurants in the Al Hamra area are also popular, serving Lebanese, Turkish and Syrian food. Shisha cafés can be found across the city; locals can be found here enjoying shisha, coffee and sometimes food.
Travel to Jeddah and you'll find the malls are filled with designer boutiques and chain stores. Yet there are also local shops selling handicrafts and souvenirs. The Mall of Arabia, reputedly Saudi Arabia's biggest shopping mall, is the perfect place for some retail therapy, whilst the Red Sea Mall is also popular with locals and visitors.
For designer labels, head for Al Khayyat Centre on Tahlia Street, while for gold jewellery, Jeddah International Mall is the place to be. Another famous mall is Stars Avenue, which is known for its luxury products where you can find international brands.
When you travel to Jeddah, be aware that the city is governed by Islamic law. So for example women are not permitted to drive, while dressing modestly and remaining covered is essential, particularly when out in public.
Local businesses close for prayer for half an hour at noon and at sunset, then again for around 45 minutes around an hour after sunset, so Saudis usually eat very late. Restaurants in the city have separate sections for families and for single men, although couples will usually be allowed to dine in the family section.
Flights to Jeddah with Qatar Airways arrive at King Abdulaziz International Airport, the largest airport in Saudi Arabia. All visitors to Jeddah will need a return or onward ticket, as without this entry to the country may be refused.
Visa restrictions for entry into the country will depend on your country of origin, length of stay and whether your trip is for business or pleasure. So before you fly to Jeddah please check the visa and passport requirements.
Currency: Saudi Riyal (SAR)
Voltage: 127 / 220 V 60 Hz
Plugs: Type A / B / F / G
International dialing code: +966