Jeddah is the capital of the Western region of Saudi Arabia and it is the Gate to Mecca because it is the main stop for pilgrims heading to Mecca for their once in a life time Islamic pilgrimage, Hajj. Although, Hajj is one of the main reasons that impacted the growth in Jeddah, the trade that took place there and it's great geographical location on the Red Sea, made Jeddah an international hub. Saudis always say that Jeddah is different “Jeddah Ghair - جدة غير”, which is also the name of their summer cultural and fun festival. This post will give you an idea on how to spend your weekend in Jeddah like a local especially with the growing tourism in Jeddah.
The post includes:
Dress code for women in Jeddah
Things to do in Jeddah
Accommodations in Jeddah (5 stars, midrange and budget).
Best Restaurants in Jeddah for (breakfast, lunch and dinner).
How should women dress in Jeddah ?
Jeddah is built on a lot of more colourful cultures from the pilgrims who came and stayed. Also, it’s closeness to Egypt and the Levant didn’t only affect the architecture, but the clothing as well. Therefore, the dress code is slightly more relaxed compared to the rest of Saudi. For example, the colourful abayas started there. The Saudi tradition is the black abaya, but in Jeddah, the ladies started switching to lighter colours like brown, beige, grey and other colours. According to the Saudi law, women must wear an abaya and cover their hair, but since it’s more relaxed in Jeddah, a lot of women don’t cover their hairs and usually wear an open abaya like a robe or a kimono. with a scarf on their shoulder.
Ps. be aware of wearing swimsuits on the public beaches in Saudi. Modest swimsuits known as burqini are more accepted. Private beaches have their own rules, so double check with them.
Getting around and transportation in Jeddah
The whole of Saudi does not have a public transportation system, so renting a car might be your best option to get by or getting a car from apps like Uber or Careem. Both are reliable and even accept cash in some cases. Jeddah streets get extremely packed during rush hour, so factor that in into your journey.
Things to do in Jeddah
1- Go to the UNESCO site in Jeddah: the Historic old town, Al Balad
The most important site in Jeddah that pushed me to explore it further was the old historic city known as Al Balad. It has also been recognised and protected by UNESCO. A lot of the buildings there are getting a little touchup hence the construction work in some of the photos. There is a lot to see in that area such as the buildings from the outside and the inside. Some of them are open for the public to view, but be aware of the opening and closing time. Noon is not a great time to visit most things in Jeddah, so I would advice you go in the afternoon from 4pm or early evening at 6pm. You can do some shoppings for traditional items and gold there as well. If you do find yourself there in the morning, start your day with some breakfast and the most traditional is liver sandwiches.
2- Visit the awesome art galleries of Jeddah
Jeddah is a very arty city and it is one of the Saudi city that has a number of galleries. On my last visit, I made it to the most important art galleries in Jeddah. The best time to visit the galleries is during a new exhibition, so check the social media accounts of galleries on that list to stay updated.
3- Enjoy the outdoor and beach activities in Jeddah
They call Jeddah sometimes, the mermaid - Arosat Albahar عروسة البحر, referring to its location on the Red Sea. It is also considered a beautiful diving spot. I really hope it does not get polluted with the growing tourism in that area. If you plan to do any water or outdoor activities, be aware of the environment and make every effort to take any trash you might bring with you to keep the environment as clean as possible.
The newly renovated Jeddah waterfront is also worth checking out. The sea front (Corniche) are not for swimming. They are a good place to gather with family or friends or to walk, jog or run, but that it really.
When it comes to beaches in Jeddah, the best way is to rent a private chalet to have a good day at the beach. There are some public beaches, but they are usually an hour or more drive from Jeddah. Unfortunately, there are not women only beaches in Jeddah like Dubai.
4- Cool down in the shopping malls in Jeddah
If you happen to visit Jeddah during the hotter months then you might want to stay indoors during the day because the summer heat is extreme in Saudi! Jeddah is a big city and if you are staying in the North side of the city, you can head to the Red Sea Mall and the Arabs Mall. They are considered to be the best in the city. If you are in the South or East of the city then it’s closer to go to Al Salam, Al Yasmeen Mall or Al Andalus.
Hotels in Jeddah
5 star hotels:
When I visited Jeddah I stayed with friends, so I asked the locals like Sara Omar Travels and she recommended these four hotels for the best experiences. These two hotels are perfect for the beach life with all the gorgeous facilities they provide.
Mid Range Hotels:
If you want to be closer to the centre of Jeddah then Sara recommends these other two hotels, which will be closer to historic sights:
Another Jeddah local friend of mine، Maryam, recommends rented apartments especially if you are on a tighter budget. She recommended the location of Sari Street near Al Salamah neighbourhood and AL Shoaybi Mosque.
Insider tip for Saudi Hotels:
As a female traveller, seeing pools and beach facilities is always tempting and in Saudi, you might think they have special times for women, but sometimes the pools and gyms are ONLY for male use, so double check with the hotel before you book. I had a short stay in a Jeddah hotel once and they advised that the pool was MEN only. Some hotels are more accommodating and do a schedule for men and women, but it is not always the case.
Latest hotel deals in Jeddah on Booking
Where to eat in Jeddah?
One of the amazing things about Jeddah is the amount of food that you will find there. There is a restaurant for every craving you might have including a lot of international (American and British) restaurant chains.
Breakfast and Brunch in Jeddah:
My artist friend Nora has three yummy breakfast and brunch recommendations:
Sara Cafe - It’s a ladies only cafe, which is amazing in Saudi. You would think there are more women only cafes since it’s a very segregated community based on gender, but there aren’t as many spots like this. I went to this cafe for brunch when I visited and really enjoyed it! They have vegan and sugar free options as well. They sell some art products and stationary by local artists there too!
Brioche has a lighter type of breakfast and brunch and it’s only open from 8am to 12pm and closed on Sundays.
Urb Kitchen is another lovely spot for breakfast, brunch and coffee.
Lunch and Dinner in Jeddah:
If you speak to anyone from East Saudi, they will tell you that their favourite food spot in Jeddah is Al Baik fried chicken or Al Tazaj grilled chicken. I spoke to my instagram travelling friend, Sara Omar Travels, who is a Jeddah local and this is her advice:
Al Saddah Restaurant for proper Saudi food
Al Anberiyah Fish Restaurant for fantastic sea food
Nakheel Restaurant for a lovely atmosphere and nice food plus some shisha smoking if you are into it.
Maryam, the other Jeddah local, recommends another set of delicious restaurants:
My own recommendation is Medd Cafe and it is a gorgeous coffee roastery and tea cafe with products and arts from Jeddah locals. Some of my very talented artist friends have some art work exhibited there.
Ps. none of these restaurants/cafes are sponsored.
Hope you found the information useful and happy planning! Do let me know how your trip to Jeddah goes in the comments below!
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