Thursday, May 6, 2010

Reflecting on Jeddah

The Jeddah fountain is, I've heard, the tallest fountain in the world and the city's most distinctive landmark. It is a beautiful sight at night.

I've been to Jeddah more than a dozen times since August for friends, food, and shopping and it has become one of my favorite places in Saudi Arabia - not for the city itself, but for the people who live here.

Jeddah is one of the most diverse cities in the Kingdom. Jeddah has been a major trading port for millennia, and many of its citizens can trace their heritage back to faraway lands in Asia or Africa. More recent immigrants have stayed, sometimes illegally, after preforming Hajj or Umrah. Almost all of the two million Hajj pilgrims come into and out of Jeddah's airport every year.

This cultural mixing is evident in the old market, Al Ballad. Multi-ethnic merchants are selling pashminas from India and Pakistan, carpets from Afghanistan, fruit from Jordan, and every other thing one can think of.

The customers are just as diverse this picture is taken from the gold market - a fun place for the ladies (and their husbands) to browse for fancy jewelry.

Rich and poor, young and old, Saudi and non-Saudi - everyone is here in the old town.

Northern Jeddah, especially along the water front, is much more modern (and more expensive) and has been built up with large houses, fancy hotels, and marinas full of some of the most gigantic yachts I have ever seen.

Eating is another of my favorite Jeddawi pastimes. One of the most famous, and definitely the most crowded restaurant chain is Al Baik, which is a bit like Kentucky Fried Chicken except much, much better (and cheaper!)

Al Baik gets packed. Sometimes these little restaurants get so crowded there is not any room to sit down inside.

Al Baik isn't the only place in Jeddah, this is a pretty traditional chicken and rice dish I got to shared with some friends during Ramadan last year.

And of course, I can never forget the weeks we spent at the Intercontinental hotel and the beginning of the fall semester!

I'll end this reflection with the first picture I took in Saudi Arabia: the view from my hotel window across to the Red Sea.

Jeddah's been great - Ive been to so many restaurants and malls, some friends houses, some coral reef diving trips, and even a wedding. I can't do the city or its people justice with just a few pictures.

Sometimes I wish that KAUST were built bit closer so it would be easier to maintain relationships in the city, but I guess there are reasons for everything.


  1. I love this post, Nathan! There are a lot of great things about Jeddah - thanks for reminding me!

  2. Glad that someone is enjoying his time xD...

    and it has become one of my favorite places in Saudi Arabia - not for the city itself, but for the people who live here.

    guess that 90% of saudi and non-saudi ppl believe that as well..

    i myself couldn't agree more on every word written here :)