My wanderlust has taken me to many places by now, but few of them captured my curiosity and captivated me completely from the very first day as the city of Jeddah. Placed on the Red Sea coast, with a riveting mixture of mysterious, historical sites and urban, modernized architecture, even slow-paced, devoted exploring will only let you scratch the surface of Jeddah’s unique identity.
This city is a living, breathing creature, and its spirit echoes through all the luxurious cafes and antique stores I’ve seen, and from a fashionista’s perspective, it’s an unusual mixture: a place of colourful multiculturalism as well as persistent religious beliefs that dictate their people’s everyday lives. Let me take you to the streets of Jeddah and give you a few tips that made my travels rich and safe.
Before You Go
Growing up in free-spirited Australia, visiting a misunderstood place such as Saudi Arabia was a learning experience for me and it took plenty of preparation. Since their religion deeply penetrates all aspects of life and dictates most of their laws, rules and restrictions, a lady traveling to Jeddah needs to prepare herself well for the culture of that city.
Ladies need to go through much more trouble to get a visa, as they need their workplace sponsoring the travels, or a male relative or a husband to greet them. The unfortunate circumstances and political issues are prevalent throughout the country, so my advice is to make the journey with your better half. Once you do obtain a visa (and your beloved travel companion, of course), read up on clothing rules to be a true fashion-savvy visitor of Saudi Arabia and keep up with their rules and regulations!
The Must-See Corners
I love visiting cities that offer variety, and Jeddah definitely did not disappoint! If you’re wondering what to do in Jeddah, try to avoid being unprepared, so you could spend as much time exploring as possible. I put together a list of potential places to visit and I must say, I was more than happy with my choices.
Trying out some of their local cuisine instead of an international food restaurant will give you a unique experience. The rich and spicy taste of Yemeni dishes, such as Saltah or chicken muqalqal were some of the most curious flavours I’ve had a chance to try in my entire life!
If you know any locals, make sure to ask them where you can get the best traditional coffee, which is usually served before a meal in their culture. Aseil, for example will offer the complete Arabic experience to your taste-buds, and if you’re there, don’t miss out on camel meat!
Visit Al-Balad to travel back in time and get a glimpse of the heritage Jeddah cherishes so deeply. The historic centre of the city was once the main passage to Mecca and now it is a UNESCO protected site, where you can see their traditional houses and remains of their oldest architecture in the city.
If possible, find a private, but international beach that allows for you to take a swim in the Red Sea without wearing your abaya, which would traditionally be impossible for a woman.
Finally, a walk by the sea is the perfect way to say goodbye to Jeddah once you’ve had your stroll around the city’s historic and modern streets, as well as a chance to experience the local culture, their religious customs and tradition.
To Wrap Up
Backpacking with my husband and visiting some of their famous places, as well as the more mysterious, unknown corners we got to see thanks to our local friends, was a journey of a lifetime. If you ever do get a chance to travel to Jeddah, learn beforehand, plan your route and of course, allow for some unplanned experiences as well!
Wearing their robes and seeing their local people made me more aware of their lifestyles and cultural heritage, and it inspired an even greater appreciation for the freedoms I have in my native Australia as a woman. Despite the restrictions for women, visiting Saudi Arabia and having a glimpse of its beauty was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.