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The Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah beckons with a serene coastline, a unique blend of modern and ancient architecture, and endless adventures. By Sushmita Srivastav
After a long wait, Saudi Arabia opened its doors to non-religious foreign tourists in 2019. And even though the pandemic has made it inaccessible for now, there are many gems in the heart of this magical land waiting to be explored by the discerning traveller. One of them is its commercial capital, Jeddah. The city stands out with its cosmopolitan vibe, cafe culture, and traditions. Often called ‘Bride of the Red Sea’, Jeddah is popular as the gateway to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, but the second largest city in Saudi Arabia also boasts resort hotels, pristine beaches, stunning architecture, bustling souks, and endless adventures. Locals firmly believe and visitors happily agree, ‘Jeddah ghair’, which translates to ‘Jeddah is different’.
The historic Al-Balad district, one of the kingdom’s five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, dates back to the seventh century and still preserves the traditional homes built from coral. The district’s narrow, winding alleys peppered with colourful balconies lead to Souq Al Alaw—Saudi Arabia’s largest bazaar.
Jeddah’s coastline gives access to surreal dive sites with the ideal temperature, great year-round visibility, and minimal currents. One such dive site, Sharm Obhur, is a day trip from Jeddah and is great for sighting bull sharks, eels, lionfish, turtles, and other marine life. Not far away is Abu Tair, where the famous shipwreck of Stephanos greets you. The ship, which sank in 1978, is now home to whitetip sharks, goatfish, and blue-spotted stingrays.
Besides the dive sites, there are plenty of unique attractions in Jeddah for every type of tourist—the unique King Fahd’s Fountain, the Floating Mosque, dunebashing sites, and the stunning corniche and waterfront that make the city all the more alluring.