For centuries, Jeddah has been an important port for fishing and trade, as well as a chief gateway for Muslims making the pilgrimage to Mecca. Nowadays it is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia, and still a booming centre for commerce and tourism. As a result, Jeddah's rich history and culture are accompanied by a vibrant, cosmopolitan feel, with a fabulous selection of restaurants, cafés and shops that make it a very visitor-friendly city. One of Jeddah's chief attractions is the Al-Balad district – the historic Old Town that lies at the heart of the city. An atmospheric maze of winding, narrow streets, Al-Balad is renowned for its distinctive houses made of coral, as well as its colourful traditional souks and historic mosques. Here you can visit Naseef House – once the home of a leading merchant family, and now refurbished as a museum – for a fascinating glimpse of Jeddah in times gone by, and admire the Makkah Gate, one of the oldest gates remaining in the country and an important landmark for pilgrims.
Outside Al-Balad, the Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum and the Al-Tayibat City Museum for International Civilisation are both outstanding places to learn about the cultural history of the area, with extensive collections of stunning manuscripts, textiles, pottery, furniture and more, all set within buildings that are architectural treasures in their own right. The impressive Khozam Palace Museum contains the personal belongings of its founder, King Abdul Aziz, while the Jeddah Municipality Museum occupies an old home built from coral and shells, and boasts an excellent collection of antiquities and local artefacts.
No visit to Jeddah would be complete without a stroll along the Corniche, a handsome promenade along the waterfront with stunning views of King Fahd's Fountain, the highest water jet in the world. The area is also known for its beautiful beaches and outstanding scuba diving opportunities in the Red Sea, home to brilliant schools of fish and other marine life. As you explore the city, keep an eye out as well for its eclectic selection of giant public artwork – Jeddah has a reputation as one of the world's largest open-air sculpture parks.
In the evening, settle back in a seaside café or restaurant to enjoy fresh seafood and flavoursome Middle Eastern cuisine, with a breathtaking view of the sunset.
Feeling inspired? Book a Jeddah hotel by Marriott International and get ready to experience the many delights of this fascinating city.