Holidays to Jeddah

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Nowhere else in Saudi Arabia is the contrast between new and old as pronounced as in Jeddah, the kingdom’s second city. With a history that dates back to the 7th century AD when it emerged as a humble fishing village, the city’s growth over the following centuries has remained consistent, and it is today home to modern high-rises, world-class hotels and a thriving commercial centre.

Historically, Jeddah became of huge significance as a mercantile port and later as a travel hub due to its proximity to the holy Islamic city of Mecca, which saw pilgrims sail into Jeddah’s ship-spattered harbour for the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage. Today, modern pilgrims are spared the gruelling oceanic voyages and instead simply fly into Jeddah’s international airport. Much of Jeddah’s charming heritage remains, most notably in the Al Balad district, sometimes referred to as Historic Jeddah or the Old Town. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a largely pedestrianised area where atmospheric, spice-scented streets are lined with ornate merchants’ and traders’ townhouses, of which there are some 650 meticulously maintained examples throughout the district. Al Balad can be entered via the elaborate Bab Makkah Gate, which in times past was a starting point for pilgrims embarking on their journey to Mecca.

Elsewhere in Jeddah, you can wander through bustling bazaars to barter for local products such as rugs, fabrics and spices, while the Jeddah Waterfront, also known as the Corniche, is a paved seafront stretch where you can enjoy an evening stroll amid the balmy coastal breeze as the sun sets over the Red Sea. The Corniche also boasts a number of large sculptures as well as the world’s highest fountain, the King Fahd’s Fountain, which evokes a volcanic geyser as it jets water to a soaring height of 260 metres.

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