1. Jeddah

Jeddah is a city in the Tihāmah region of the Hejaz on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban centre of western Saudi Arabia.

It is the largest city in Makkah Province, the largest seaport on the Red Sea, and with a population of about 4 million people (as of 2017), the 2nd-largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh.

Jeddah is Saudi Arabia's commercial capital.

Jeddah is the principal gateway to Mecca and Medina, two of the holiest cities in Islam and popular tourist attractions.

Economically, Jeddah is focusing on further developing capital investment in scientific and engineering leadership within Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East.

Jeddah was independently ranked 4th in the Africa – Mid-East region in terms of innovation in 2009 in the Innovation Cities Index.

Jeddah is one of Saudi Arabia's primary resort cities and was named a Beta world city by the Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network.

Given the city's close proximity to the Red Sea, fishing and seafood dominates the food culture unlike other parts of the country.

In Arabic, the city's motto is "Jeddah Ghair," which translates to "Jeddah is different." The motto has been widely used among both locals as well as foreign visitors. The city had been previously perceived as the "most open" city in Saudi Arabia.

2. Etymology and spelling

There are at least 2 explanations for the etymology of the name Jeddah:

The more common account has it that the name is derived from Jaddah, the Arabic word for "grandmother":

According to eastern folk belief, the tomb of Eve, considered the grandmother of humanity, is located in Jeddah. The tomb was sealed with concrete by religious authorities in 1975 due to the notorious Wahhabi prejudices.

On official Saudi maps and documents, the city name is transcribed "Jeddah", which is now the prevailing usage.

3. History

Some archaeologists' studies suggest the existence of inhabitants in the region now known as Jeddah since the Stone Age seeing as they found some artefacts and 'Thamoudian' writings in Wadi (valley) Breiman east of Jeddah and Wadi Boib northeast of Jeddah.

Some historians trace its founding to the tribe of Banu Quda'ah, who inhabited it after the collapse of Sad (dam) Ma'rib in 115 BC.

Some believe that Jeddah had been inhabited before the tribe of Banu Quda'ah by fishermen in the Red Sea, who considered it a centre from which they sailed out into the sea as well as a place for relaxation and well-being.

According to some accounts, the history of Jeddah dates back to early times before Alexander the Great, who visited the city between 323-356 BC.

4. Pre-Islam

Excavations in the old city suggest that Jeddah was founded as a fishing hamlet in 522 BC by the Yemeni Quda’ah tribe, who left central Yemen to settle in Mecca after the destruction of the Ma’rib Dam in Yemen.

Other archaeological studies have shown that the area was settled earlier by people in the Stone Age, as some Thamūd scripts were excavated in Wadi Breiman east of the city, and Wadi Boib, northwest of the city.

The city of Jeddah was an important port during Nabataeans frankincense trade. The oldest Mashrabiya found in Jeddah dates back to pre-Islamic era.

5. Rashidun Caliphate

Jeddah first achieved prominence around AD 647, when the 3rd Rashidun Caliph, Uthmān Ibn Affān, turned it into a port making it the port of Mecca instead of al Shuaiba port south west of Mecca.

In AD 703 Jeddah was briefly occupied by pirates from the Kingdom of Axum.

Jeddah has been established as the main city of the historic Hejaz province and a historic port for pilgrims arriving by sea to perform their Hajj pilgrimage in Mecca.

6. Umayyad Caliphate

Umayyads inherited the entire Rashidun Caliphate including Hejaz and ruled from 661-750AD. No historic records mention important events taking place in Jeddah during this period of history.

However, Jeddah has remained as key civilian harbour, serving fishermen and sea travelling pilgrims to Hajj. it is also believed that Sharif of Mecca; an honorary Viceroy to the holy land, was first appointed in this period of the Islamic Caliphate.

7. Abbasid Caliphate

Abbasids, the new superpower, became the new successor to the Umayyad.

In 750 the Abbasid Revolution successfully took control of almost the whole Umayyad Empire, excluding Morocco (Maghreb) and Spain (al-Andalus).

The Caliphate of Baghdad kept expanding and ruled until 1258, while Hejaz only remained under the Abbasid throne until 876, when the Tulunids of Egypt gained control of the Emirate of Egypt, Syria, Jordon and Hejaz.

8. Tulunids and Ikhshidid Emirates

The power struggle between Tulunids and Abbasid over Hejaz lasted for 30 years when Tulunids have finally withdrawn from Arabia in 900 AD.

In 930 AD, main Hejazi cities Medina, Mecca and Tā’if were heavily sacked by Qarmatians. However, it is not historically confirmed that Jeddah itself was attacked by Qarmatians.

However, Ikhshidids, the new power in Egypt took control of Hejaz in early 935. No historic records details the even during Ikhshidids rule of Hejaz.

Jeddah was still unfortified and without walls at this point of time.

9. Fatimid Caliphate

In the 969 AD, the Fatimids from Algeria took control in Egypt from the Ikhshidid dynasty and expanded their empire to the surrounding regions, including The Hejaz and Jeddah.

The Fatimids developed an extensive trade network in both the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean through the Red Sea.

Their trade and diplomatic ties extended all the way to China and its Song Dynasty, which eventually determined the economic course of Tihāmah during the High Middle Ages.

10. Ayyubid Empire

After Saladin's conquest of Jerusalem, in 1171 he proclaimed himself Sultan of Egypt, after dissolving the Fatimid Caliphate upon the death of al-Ādid (1149–1171), thus establishing the Ayyubid dynasty.

Ayyubid conquests in Hejaz included Jeddah, which joined the Ayyubid Empire in 1177 during the leadership of Sharif Ibn Abul-Hāshim al-Thalab (1094–1201).

During their relatively short-lived tenure, the Ayyubids ushered in an era of economic prosperity in the lands they ruled and the facilities and patronage provided by the Ayyubids led to resurgence in intellectual activity in the Islamic world.

This period was also marked by an Ayyubid process of vigorously strengthening Sunni Muslim dominance in the region by constructing numerous madrasas (Islamic schools) in their major cities.

Jeddah attracted Muslim sailors and merchants from Sindh, Southeast Asia and East Africa, and other distant regions.

11. Mamluk Sultanate

In 1254, following events in Cairo and the dissolution of the Ayyubid Empire, Hejaz became a part of the Mamluk Sultanate.

The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama, having found his way around the Cape pushed his way across the Indian Ocean to the shores of Malabar and Calicut, attacked fleets that carried freight and Muslim pilgrims from India to the Red Sea, and struck terror into the surrounding rulers.

The Princes of Gujarat and Yemen turned for help to Egypt.

Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al- Ghawri (c. 1441-1516) accordingly fitted out a fleet of 50 vessels under his Admiral, Hussein the Kurd.

Jeddah was soon fortified with a stone wall, using forced labour, as a harbour of refuge from the Portuguese, allowing Arabia and the Red Sea to be protected. Parts of the city wall still survive today in the old city.

Even though the Portuguese were successfully repelled from the city, fleets in the Indian Ocean were at their mercy. This was evidenced by the Battle of Diu (3 February 1509) between the Portuguese and the Arab Mamluks.

The Portuguese soldiers' cemetery can still be found within the old city today and is referred to as the site of the Christian Graves.

12. Ottoman Empire

In 1517, the Ottoman Turks conquered the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt and Syria, during the reign of Selim I (1470–1520).

As territories of the Mamluk Sultanate, the Hejaz, including Jeddah and the holy city of Mecca, passed into Ottoman possession.

The Ottomans rebuilt the weak walls of Jeddah in 1525 following their victory over the Lopo Soares de Albergaria's (c. 1460–c. 1520) Armada in the Red Sea.

The new Turkish wall included 6 watchtowers and 6 city gates. They were constructed to defend against the Portuguese attack:

Of the 6 gates, the Gate of Mecca was the Eastern Gate and the Gate of al-Magharibah, facing the port, was the Western Gate. The Gate of Sharif faced south. The other gates were the Gate of Al-Bunt, Gate of Al-Sham and Gate of Medina, facing north.

The Turks also built The Qishlah of Jeddah, a small castle for the city soldiers.

In the 19th century these 7 gates were minimized into 4 giant gates with 4 towers:

These giant gates were the Gate of Sham to the north, the Gate of Mecca to the east, the Gate of Sharif to the south, and the Gate of Al-Magharibah on the sea side.

Ahmed al-Jazzar (1720–1804), the Ottoman military man mainly known for his role in the Siege of Acre, spent the earlier part of his career at Jeddah.

In Jeddah in 1750, he killed some 70 rioting nomads in retaliation for the killing of his commander, Abdullah Beg, earning him the nickname "Jazzar" (butcher).

On 15 June 1858, rioting in the city, believed to have been instigated by a former police chief in reaction to British policy in the Red Sea, led to the massacre of 25 Christians, including the British and French consuls, members of their families, and wealthy Greek merchants. The British frigate HMS Cyclops, anchored at port, bombarded the city for 2 days and restored law and order.

13. First Saudi State and Ottoman–Saudi War

In 1802, Najdi forces conquered both Mecca and Jeddah from the Ottomans:

When Sharif Ghālib Efendi informed Sultan Mahmud II (1785–1839) of this, the Sultan ordered his Egyptian viceroy Muhammad Alī Pasha (1769–1849) to retake the city.

Muhammad Alī successfully regained the city in the Battle of Jeddah in 1813.

14. World War I and the Hashemite Kingdom

During World War I, Sharif Hussein bin Alī declared a revolt against the Ottoman Empire, seeking independence from the Ottoman Turks and the creation of a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.

King Hussein declared the Kingdom of Hejaz.

Later, Hussein was involved in war with Ibn Saud, who was the Sultan of Najd. Hussein abdicated following the fall of Mecca, in December 1924, and his son Alī bin Hussein became the new king.

15. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

A few months later, Ibn Saud, whose clan originated in the central Najd province, conquered Medina and Jeddah via an agreement with Jeddans following the Second Battle of Jeddah.

He deposed Alī bin Hussein, who fled to Baghdad, eventually settling in Amman, Jordan, where his descendants became part of its Hashemite royalty.

As a result, Jeddah came under the sway of the al-Saud dynasty in December 1925. In 1926, Ibn Saud added the title King of Hejaz to his position of Sultan of Najd.

Today, Jeddah has lost its historical role in peninsular politics after Jeddah fell within the new province of Makkah, whose provincial capital is the city of Mecca.

From 1928 to 1932, the new Khuzam Palace was built as the new residence of King Abdul Aziz in Jeddah. The palace lies south of the old walled city and was constructed under the supervision of the engineer Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden (1908–1967).

After 1963, the palace was used as a royal guest house; since 1995, it has housed the Regional Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography.

The remaining walls and gates of the old city were demolished in 1947.

A fire in 1982 destroyed some ancient buildings in the old town centre, called al-Balad, but much is still preserved despite the commercial interest to tear down old houses (Nasseef House, Gabil House) and build modern high-rise buildings.

A house-by-house survey of the old districts was made in 1979, showing that some 1000 traditional buildings still existed, though the number of structures with great historic value was far less.

In 1990, a Jeddah Historical Area Preservation Department was founded.

The modern city has expanded wildly beyond its old boundaries:

The built-up area expanded mainly to the north along the Red Sea coastline, reaching the new airport during the 1990s and since edging its way around it toward the Obhur Creek, some 27 km from the old city centre.

16. Geography

Jeddah is located in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coastal plain (called Tihāmah). Jeddah lies in the Hejazi Tihāmah region which is in the lower Hejaz mountains.

Historically, politically and culturally, Jeddah was a major city of Hejaz Vilayet, the Kingdom of Hejaz and other regional political entities according to Hejazi history books.

It is the 100th largest city in the world by land area.

17. Climate

Jeddah features an arid climate with a tropical temperature range.

Unlike other Saudi Arabian cities, Jeddah retains its warm temperature in winter, which can range from 15 °C at dawn to 28 °C in the afternoon.

Summer temperatures are extremely hot, often breaking the 43 °C mark in the afternoon and dropping to 30 °C in the evening. Summers are also quite steamy, with dew points often exceeding 27 °C, particularly in September.

Rainfall in Jeddah is generally sparse, and usually occurs in small amounts in November and December. Heavy thunderstorms are common in winter. The thunderstorm of December 2008 was the largest in recent memory, with rain reaching around 80 mm.

The lowest temperature ever recorded in Jeddah was 9.8 °C on February 10, 1993.
The highest temperature ever recorded in Jeddah was 52.0 °C on June 22, 2010.

Dust storms happen in summer and sometimes in winter, coming from the Arabian Peninsula's deserts or from North Africa.

18. Economy

Jeddah has long been a port city. Even before being designated the port city for Mecca, Jeddah was a trading hub for the region.

In the 19th century, goods such as mother-of-pearl, tortoise shells, frankincense, and spices were routinely exported from the city.

Apart from this, many imports into the city were destined for further transit to the Suez, Africa, or Europe. Many goods passing through Jeddah could not even be found in the city or even in Arabia.

All of the capitals of the Middle East and North Africa are within 2 hours flying distance of Jeddah, making it the second commercial centre of the Middle East after Dubai.

Also, Jeddah's industrial district is the 4th largest industrial city in Saudi Arabia after Riyadh, Jubail and Yanbu.

19. King Abdullah Street

King Abdullah Street is one of the most important streets in Jeddah and runs from King Fahd Road by the waterfront in the west of Jeddah to the eastern end of the city. It is famous for hosting numerous corporate offices and commercial developments.

And it also has the tallest Flagpole in the world at a height of 170 m.

This road also faced a catastrophe in 2011 when it was submerged with rainwater.

20. Tahlia Street

Tahlia Street is an important fashion and shopping street in central Jeddah. It contains many upscale department stores and boutiques. It has been renamed "Prince Mohammad bin Abdul Aziz Road" by the government, but this official name is not widely used.

The neighbourhood being very posh is perhaps one of the best spots to see supercars such as Lamborghinis and Ferraris among others. It also has many fine dining options for the gastronomes and upper classes who can afford to eat there.

21. Madinah Road

Madinah Road is an iconic and historically significant street in Jeddah. It links the Southern districts with the North, and contains the Main offices of several companies and showrooms.

The northern end of the road links to the King Abdul Aziz Int'l Airport, which is a contributing factor to heavy traffic on this road at most times during the day.

22. Religious significance

Most citizens are Sunni Muslims. The government, courts and civil and criminal laws enforce a moral code established by Sharia. A very small minority of Saudi citizens are Shia Muslims, and there is also a large foreign workforce.

The city has over 1,300 mosques.

The law does not allow other religions' buildings, books, icons and expressions of faith. However, private religious observance not involving Muslims nor offending public order and morality is sometimes tolerated.

Since the 7th century, Jeddah has hosted millions of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world on their way to Hajj:

This merge with pilgrims has a major impact on the society, religion, and economy of Jeddah. It also brings an annual risk of illness, known by locals as the 'hajji disease', a general term for various viral maladies.

23. Open-air art

During the oil boom in the late 1970s and 1980s, there was a focused civic effort led by the then city's mayor Mohamed Said Farsito to bring art to Jeddah's public areas.

As a result, Jeddah contains a large number of modern open-air sculptures and works of art, typically situated in roundabouts, making the city one of the largest open-air art galleries in the world.

Sculptures often depict traditional Saudi items such as coffee pots, incense burners, palm trees, etc.

The fact that Islamic tradition prohibits the depiction of living creatures, notably the human form, has made for some very creative, as well as bizarre, modern art.

24. Accent

The Jeddah region's distinctive speech pattern is called the Hejazi dialect; it is among the most recognizable accents within the Arabic language.

25. Old Jeddah

The Old City known as Al-Balad with its traditional multi-storey buildings and merchant houses has lost ground to more modern developments. Nonetheless, the Old City contributes to Saudi cultural identity, preserving traditional buildings.

26. Historical Jeddah

Historical Jeddah is situated on the eastern shore of the Red Sea:

From the 7th century AD it was established as a major port for Indian Ocean trade routes, channelling goods to Mecca. It was also the gateway for Muslim pilgrims to Mecca who arrived by sea.

These twin roles saw the city develop into a thriving multicultural centre, characterized by a distinctive architectural tradition, including tower houses built in the late 19th century by the city's mercantile elites, and combining Red Sea coastal coral building traditions with influences and crafts from along the trade routes.

Despite a public outcry to preserve and maintain the historic centre, very little is being done to prevent the loss of history.

Within a defensive wall that was built during Ottoman rule, the old city of Jeddah, Al-Balad, was divided into districts, or Haras, where business and trade centred around traditional souks, or market places, and khans, covered markets that were generally connected to shops.

There are also a number of Dyran (plural of Dar) or Beiut (plural of Beit) which are old houses belonging to old families that inhabited the city, and historic mosques dating as far back as the 7th century AD.

27. Landmarks

28. Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum

Founded by Sheikh Abdul Raouf Khalil in 1996, this museum not only presents the rich Islamic cultural heritage of the city but also its pre-Islamic history that goes back to 2500 years; it traces the various civilizations that inhabited the region.

Located in the downtown district, it boasts of large collection of items and artefacts belonging to the Ottoman Turks and the fishermen tribes who were the first inhabitants of the region.

29. King Fahd's Fountain

King Fahd's Fountain was built in the 1980s, can be seen from a great distance and, at 312 metres, is the highest water jet in the world according to the Guinness World Records.

The fountain was donated to the City of Jeddah by the late King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz, after whom it was named.

30. al-Rahmah Mosque

Sometimes referred to as the floating mosque because of it being built above water, this fascinating mix of the old architecture and the new was built in 1985. It is a popular spot among tourists and natives looking to lounge by the seaside.

31. King Saud Mosque

The largest mosque in the city. Built in 1987, it displays beautiful Islamic architecture.

32. Jeddah Flagpole

The King Abdullah Square on the intersection of Andalus Road with King Abdullah Road has the world's tallest flagpole. It is 171 metres high and the Saudi flag atop it weighs 570 kilograms.

On the 84th Saudi Arabia National Day, September 23, 2014, the flagpole hoisted a huge Saudi flag before a crowd of thousands. The flagpole succeeded Dushanbe Flagpole as the tallest flagpole in the world.

33. Entrance of Mecca

Bab Makkah, also known as Mecca Gate, is a limestone coral gateway that leads into the historic Al-Balad district of Jeddah.

The Mecca Gate, named the "Quran Gate", is located 60 km outside Jeddah on the Makkah Mukarramah road of the Jeddah - Mecca Highway. It is the entrance to Mecca and the birthplace of Muhammad ().

The gate signifies the boundary of the haram area of the city of Mecca, where non-Muslims are prohibited to enter.

The gate was designed in 1979 by an Egyptian architect, Samir Elabd, for the architectural firm IDEA Centre. The structure is that of a book, representing the Quran, sitting on a rehal, or book stand.

34. Jeddah Waterfront

The new waterfront was inaugurated November 2017. It spans a huge area on the Red Sea.

It has many facilities, including: swimming beaches, huts, floating marina dock, washrooms, restaurants, parks, dancing fountains, playgrounds and access to Wi-Fi.

35. Education

36. Schools, colleges and universities

As of 2005, Jeddah had 849 public and private schools for male students and another 1,179 public and private schools for female students.

The medium of instruction in both public and private schools is typically Arabic, with emphasis on English as a second language. However, some private schools administered by foreign entities conduct classes in English:  

These include 10+ Indian schools following the CBSE board of education system, several Pakistani and Bangladeshi schools as well.

As of 2005, Jeddah also had 4 Philippine international schools, with 2 more scheduled to open shortly afterward.

37. Libraries

The Central Library at King Abdulaziz University (main branch) is a 5-storey building that has a large collection of Arabic and English language books, rare books and documents as well as access to several online databases:

It is open for public access and allows borrowing of books after requesting a library card. Saturdays are dedicated for female visitors.

King Abdulaziz Public Library is a philanthropic institution which was founded and supported by the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, chairman of its board of directors:

Established in 1985, the library was officially opened by the King on 27 February 1987. It emphasises Islamic and Arabic heritage and history of the Kingdom. The library is divided into 3 branches (men's, women's, and children's).

The limited number of libraries is criticized by the public. As a result, King Abdullah, has approved the King Abdullah Project for the Development of Public Libraries, and approximately SAR 150 million is budgeted to be spent.

38. Transport

39. Airport

Jeddah is served by King Abdulaziz International Airport.
The airport has 4 passenger terminals:

One is the Hajj Terminal, a special outdoor terminal covered by large white tents, which was constructed to handle the more than 2 million pilgrims who pass through the airport during the Hajj season.

The Southern Terminal is used by Saudia and Flynas (both based in Saudi Arabia), while the Northern Terminal serves foreign airlines.

A plan for the extension of the airport is being developed.

The Royal Terminal is a special terminal reserved for VIPs, foreign kings and presidents, and the Saudi royal family. A portion of the airport, King Abdullah Air Base, was used by Coalition B-52 heavy bombers during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

Prior to King Abdulaziz Airport opened in 1981, Kandara Airport served Jeddah. It was at Kandara, a neighbourhood very near the town centre:

However, the old Jeddah airport experienced heavy congestions, especially during hajj seasons. After the airport became defunct, the area was redeveloped for housing.

40. Seaport

The Jeddah Seaport is the 32nd busiest seaport in the world as of 2008. It handles the majority of Saudi Arabia's commercial movement.

41. Roads and rails

Highway 40, which begins in Jeddah, connects the city to Mecca, Riyadh and Dammam on the east coast.

Jeddah does not have any rapid transit system, but a rail system connecting the city to Riyadh is now under construction. The Haramain High Speed Rail Project will provide a connection to Mecca and Medina.

There is a contracted plan to build an extensive light metro system known as the Jeddah Metro, throughout the city by 2020.

Jeddah's main highways run parallel to each other.