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Planning Your Trip

Situated on the coast of the Red Sea, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, has long served as a gateway for those on pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest site and the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad. Now, it’s a destination in and of itself, with a growing commercial hub and centuries-old landmarks. Here’s a packing guide for your trip.


Business Travel

Jeddah’s concentration of commerce and business makes it slightly more liberal than other cities in Saudi Arabia, but customs regarding dress remain very conservative. You’ll find that the expectations for attire here are vastly different than in most other parts of the world.

 

  • Women (even foreigners) may want to wear an abaya, the customary black robe, along with a headscarf. If you choose to forgo the abaya, make sure dresses are ankle-length, long-sleeved and have a high neckline.
  • Men should pack dark-colored suits, ties, long-sleeved shirts and leather dress shoes.
  • Gold chains or jewelry with crosses should be left at home or hidden underneath your clothes.
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Cultural Considerations

Jeddah is very traditional, and this is reflected in the customary clothing. Blend in with the locals more seamlessly by keeping a few tips in mind.

 

 

 

  • With all this said, there is room for creative expression. Black abayas can have intricate patterns and details, while you may add in bright colors for your headscarf (while foreigners are not expected to wear the headscarf, it’s best to have a few options just in case).
  • Men are not required to adopt Saudi style as long as their shoulders and knees are covered. Pack lightweight shirts (Jeddah is hot!) and long trousers.
  • Don’t shy away from flashy accessories. Stilettos and designer handbags won’t be a rare sight in Saudi Arabia.

Exploring the City

Whether you want to take a leisurely stroll along the Corniche, visit one of Jeddah’s many galleries, shop at the souks, or marvel at the King Fahd’s Fountain (the largest in the world), there is much to see in Jeddah.

 

 

 

  • Pack comfortable flat sandals or sneakers for walking around and touring landmarks.
  • Bring a camera. You’re going to want to capture the picturesque landscapes and ancient landmarks.
  • There is no shortage of shopping to do in Jeddah, both at the malls and among the souks. Bring an extra foldable carry-on to hold your souvenirs and new acquisitions.  

Don’t Forget:

As both the birthplace of Islam and the largest producer of petroleum in the world, Saudi Arabia is a country with a rich and storied history. To better understand its customs and traditions, consider bringing along a guidebook.


Noteworthy contemporary art galleries, a multicultural dining scene and extensive shopping options are just some of the things that make Jeddah a modern metropolis. Add in relics dating back to the sixth century B.C. and you’ve got a complete recipe for a unique experience. And the icing on the cake? There’s plenty for your kids to do, too.  

Dining Reservations

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Jeddah’s perch as both a port city and the principal gateway to Mecca makes for extremely diverse — and delicious — cuisine. At Saltz, Chef Thomas Pendarovski offers a constantly evolving tasting menu, which may feature standouts like Wagyu carpaccio and Diver sea scallops. An on-site selmelier will curate a selection of salts harvested from around the world to complement your meal. At Khayal, the biggest Turkish restaurant in the country, you can get a meter-long kebab barbecued to your taste, then finish your meal with an Ottoman kunafa dessert. For authentic Lebanese cuisine, head to Byblos, and for traditional Middle Eastern fare, take a cue from the locals and go to Al Nakheel.

Day Trips

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Take a break from the sky-high buildings and immerse yourself in the history of Jeddah by visiting Al-Balad, the old part of town and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here you’ll find preserved ancient ruins and Hijazi architecture, like the Nasseef House, the oldest residence in Jeddah, which was converted into a museum in 2009. On a clear day, have your concierge book a private boat tour on the Red Sea where you can spot spectacular marine life and admire Jeddah’s soaring cityscape. Finally, you can’t leave the Middle East without a trip to the surrounding deserts — ask the concierge at The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah to help you plan an expedition.

Museum Tickets & Cultural Sights

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Jeddah’s charming streets are dotted with a wide selection of contemporary art galleries that showcase Saudi artists and bring international renown. One of the most important institutions is the Athr Gallery, which exhibits photographs, drawings, sculptures and abstract work. Another must-stop, the Arabian Wings Gallery, occupies a large space in the tony Al Khayyat shopping district and is known for exhibiting both homegrown and international heavy hitters, like Damien Hirst and Banksy. And don’t miss the Instagram-worthy outdoor Jeddah Sculpture Museum on the Corniche, where giant masterpieces by Miró, Calder and Jean Arp are set against the pretty backdrop of the Red Sea.

Children’s Activities


Lucky for you, several malls in Jeddah have separate areas in which children can play. A dolphin and sea lion show is the main draw at Fakieh Aquarium, along with the more than 200 species (like sharks, sea horses and stingrays) on-site. For the ultimate in family fun, head to the massive Al Shallal Theme Park. There are roller coasters and arcade games, along with skating rinks and an Amazon jungle ride complete with life-sized animal figures and special effects.

Jeddah, the cultural capital of Saudi Arabia, is the nation’s gateway for not only the legions of Muslim faithful making a pilgrimage to Mecca but also business executives from around the world who’ve come to close deals in this thriving, oil-rich country. Historic monuments commemorate a heritage that reaches back thousands of years, while gleaming skyscrapers help define the successful direction of the city’s future. Here, souks and shopping malls alike are bustling destinations, and international influences are broadening the range of culinary and entertainment options for visitors. A new era has truly begun, and it’s one worth exploring soon.


24 Hours In

Jeddah is Saudi Arabia’s beguiling gateway for millions of pilgrims en route to Mecca, as well as traders and business executives arriving for meetings in what has become Saudi Arabia’s commercial capital. These visitors are greeted by a diverse array of attractions, including ancient structures with histories that stretch back thousands of years. 

 

 

 

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Culinary Tour

Arabian cuisine and culture are grounded in the area’s nomadic roots and Islamic principles — Saudi Arabia is, after all, home to Mecca, the origin and spiritual center of the religion. The port city of Jeddah, the country’s commercial capital, has a particularly diverse population of expatriates, immigrant workers and visiting business executives; as a result, the city’s culinary offerings have expanded beyond the local into the global. 

 

 

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