Al Wahba Crater

Planning Your Trip

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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.

Jeddah Red Sea - Underwater
Jeddah Red Sea - Underwater
Planning Your Trip
What to Pack

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.

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.
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.  
Planning Your Trip
What To Reserve

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Welcoming experience throughout the year in this stunning setting of Jeddah city ? from Mountains to Sea. Truly enjoy the stunning location, exceptional hospitality and wonderful guest experience at The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah.
Welcoming experience throughout the year in this stunning setting of Jeddah city ? from Mountains to Sea. Truly enjoy the stunning location, exceptional hospitality and wonderful guest experience at The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah.
Planning Your Trip

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.

  • Market Days. Jeddah’s known as “The Bride of the Red Sea,” and every day the morning catch goes on sale starting at 5 a.m. at Central Fish Market. Everything from blue crabs to squid is sold by the kilo — but no photos are allowed, owing to the market’s proximity to the Coast Guard and port. Watch the hubbub, then walk down the Corniche to one of the breakfast spots with a more relaxed pace and diverse menu.

  • Worship on Water. The white marble mosque on the North Corniche is built atop pillars that disappear underwater at high tide, which is why it’s called the Floating Mosque. The sights along the Corniche are particularly splendid at sunrise.

  • Art Walk. See more than two dozen sculptures by Alexander Calder, Joan Miró, Victor Vasarely and other international artists at the open-air Jeddah Sculpture Garden. There are an estimated 600 statues throughout the city, but along the Corniche is the highest concentration — especially this garden.

  • See a Real High Flyer. The Jeddah Flagpole, the world’s tallest unsupported flagpole, stands 560 feet high in King Abdullah Square. The flag unfurled at the top is 162 feet long and 108 feet tall and weighs more than 1,250 pounds.

  • Coral Gables. Houses in the old district of Al Balad date back centuries — many are made from coral stones with palm wood supports. Meander the neighborhood to admire these relics.

  • The Mother of Civilization. Muslim lore says that after Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, Adam went to Mecca while Eve came to Jeddah, where she was eventually laid to rest in one of the oldest cemeteries in the Al Balad neighborhood. The actual tomb was neglected because of fears of idolatry, then destroyed in 1928, but visitors still gather among the rows of unmarked graves, and a small sign on the cemetery gate reads “Our Mother Eve.” 

  • Roam Royal Hallways. Camels used to carry supplies between the five stories of Bayt Nassif, built for Sheikh Omar Effendi Nassif in the late 1800s. The 106-room house became the home of King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud when he entered the city as a conqueror in 1925. It’s now a cultural center that hosts lectures and exhibitions.

  • Step Back in History. For a sense of Jeddah’s 2,500-year heritage, head to the Abdul Raouf Khalil Museum, where exhibits explain the city’s varying heritage, with different buildings devoted to Saudi, Islamic, international and public history.

  • Take the Plunge. Desert Sea Divers offers both group and private dive tours in the Red Sea and boat trips for snorkelers. Save space in your suitcase and rent the necessary equipment from the on-site dive shop before your excursion begins. 

  • Drive a Hard Bargain. Be sure to be at Souk Al Alawi at sunset, when the ululations of the call to prayer fill the market. You can find genuine Arabian jewelry and Islamic art and traditional spices and foods that make ideal mementos — and bargaining is expected. 

  • Take Your Pick. The chef’s menu at Saltz restaurant includes four or six courses creatively prepared by Chef Thomas Pendarovski, with entrées such as filet mignon with Swiss chard, shallots and chimichurri sauce, or black cod with baby vegetables and plum tomato coulis. The signature beverages are equally enticing, such as the Ibn Sina Avicenna (rose water, pomegranate sumac and chili infusion, sparkling hibiscus and cilantro soda) and the aptly named Arabian Nights (cold brew coffee with cardamom- and saffron-infused cream and date syrup).

  • Sea the World. The Fakieh Aquarium hosts dolphin shows at 7, 9 and 11 p.m. daily, and there’s even a 1 a.m. show during holidays. Saudi Arabia’s only public aquarium also houses more than 200 other species, including sharks, stingrays and seahorses. 

  • The Spray Display. King Fahd’s Fountain, the world’s largest seawater fountain, propels water more than 1,000 feet into the air — about as tall as the Eiffel Tower — at more than 230 miles per hour. After dark, more than 500 high-intensity spotlights illuminate the plume, making it a landmark day or night.

Get a Sweet Start. Maison de Zaid in the Rawdah district offers savory traditional breakfast favorites shakshuka, foul, and falafel with halloumi cheese in its Arabic platter, while its Instagram-friendly sweet breakfast dishes are drawing raves: think banana caramel French toast, and stacks of mini pancakes topped with chocolate and pistachio sauces.


An Amusing Upgrade. Families visiting Al Shallal amusement park on the Corniche need not settle for typical theme-park food. On-site Aldaya restaurant offers Lebanese favorites, including grilled mashawi, pizza-style bel ajeen, and hot and mezze, while the menu at Hainan includes Chinese specialties such as Peking duck and Cantonese shrimp. 

Tip the Scales. Cool down at Fakieh Aquarium with a “cocktail” from Blue Ocean. With these waterfront views and flavorful juice blends like the Pink Flamingo (guava, raspberry, peach and honey), you won’t even notice there’s no alcohol


Sugar Rush. Boulevard is home to some of the top designers from around the world, including Dolce & Gabbana (Italy), Loewe (Spain), Dunhill London (England) and Oscar de la Renta (New York). The luxury shopping center’s sole culinary boutique is Lebanese confectioner Patchi, whose exquisite chocolate creations and orange blossom mints would make welcome mid-spree treats for now, souvenirs for later.


Go for the Gold. Black truffles, caviar, foie gras and Kobe beef are some of the most treasured ingredients available today, and culinary adventurers will find them all in one course at Reyhana. The top layer of the Royal Burger is even more magnificent: The bun has been gilded with edible gold leaf. Owing to Saudi Arabia’s diverse visitors, the restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Jeddah caters to a variety of global palates with its mix of Arabic, Asian and Mediterranean cuisines.

Royally Refreshing. King Fahd’s Fountain, one of Jeddah’s modern landmarks, is illuminated by 500 high-intensity spotlights until midnight — the better to admire the plumes of seawater that shoot to more than 1,000 feet in the air, making it the world’s tallest. For a regally fitting liquid refreshment, sip the Royal Juice/Saudi Cocktail at nearby Al Nafoura.


See Food Specials. Watch the hubbub when the morning catch goes on sale early each day at Central Fish Market, just west of the Corniche. (Leave your cameras at home; the market is near the Coast Guard and port, so photography is not allowed.)

Coffee + Culture. From the fish market it’s a quick trek to Uptown 966, where breakfast crosses cultural barriers — options include French croissants, Lebanese labneh, Cyprian halloumi cheese and eggs with Armenian sausage.


Drive a Hard Bargain. Barter your way down Gabel Street, home to one of Jeddah’s last major authentic souqs. Stock up on spices and condiments, and recuperate from the desert heat with fresh juices and teas.

Be a Lounge Act. Recharge with a late lunch or take afternoon tea at Karamel Lounge. A particularly refreshing lunch option: the pressed watermelon salad with frisée, feta cheese, candied walnuts, olive croutons and mint vinaigrette. The tea pastries and desserts are inspired by your choice of either France (macarons, Tarte Tropézienne, Paris-Brest) or Saudi Arabia (baklava, coffee date pudding, mouhalabieh). 



Chill Out. Beat the heat with smooth, icy blackcurrant sorbet or yogurt ice cream from Mövenpick. Jeddah is home to the Swiss ice cream maker’s only location in Saudi Arabia. 



Rest On Tradition. When it comes to traditional Lebanese cuisine, you can’t beat Byblos on the Corniche, which ranks among Jeddah’s most popular restaurants for its authentic dishes. Start with almond chicken croquettes with buttered garlic and coriander centers, then continue to batata harra (clay pot fried potatoes with onions, diced meat and garlic). Come with friends — most entrées are sharing-size platters — and move to the terrace for postprandial shisha.