Explore the many traditional and modern artistic offerings of Jeddah with our special two-day itinerary that will have you exclaiming, Jeddah ghair (Jeddah is different)!
By SHIKHA SHAH
There are certain places in the world that stir the soul and inspire creativity. An erstwhile centre of trade and the gateway to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, this remarkable metropolis in Saudi Arabia boasts a unique blend of the old and new. Think modern skyscrapers, chic cafés, and contemporary art galleries standing alongside historic buildings dating back to the 7th century! Come explore the magic and mystery of this ‘Bride of the Red Sea’—
named so because of its location on the eponymous coast.
The blazing Saudi sun can be quite challenging at times. As such,
it’s preferable to spend the first half of the day indoors. One of the coolest places to begin your tour—literally and creatively—is Al Tayebat Museum. Housed in a former palace representing the Hejazi architectural style, this massive centre boasts more than 300 rooms filled with rare manuscripts, exquisite art, and ancient coins, weapons, jewels, and Islamic pottery. The displays of nomadic Bedouin life and Hejazi bridalwear are a must-see here. Steal a moment of calm at the beautiful mosque here.
It’ll probably be lunchtime by now. Head to Tofareya, a popular restaurant on Prince Sultan Road, for Arabic and Yemeni home-style fare. Begin your meal with a cup of fragrant qahwa (Arabic coffee), along with some must-try dishes—hummus altofareya (house-special hummus), meat sambousa (minced meat and date molasses stuffed pastry), and lamb mandi (rice dish cooked in a mandi spice mix). Finish with local desserts like muhalabiah (milk pudding with pomegranate jelly) or the basbousa (syrup-soaked semolina cake).
Post lunch, make your way to Jeddah’s spectacular historical district. The winding cobblestone alleyways of Al Balad (The Town), a UNESCO Heritage Site, are home to cats, souks, the city’s oldest mosque, and more than 500-year-old buildings constructed from coral limestones (Al-Mangabi stones) excavated from the Red Sea.
The profusion of intricately designed wooden latticed windows here, known as mashrabiya or rawasheen, are certain to grab your attention. For a closer look at distinctive Arabic interior design, visit
the historic Baeshan and Nassif Houses; the latter once served as the residence of King Abdulaziz, the founder of Saudi Arabia. After sunset, the streets come alive with colourful souks selling everything from fabrics, shoes, perfumes, and trinkets to spices. The sheer variety of khajoor (dates) available here will leave you stunned. Round off your first day in Jeddah with a juicy shawarma wrap from Shawarma Bu Daeij, a local eatery.
Jeddah’s location along the scenic Red Sea coast will be the highlight of your second day here. The Corniche—a picturesque promenade packed with restaurants, shopping outlets, hotels, fountains, children’s parks, beaches, and more—forms the heart of the city’s social life. A must-visit along Central Corniche is the open-air Jeddah Sculpture Museum that hosts more than 20 world-famous sculptures, including Abraj (Food for Thought) created from Hejazi aluminium pots by Saudi artist Maha Malluh. Nearby, the tranquil Hassan Enany Mosque is an excellent example of Islamic architecture.
Located in Northern Corniche, the prominent Al Rahma Mosque, also known as the Floating Mosque, makes for a wonderfully serene vision as it stretches out into the Red Sea. A 10-minute drive from Northern Corniche is Ash Shati, Jeddah’s posh residential neighbourhood boasting historian and renowned architect Dr Sami Angawi’s palatial family home, Al Makkiyah House (The Mecca House).
This stunning four-storey villa features antiques from around the globe, including a 350-year-old stone entrance from Mecca, mosaic tiles from Turkey and Morocco, gorgeous Persian rugs, and mirrors from Syria and Egypt. The beautifully designed inner courtyard is built around a pool surrounded by generous foliage. Be sure to pre-book a tour here. It’s a must-not-miss site! As daylight fades, head back to the Corniche that takes on a new aura in the evening. Find a spot across the Ritz Carlton Hotel at golden hour and marvel at the elegant silhouette of the 312-metres-high King Fahd’s Fountain. For a meal with a view, dine at Mataam Al Sharq inside the Waldorf Astoria nearby. Or, head to Khayal on Prince Sultan Road for their metre-
long Turkish kebabs! Bring your journey to a sweet end with their delectable baklava.