Arabian Summer: Guide To Jeddah And Around

From diving in the stunning Red Sea to exploring the historical gems of Jeddah, experience the best of Saudi this summer
Historical Rawashin buildings of Al Balad
Historical Rawashin buildings of Al Balad

A stunning coast, thrilling adventures, sweeping views and a vibrant city life—what's not to love about a destination that offers all that and more? If that is what you are craving this summer, Saudi is ready to sweep you off the floor. Often overlooked by holidayers this time of the year, Saudi promises a long list of unique experiences that are hard to find anywhere else. Whether you are a history buff who is always on the lookout for a fascinating tale behind the cities of today, a lover of all things adventure, or both, Saudi is one place where you can check off everything from your bucket list. Moreover, given its reputation for being one of the safest destinations in the world, a holiday in this offbeat gem truly lets you relax and unwind. If you are wondering where to begin, we have handpicked the top experiences across Jeddah and nearby destinations to help you plan a summer holiday you will remember for ages to come.

A Historical Trail Through Jeddah

Pictures and words barely do justice to Jeddah's beauty. Nestled by the azure Red Sea, crisscrossed by historical alleyways, and lit up by shiny high-rises, Jeddah brilliantly captures the spirit of Saudi, making it a fitting starting point for your discovery of the Kingdom.

Start your journey by making your way to the stunning Al Balad, the city's historic district and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Located on the Red Sea's eastern shore, Al-Balad (meaning "The Town" in English) was established in the 7th century AD as a major port town of the Indian Ocean trade route.  The town was also a gateway for the pilgrims making their way to Makkah. Although the district's historical significance now only exists in lores, it has been immaculately preserved for those who want to learn more about the country's past.

Walking through the district is like travelling through time, with houses as old as 400 years lining the narrow lanes, featuring traditional architectural elements like the intricate Roshan balconies. While every corner of the district is a beautiful remembrance of its majestic past,  there's much more for visitors to do in and around. Start by visiting one of the few ancient houses, such as Bait Nassif, a uniquely designed house in the late 1800s by a Turkish architect, which now houses the Jeddah Museum, the 420-year-old Bait Matbouli; or Bait Nour Wali, a traditionally designed Hijazi merchant's home that gives one an idea of Jeddah's ancient architecture known as Rawashin. Besides these, you must visit the Al Shafei Mosque, a unique Ottoman-style mosque with a beautiful minaret. The district also houses Jeddah's second-largest mosque, Al-Mimar, featuring an ancient well made of Al-Mangabi Stones excavated from the ‎Red Sea. For those looking to pick up souvenirs, there's no better place in Jeddah than Alawi Market on Qabil Street, Souq Al Badu‎ Market, or the individual markets of Barhat Al Shagara and Al Khaskeya. Here, you can pick up precious stones, Hijazi attires and other handmade crafts.

Couple shopping at Souq Al Badu‎ Market
Couple shopping at Souq Al Badu‎ Market

Once you are done shopping, Al Balad also presents the choicest restaurants where you can sample traditional Arabic dishes. The most popular spots around are Baisi Ras Al Mandi, perfect for a relaxed atmosphere; the 200-year-old "Al-Saidi Furn" bakery; and the 100-year-old "Furn Al-Sheikh" bakery.

Another fantastic spot in Jeddah for getting that quintessential Instagram click is the King Fahd Fountain. Known to be the tallest fountain in the world, this iconic landmark was built between 1980 and 1983 and is visible from miles away. For the best view, make your way there during sunset. The fountain is located close to the city's oldest Italian restaurant, Caffe Aroma, where you can drop in after a walk around the corniche for a delicious dinner.

A 3D sign for Jeddah on the Jeddah Corniche
A 3D sign for Jeddah on the Jeddah Corniche

Magic By The Sea

Given that the Red Sea is within close reach, it is impossible to visit Jeddah and not explore the magical marine life. Start by visiting the Fakieh Aquarium, where you can see up to 200 species, among which 85 per cent are unique to the city's ecosystem, and even penguins. If travelling with kids, the aquarium always proves to be a hit. However, if you are more adventurous and would love an underwater experience, Jeddah presents that opportunity, too, at the coast of Sharm Obhur.

This tranquil coastal part of the city is home to several luxurious resorts and is a magnet for thrill-seekers wanting to go diving, jet-skiing, or even those looking to spend a laidback time by the ocean. If you want to go diving, you can check out several PADI dive centres before visiting. Sailing and fishing is another offbeat but traditional activity you must try at Obhur. Many operators at Obhur will rent out boats or organise fishing tours for you.

couple walking through the glass tunnel at Fakieh Aquarium
couple walking through the glass tunnel at Fakieh Aquarium

Day Trips From Jeddah

While Jeddah's historical allure will mesmerise you, venturing beyond the city will only add more magic to your trip. Given Saudi's smooth connectivity, exploring the nearby gems on day trips only gets easier. Take advantage of the high-speed Haramain train that takes you to the world's first Islamic capital, Al-Madinah. Established in the 6th century BC and known as the place where Muhammad established the Muslim community, the city is steeped in heritage that echoes across its many historical sites. On a day trip, the best way to ensure you don't miss out on the most significant sites is to go sightseeing on the Hop-On Hop-Off double-decker bus. The bus has green and red routes, covering all the city's major highlights. If you are short on time, the green line stops at the grand Al-Masjid an-Nabawi, also known as the Prophet's Mosque, as this is where Prophet Muhammad used to live and is buried.

Moreover, this mosque is known to be Islam's second largest and holiest site. While visitors are not allowed inside the premises, the grand architecture and the aura are worth catching a glimpse of from the outside. The next stop on the green line is the Al Baquee cemetery, the resting place of Prophet Muhammad's family members. You can even catch a breathtaking view of the Prophet's Mosque from here.

Choose the red line for a more convenient route to cover more sites around the holy city. The essential stops on this route are the grounds of the Uhud Battle, where the Prophet defended Madinah's invasion with an army of 700; Masjid al-Qiblatayn Mosque, where the Prophet received the command to change the direction of the prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca; and the pristine Quba Mosque, considered to be the world's first mosque dating to the 7th century. The red bus operates all year long and has flexible timings, running every 30 minutes so you can explore the sites at your own pace. For tickets and timings, refer here.

Another fantastic idea for a day trip from Jeddah is the King Abdullah Economic City, an hour away by road. Located on the coast of the Red Sea and shaped by the vision to create a future-forward destination, KAEC offers a contrasting experience to the heritage-rich Jeddah. With diverse recreational offerings, KAEC offers something for everybody and is an absolute blast if you are travelling with young ones and family members of different ages. But even if you go solo, KAEC brings just the right mix of fun and relaxation. The top favourite attractions are the Juman mini golf course and the 700-metre karting track. However, if you want to simply enjoy the coastal breeze, the spotless shore of Bay La Sun is just the right place. Since sustainability is a top priority in this modern hub, a great way to see the city's best spots is to rent an electric scooter or bike via Hop On.

Art Installation on the Jeddah Art Promenade
Art Installation on the Jeddah Art Promenade

The Information

Getting There: Regular flights connect major Indian cities like Mumbai and New Delhi to Jeddah. Saudi Arabia has simplified its visa process for Indians, offering multiple visa options.

Visa Process: Obtaining an e-visa or Visa-on-Arrival is now a seamless process. Travellers can simply submit the necessary documents and undergo biometric enrolment on the official platform.

Eligibility: Clients must possess a valid tourist or business visa from the US, UK, or any Schengen country, along with stamped proof of entry from the issuing country.

Things To Keep In Mind

  • In the summer months, the temperature can reach 45 degrees Celsius in the afternoon. However, early mornings and evenings are pleasant, offering the best weather to explore the ocean.

  • Dress modestly and adhere to the accepted dress code. When visiting mosques, carry a scarf.

  • Note that certain shops close during prayer times, so plan your visits accordingly.

  • The currency used in Saudi is the Saudi Riyal. According to the current exchange rate, SAR 1 equals INR 22.26. You can exchange currencies at the airport or banks.

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