The City of Jeddah (Arabic) has been, for centuries, a busy trading city and seaport. Its cosmopolitan and diverse population attests to that long history. As an important commercial and government center for Saudi Arabia, it also contains many fine restaurants, cafes, and shopping areas. The Jeddah Islamic Port Cornice (or waterfront area) is the largest in the country, attracting many hotels, resorts, and beaches. Much of the Jeddah Islamic Port and the city hug the Red Sea coast.
Jeddah Islamic Port is also the air and sea gateway for the devout making their Hajj pilgrimage to the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina. (Mecca is just over 60 kilometers to the east-southeast, and Medina is about 320 kilometers to the northeast.)
The most popular tourist attraction in Jeddah Islamic Port is Al-Balad, or Old Town. While the ancient city wall long ago disappeared, the old gates still stand. This 2500-year-old area contains many ancient buildings, traditional markets, and the houses made of coral for which Jeddah is famous. Because coral is not very durable, most of them are in shambles, but they are still fascinating. In Al-Balad, visitors find an enchanting blend of old and new. Glass skyscrapers stand next to venerated buildings with horizontal wooden beams. Al-Balad is also a wonderful place to shop, whether it be from street vendors, at traditional open-air souks (markets), or at high-priced boutiques and department stores. In the heart of the Jeddah Islamic Port is Souq al-Alawi, the busy market street lined with coral houses.
The Jeddah Islamic Port’s Corniche stretches almost 100 kilometers along the Red Sea coast. The three-part Corniche is a very popular tourist attraction and the pride of the city. The Corniche contains what may be the world’s highest fountain, the magnificent King Fahad Water Spring. The Corniche also contains a wide range of recreational and cultural opportunities. An open art gallery contains many sculptures and works of modern art, but sculptures also line the esplanade. The beach is wonderful during the day, and the Corniche is aglow at night with bright lights and plenty of activity. The Jeddah Corniche is a definite must-see for visitors to the Jeddah Islamic Port.
The City of Jeddah has undertaken an ambitious project of preserving and revitalizing the city’s historic section to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the re-capture of Riyadh by King Abdul Aziz ibn Abdul Rahman Al-Saud. Inhabited for three thousand years, the city has long been the center of marine and land trade routes and an important stop for pilgrims on their way to Mecca or Medina. Centuries of commercial activity made many city residents wealthy, and that wealth was reflected in their homes. Yet, for many years (until 1925), the city covered an area under one square mile within a protective wall. One of the most historically important structures among the 200 selected for restoration is the 1972 Bayt Naseef (Naseef House). The house contains over 100 rooms on four levels. King Abdul Aziz stayed here when he arrived in Jeddah Islamic Port in 1925. The house has been restored and converted into a museum. The foundation and walls are all coral taken from the seashore or nearby hills. The floors were laid with unhewn wooden poles covered with palm matting and mortar. The Naseef House has superb exterior woodwork, and its windows are openings covered with wooden grills, allowing air to circulate freely while maintaining the residents’ privacy.
Travelers who want to visit Jeddah Islamic Port and the city of Jeddah can find a list of scheduled cruises on the Cruise Compete website.