Jeddah (also spelled Jiddah, Jidda, or Jedda; جدّة Ǧiddah) is a Saudi Arabian city located on the coast of the Red Sea and is the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia. It is the largest city in Makkah Province, and the second largest city in Saudi Arabia after the capital city, Riyadh. The population of the city currently stands at over 3.4 million. It is considered the commercial capital of Saudi Arabia and the wealthiest city in the Middle East and western Asia.

Jeddah is the principal gateway to Mecca, Islam's holiest city, which able-bodied Muslims are required to visit at least once in a lifetime.

Residents of Jeddah are called Jeddans. Jeddah has 24 sister cities, which are selected based on economic, cultural and political criteria.

Etymology and spelling

There are at least two explanations for the etymology of the name Jeddah. According to Jeddah Ibn Helwaan Al-Qudaa'iy the chief of Quda'a clan. The more common account has it that the name is derived from Jaddah, the Arabic word for "grandmother". According to eastern folk belief, the tomb of Eve considered the grandmother of humanity, is located in Jeddah. The purported "Grave of Eve" was sealed with concrete by the religious authorities in 1975 as a result of some Muslim pilgrims breaking Islamic doctrine by praying at the site.

Ibn Battuta, The Berber traveller, visited Jeddah during his world trip. He wrote the name of the city into his diary as Juddah.

The British Foreign Office, used to use the older spelling of Jedda, contrary to other English-speaking usage -- including other branches of the British government, but in 2007 changed to the spelling Jeddah.

T. E. Lawrence felt that any transcription of Arabic names into English was arbitrary. In his book "Revolt in the Desert" Jeddah is spelled three different ways on the first page alone.

On official Saudi maps and documents, the city name is transcribed "Jeddah", which is now the prevailing usage.


The city was founded as a fishing hamlet over 2,500 years ago, but first achieved prominence in 647 A.D., when the third Muslim caliph Uthman Ibn Affan turned it into a port for Muslim pilgrims making the required Hajj to Mecca.

Jeddah was for centuries the main city of the historic Hejaz province and historic port for pilgrims arriving by sea on their pilgrimage or Hajj to Mecca.

Hejaz - including Jeddah - became a part of the Ayyubid Empire in 1177 during the leadership of Sharif Ibn Abul-Hashim Al-Thalab (1094 - 1201).

Mamluk Sultanate

In 1254, following events in Cairo, Hejaz became a part of the Mamluk Sultanate. Vasco da Gama, having in 1497 CE found his way round the Cape and obtained pilots from the coast of Zanzibar, pushed his way across the Indian Ocean to the shores of Malabar and Calcutta, attacked the fleets that carried freight and Muslim pilgrims from India to the Red Sea, and struck terror into the potentates all around. The Princes of Gujarat and Yemen turned for help to Egypt. Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri accordingly fitted out a fleet of 50 vessels under his Admiral, Hussein the Kurd. Jeddah by forced labor was soon fortified as a harbor of refuge from the Portuguese, and Arabia and the Red Sea were protected. But the fleets in the Indian Ocean were at the mercy of the enemy.

Ottoman Empire

In 1517, the Ottoman Turks conquered the Mamluk Sultanate in Egypt and Syria, during the reign of Selim I. As territories of the Mamluk Sultanate, the Hejaz, including the holy city of Mecca and Jeddah, passed into Ottoman possession. The Ottomans rebuilt the weak walls of Jeddah in 1525 following their victory over Lopo Soares de Albergaria's Armada in the Red Sea. The new Turkish wall included six watchtowers and six city gates. They were constructed to defend against the Portuguese attack. Of the six gates, the Gate of Mecca was the eastern gate and the Gate of Al-Magharibah, facing the port, the western one. The Gate of Sharif was south facing. The other gates were the Gate of Al-Bunt, Gate of Al-Sham (also called Gate of Al-Sharaf) and Gate of Medina facing north. The Turks also built the The Qishla of Jeddah, a small castle for the city soldiers. In the 19th century these seven gates were minimized into four giant gates with four towers. These giant gates were the Gate of Sham from the north, the Gate of Mecca from the east, the Gate of Sharif from the south, and the Gate of Al-Magharibah on the sea side.

First Saudi State and Ottoman-Saudi War

At 1802, Nejdi forces conquered both Mecca and Jeddah from the Ottomans, when Sharif Ghalib Efendi informed Sultan Mahmud II, the sultan ordered his Egyptian viceroy Muhammad Ali Pasha to re-take the city. Muhammad Ali successfully regained the city during Battle of Jeddah in 1813.

World War I and The Kingdom of Hejaz

During World War I, Sharif Hussein bin Ali declared a revolt against the Ottoman Empire seeking independence from the Ottoman Turks and the creation of a single unified Arab state spanning from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen.

King Hussein declared the Kingdom of Hejaz. Later, Hussein was involved in war with Ibn Saud, who was the Sultan of Nejd. Hussein resigned following the fall of Mecca, in December 1924, and his son Ali bin Hussein became the new king of the remaining soil of the Kingdom of Hejaz.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

A few months later, Ibn Saud, whose clan originated in the central Nejd province, conquered Medina, and Jeddah, via an agreement with Jeddans, following the events of the Second Battle of Jeddah. He deposed the Sharif of Hejaz, Ali bin Hussien, who fled to Baghdad, settling eventually in Amman, Jordan, where his descendants became the Hashemite royal family.

As a result, Jeddah came under the sway of the Al-Saud dynasty in December of 1925. In 1926, Ibn Saud added the title King of Hejaz to his position of Sultan of Nejd. Today, Jeddah has lost its historical role in peninsular politics, historic Hejaz province along the west coast having been subdivided into smaller provinces, with Jeddah falling within the new province of Makkah with its provincial capital at Mecca.

From 1928 to 1932 the new Khuzam Palace was built as the new residence of King Abdul Aziz in Jeddah. The palace lies south of the old walled city and was constructed under the supervision of the engineer Muhammad bin Laden. After 1963 the palace was used as a royal guest house and since 1995 houses the Regional Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography.

What was left of the walls and gates of the old city was taken down in 1947. A fire in 1982 destroyed some ancient buildings in the old town center, called the Balad, but much is still preserved despite the commercial interest to tear down old houses and build modern high rise buildings. A house by house survey of the old districts was made in 1979, showing that some 1000 traditional buildings still existed, though the number of structures with great historic value was far less. In 1990 a Jeddah Historical Area Preservation Department was founded.,

The modern city has expanded wildly beyond its old boundaries. The built up area expanded mainly to the north along the Red Sea coastline, reaching the new airport during the last decade of the last century and since edging its way around it towards the "Ob'hur Creek" some 27 kilometers from the old city center.


Most of Saudi Arabia is desert. The central region consists of an eroded plateau, mostly arid and hot in the summer and cold in the winter. The western region is mountainous, except for the coastal plain bordering the Red Sea such as the Jeddah area.

Jeddah borders the Red Sea from the west and the Al-Sarawat Mountains from the east. It has no rivers or valleys but it includes Sharm Ob'hur which connect the Red Sea to the other end of the city. Sharm of Salman (Also called Gulf of Salman) borders the city from north.


Unlike other Saudi Arabian cities, Jeddah retains its warm temperature in winter, which can range from +15 °C (59 °F) at midnight to +25 °C (77 °F) in the afternoon. Summer temperatures are considered very hot and break the +40 °C (104 °F) mark in the afternoon dropping to +30 °C (86 °F) in the evening. Rain usually falls in Jeddah in small amounts in December.

Some unusual events often happen during the year, such as dust storms in summer, coming from the Arabian Peninsula's deserts or from North Africa.

Jeddah Climatological Data
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 33 (91) 35 (95) 38 (100) 40 (104) 42 (108) 47 (117) 42 (108) 42 (108) 42 (108) 41 (106) 41 (106) 34 (93)
Average high °C (°F) 29 (84) 29 (84) 29 (84) 33 (91) 35 (95) 36 (97) 37 (99) 37 (99) 36 (97) 35 (95) 33 (91) 30 (86) 33 (91)
Average low °C (°F) 19 (66) 18 (64) 19 (66) 21 (70) 23 (73) 24 (75) 26 (79) 27 (81) 25 (77) 23 (73) 22 (72) 19 (66) 22 (72)
Record low °C (°F) 9 (48) 11 (52) 13 (55) 12 (54) 13 (55) 19 (66) 21 (70) 23 (73) 21 (70) 20 (68) 17 (63) 10 (50)
Rainfall mm (in) 5 (0.2) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 0 (0) 25 (1.0) 31 (1.2) 61 (2.4)

Pollution and environment

Air pollution remains to some degree an issue for Jeddah, particularly on the hot summer days. The city has experienced a number of bush fires, landfill fires and even pollution caused by the two industrial zones in the north and the south of Jeddah.

The water treatment factory and the seaport contribute to water pollution. However, the coast of the city can be considered safe, and of relatively clean quality.

Unlike the pollution of Mecca which may be considered to be unclean and disrespectful to the environment, Jeddah has created and enforced extremely strict environmental laws.


With a thousand years of trading behind it and home to some of the world's most successful merchants and business people, it is natural that Jeddah is the commercial capital of Saudi Arabia. In addition, the city's geographical location places it at the heart of the region covered by the Middle East and North Africa, with all their capitals within two hours flying distance, defining Jeddah as the commercial center of the Middle East.

Also, Jeddah industrial district is the third largest industrial city in Saudi Arabia after Jubail and Yanbu.

King Abdullah Street

King Abdullah Street is an important place for companies' offices and commercial developments. The street hosts some of the most powerful conglomerates in Saudi Arabia such as Emaar Middle East and Al-Farsi. Due to the economic boom in this region there is a central business district planned which would be one of the biggest CBD in the eastern world.

Tahlia Street

Tahlia Street is an important fashion and shopping street in the mid-town of Jeddah. It contains many upscale department shops, and boutiques, such as Prada, Gucci, Burberry, Chanel and Giorgio Armani. As the Champs-Élysées in Paris, Tahlia Street is believed to be the heart of Jeddah and Saudi Arabia's wealthiest district. It is also considered as one of the biggest modern shopping district in the middle east.

Major organizations headquartered in Jeddah

The city has several global major organizations such as:


Popular Saudi and foreign opinion regards Jeddah as the most liberal and cosmopolitan of Saudi cities in spite of its historic role as port and gateway to the holy city of Mecca. For over one thousand years, Jeddah has received millions of pilgrims of different ethnicities and backgrounds, from Africa, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East, many of whom remained and became residents of the city. As a result, Jeddah is much more ethnically diverse than most Saudi cities and its culture more eclectic in nature (in contrast with the more geographically isolated, homogeneous, and religiously strict capital Riyadh). Added to the traditional diversity, the oil-boom of the past 50 years has brought hundreds of thousands of working immigrants and foreign workers from non-Muslim countries, the majority originating from continents such as North America (Unites States of America), Europe (Western Europe), and Asia (South and South-East Asia); there are also many Christian Arabs from the Middle East, coming from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Palestine. However, despite the relative liberal attitude of Jeddah, none of these non-Muslims are allowed to celebrate their religion openly.


Religious significance

The vast majority of Jeddans are Sunni Muslims, with a minority of Asian, Western, and Arab Christians. There are also non-Muslim/non-Christian Asians. However, there are no non-Muslim citizens; while there are Muslims who are not citizens, all non-Muslims are resident expatriate workers. The city has over 1300 Mosques, and has no Churches, synagogues, or other types of places of worship; non-Muslims are also strictly not allowed to celebrate their religion in any way openly. However, some Filipino workers report the presence of Churches inside some Gated communities.

Since the 7th Century , Jeddah has hosted millions of Muslim pilgrims from all over the world in their way to Hajj. This merge with pilgrims has also a major impact on the society, religion, and economy of Jeddah.

There is a ban on Alcohol and Narcotics all over the Kingdom. Anyone found to be involved in usage or handling of Alcohol and Narcotics is severely punished under "Saudi Rule Of Law" (which is derived mainly from "Islamic Sharia").

All business activities and markets are closed (five times a day) during prayer times.

The Court and Justice System of Saudi Arabia follows Islamic Codes.


Jeddah residents are a mix of several different ethnicities and nationalities. This mixture of races has made a major impact on Jeddah's traditional cuisine.

Like other Saudi cities, The Nejdi Kabsa is the most traditional lunch for Jeddan people. The Yemeni Mandi is also popular as a lunch meal. The Hejazi cousine is popular as well, dishes like Mabshoor, Mitabbak, Foul, Migalgal, Kibdah, Ma'asoob can be acquired in many traditional restaurants around the city such as Althamrat, Abo-Zaid, Al-Quarmooshi, Aiyaz, and Hejaziyat .

Grilled meat has a good market in Jeddah such as Shawarma, Kofta and Kebab. During Ramadan Sambousak and Ful are the most popular meals during Dusk. These meals are almost found in Lebanese, Syrian, and Turkish restaurants.

International food is also popular in the city. American chains such as McDonald's, Burger King, Domino's Pizza and KFC, among others' are widely distributed in Jeddah, as are more upscale chains like Fuddruckers and Chili's. Chinese, Japanese, and other Eastern/Asian food are also popular. European restaurants, such as Italian and French, are also found throughout the city.

Open-air art

During the oil boom in the late 1970s and '80s, there was a focused civic effort at bringing art to Jeddah's public areas. As a result, Jeddah contains an unusually large number of modern open air sculptures and works of art, typically situated in roundabouts, which makes it to this day the largest open-air art gallery in the world. Sculptures include works by a variety of artists, ranging from the obscure to international stars such as Jean/Hans Arp, César Baldaccini, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Joan Miró and Victor Vasarely and often depict elements of traditional Saudi culture - coffee pots, incense burners, palm trees, etc. The fact that Islamic tradition prohibits the depiction of living creatures, notably the human form, has made for some very creative modern art, ranging from the tasteful to the bizarre and downright hideous. These include a mounted defunct propeller plane, a giant geometry set, a giant bicycle, and a huge block of concrete with several cars protruding out of it at odd angles.

Museums and collections

There may be about a dozen museums or collections in Jeddah. Some of these, showing a wide variety of educational aim and professionality, are the Jeddah Regional Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography run by the Deputy Ministry of Antiquities and Museums, the Jeddah Municipal Museum, the Naseef House, the private Abdul Rauf Hasan Khalil Museum and the private Arts Heritage Museum.


Jeddah is served by four major Arabic-language newspapers, Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Madina, Okaz, Al-Bilad, as well as two major English-language newspapers, The Saudi Gazette and Arab News. Okaz and Al-Madina are Jeddah's and some other Saudi cities' primary newspaper with over a million readers focusing mainly on issues that affect the city.

Jeddah is the largest radio and television market in Saudi Arabia. Television stations serving the city area include Saudi TV1, Saudi TV2, Saudi TV Sports, Al-Ekhbariya, ART channels network and hundreds of cable, satellite and other specialty television providers.

The Jeddah TV Tower is a high television tower with an observation deck at Jeddah. The tower started construction in 2006 and finished in 2007 and is a part of the new branch of Ministry of Information in Jeddah.


Jeddah hosts the oldest sport clubs in Saudi Arabia. Al-Ittihad was the first club in the country, being established in 1928.

Football is the most popular sport in Jeddah. Al-Ittihad and Al-Ahli are well known football clubs. They are major competitors in both the Saudi Premier League and the AFC Champions League. They have also won the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.

There are several public football stadiums in Jeddah, such as:


The Jeddah City area has a distinctive regional speech pattern called the Hejazi dialect, alternatively known as Meccan or Makkawi. It is often considered to be one of the most recognizable accents within the Arabic language.

Pronunciations in Hejazi differ from other Gulf dialects in some respects. The Classical Arabic qaaf (ق) is pronounced as /g/ sound, as in "get". Hijazi Arabic is also conservative with respect to the sound of the pronunciation of the letter ğim (ج), which is very close to the two sounds considered, by specialists, to be the best candidates for the way it was pronounced in Classical Arabic, namely, the voiced palatal plosive /ɟ/ and the palatalized velar stop /gʲ/.[citation needed] This stands in contrast with many dialects in the region which use /g/ or /ʒ/ for ğim instead. Some speakers replace the interdental /θ/ with /t/ or /s/.

The Hejazi dialect also contains fairly recent borrowings from other Arabic dialects, including Levantine and Egyptian Arabic.


Life in Jeddah is different from many cities in Saudi Arabia for many reasons. Firstly, Jeddah is a cosmopolitan city, more so than any other city in the country; it has many people coming from all over the world, who share their cultures. Secondly, it has many historical buildings, with traditional designs, and it has lots of buildings near the beach. It also has very nice beaches and a Corniche where people spend a very good time and relax. Also, Jeddah has the tallest fountain in the world, named King Fahd Fountain. Last but not least, it has the annual Jeddah Festival. During the festival, there are many games and activities held in the city. There are shopping sprees, water skiing competitions, art exhibitions, and music festivals. Not only that, the prices of the things that are sold there are reasonably cheap. It also has a great shopping district on Tahlia Street, with many designer names available.


Old Jeddah

The Old City with its traditional multistory buildings and merchant houses has lost ground to more modern development. However, the city's recent generations have come to appreciate its traditions more and have persevered in having many of the older buildings, such as the Nasseef House, carefully preserved.


The city has a lot of popular resorts, including Durrat Al-Arus, Crystal Resort, Al Nakheel Village, Sands, Sheraton Abhur, and many other splendid resorts. Many are renowned for their preserved Red Sea marine life and offshore coral reefs.


The increasing occupancy rates of hotels every year depends on the number of tourists and hajj pilgrims. In the last few years, Jeddah received more than 2.5 millions pilgrims per year.


One of three consulates of the United States of America in Saudi Arabia is located in Jeddah, along with consulates for 67 other countries such as United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and People's Republic of China as well as countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Arab League states.


King Fahd Fountain Jeddah's King Fahd's Fountain is a major landmark built in the 1980s and listed by the Guinness World Records organization as the highest in the world where the water jet can reach ., and can be seen from very far distances. The fountain was donated to the City of Jeddah by the late King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz which is where the name is derived.

NCB Tower Built in 1983 and believed to be the highest tower in Saudi Arabia during the 1980s, with a height over . The National Commercial Bank is Saudi Arabia's first bank.

IDB Tower The Islamic Development Bank is a multilateral development financing institution. It was founded by the first conference of Finance Ministers of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), convened 18 December 1973. The bank officially began its activities on 20 October 1975.

Jeddah Municipality Tower This is the headquarters of the metropolitan area of Jeddah, the new building of the Municipality is one of Jeddah's highest towers.


The school system in Jeddah has many public and private schools for both males and females. As of 2005, there were 849 public and private schools for males and another 1,179 public and private schools for female students. The medium of instruction in both public and private schools is Arabic with emphasis on English as a second language, but some private schools which are by foreign entities such as (International schools) use the English language for medium of instruction.

For higher education, the city has several universities and colleges. The following list includes some of them:



Jeddah is served by King Abdulaziz International Airport which is one of the world's busiest airports. The airport has four passenger terminals. One is the Hajj Terminal, a special outdoor terminal covered by very huge tents, which was constructed to handle the more than 2 million pilgrims who pass through the airport during the Hajj season. The Southern Terminal is used for Saudi Airlines flights with the Northern Terminal for foreign and other national airlines. The Royal Terminal is a special terminal for VIPs, foreign Kings and Presidents, and even the Saudi Royal Family.


Moreover, the Jeddah Seaport which is the 28th busiest seaport in the world (2005) handles the majority of Saudi Arabia's commercial movement.

Roads and rails

Jeddah does not have any rapid transit system but a current plan to connect the city to the capital, Riyadh, via a train. It is now under construction.

Modern streets connect the city parts to each other. In Jeddah the main highways run parallel to each other with a eight lane road.

Sister cities

Jeddah has 24 sister cities (aka "twin towns") which are selected based on economic, cultural and political criteria.

See also



  • Farsi, Hani M.S. (Mohamed Said): Jeddah: city of art: the sculptures and monuments. London: Stacey International, 1991. ISBN 0-905743-66-0
  • Facey, William & Grant, Gillian: Saudi Arabia by the First Photographers . ISBN 0-905743-74-1
  • Tarabulsi, Mohammed Yosuf: Jeddah: A Story of a City . 2006 - King Fahd National Liberary ,Riyadh. ISBN 9-960524-13-2
  • John F. Keane: Six months in the Hijaz : journeys to Makkah and Madinah 1877-1989. Manchester : Barzan Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-954970-11-X
  • Al-Khaldi, Ibrahim: The Bedouin Photographer - Al-Mosawwir Al-Badawi. Kuwait, 2004.
  • Badr El-Hage: Saudi Arabia : caught in time 1861-1939 1997 Published by Garnet, Reading. ISBN 1-859640-90-7
  • Captain G. S. Froster : A trip Across the Peninsula - Rehla Abr Al-Jazeera. Mombai - India, 1866.
  • From Bullard to Mr ChamberLain. Jeddah , 1925 Feb. (No.# secrets) - Archieved Post.
  • Al-Rehani: Nejd and it's followers.
  • Al-Turki, Thuraya: Jeddah: Um Al-Rakha wal Sheddah. Published by Dar Al-Shrooq.
  • Al-Harbi, Dalal: King Abdulaziz and his Strategies to deal with events : Events of Jeddah. 2003 , King Abdulaziz national library. ISBN 9-960624-88-9 .
  • Didier, Charles: Sejour Chez Le Grand-Cherif De La Mekke. Librairie De L. Hachette et, Rue Pierre.
  • Didier, Charles: Rehla Ela Al-Hejaz - A trip to Hejaz - Translated from (Sejour Chez Le Grand-Cherif De La Mekke) into Arabic. 1854, Paris. ISBN 9-960677-14-1 .

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