City - Jeddah
Jeddah, the major urban center of western Saudi Arabia, borders on the Red Sea and the Al-Sarawat Mountains. With a population of 3.4 million--second only to that of the capital, Riyadh—it is the principal gateway to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city. The city has several shopping malls and football stadiums, and innumerable restaurants of all cuisines–including American fast food. Scuba diving is a popular recreational activity, and a great way to explore the magnificent flora and fauna of the Red Sea; for family fun, there is a wonderful water park at Sail Island.
The city has two English-language newspapers, the Saudi Gazette and Arab News. The top tourist spots include: al-Balad, the old city itself, Souq al-Alawi, a busy market street of the old city, Naseef House, the former home of a famous trading family, the King Fahd Fountain, Tahliya, the main shopping street, and the Gold Souq (market), where one can bargain for gold. The King Abdulaziz International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the world. Though Jeddah does not have a rapid transit system, taxis are generally inexpensive.
Rental cars are available and—not surprisingly—gasoline is very inexpensive. Buses and boats, while not practical for transportation, afford enjoyable ways of touring the city. Jeddah has several colleges and universities.
There are a large number of public and private schools that teach English as a second language, and several private international schools where English is the primary language. As in all Saudi cities, there are rules that visitors should be aware of: alcohol and narcotics are banned; restaurants have separate sections for single men and for families; women are required to wear the abaya, a long black over garment; and men cannot wear shorts. In addition, all business activities stop and markets close during prayer times. The weather in Jeddah remains warm in the winter (between 59 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit), and is quite hot in the summer.
Jeddah has several cultural attractions: the tallest fountain and the largest open-air sculpture gallery in the world, a dozen museums and art collections, and a unique grouping of historic houses made of coral. The Jeddah Corniche is a beautiful seaside avenue along the beach, surrounded by many fine hotels. On the whole, Jeddah—the most cosmopolitan of Saudi Arabian cities—has much to offer a western teacher with an appetite for culture.