Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. It is located on the coast of the Red Sea, is the principal seaport of Saudi Arabia, and the main entry point for foreign pilgrims who arrive to perform the annual Hajj (Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca) (or "Makkah").
The origin of the city's name is unclear, but is likely to have come from the Arabic word "Juddah" meaning "seashore". However, some say that it comes from the Arabic word for "grandmother", "Jaddah".
Jeddah started as a small fishing community over 2,500 years ago, and has grown to be a major city with a population of over 2.1 million.
In 647 AD, Caliph Osman ibn Affan was instrumental in developing Jeddah as the main port for foreign trade and travelers to Mecca. In the 16th century Turkish Ottomans turned Jeddah into a walled city to protect against foreign attacks, particularly from the Portuguese. In 1915 Jeddah became independent of Turkish rule. In 1947 much of the walls were dismantled. Today Jeddah is Saudi Arabia's main seaport where most of the country's imports arrive, and is an important industrial center.
Jeddah's climate is humid and warm all year with little rainfall. The summer months can be very hot, with temperatures averaging about 100 degrees, although the sea breezes help to cool the city. Due to the hot weather many resident's homes are designed to be tall to catch the breezes and have areas for sleeping on the roofs.
People & Culture
Much of daily life in Jeddah, as in other Saudi Arabian cities, is governed by the traditions of their Islamic religion as set forth in the Qur'an. At set times during the day Muslims are called to prayer from the mosques. Businesses close during each of the five prayer times.
Jeddah, as all of Saudi Arabia, is governed by Islamic law. The legal system is called Shari’a, and is based on Islam and the Qur'an. The official language is Arabic. English is also commonly spoken in many businesses.
The United States maintains a Consulate in Jeddah, as well as in the capital city of Riyadh. Many other countries also base their embassies in Jeddah.
Certain restrictions apply to manner of dress and custom of the people, especially for women. Clothing follows Muslim tradition, so women wear the hijab, a garment which covers the body except for the hands and face.
The official Saudi Arabian paper money called the Riyal is used in Jeddah. The exchange rate fluctuates but on average, the U.S. Dollar converts to approximately 3.75 Riyals.
King Abdulaziz International Airport is located in Jeddah. The airport has a very large terminal specially designed for the purpose of processing the 2 million travelers who arrive for the annual Hajj.