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Jeddah - London - Bristol

Our last day in Saudi Arabia

View Saudi Arabia 2022 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After a delicious breakfast of labneh and bread, we meet George (the local agent who arranged the trip here in Saudi, who has flown in from Riyadh), and the Jeddah guide Abir. We discuss how the trip so far has gone, any challenges we have faced, and all the good points of the journey. By mutual agreement, we decide to cancel this morning’s tour of Jeddah, as my stomach is still not very good after yesterday’s messy incident.

While I return to bed, David goes off on foot to the local mini-market, to use up some of the cash we have left – only to find they do not accept cash, it is a strictly card-only business.

The view of Jeddah from our bedroom window

Mid-afternoon Abir returns with Bacha, our driver, to start the guided tour of the city.

Jeddah is a modern city, and has a much more relaxed and friendly feel to it than Riyadh did. We take an instant liking to the place. Everything is grand and supersized, as is fitting for such a rich nation.

The Globe Roundabout
This sculpture by the Spanish artist Julio La Fente, was created in 1971, and is placed in the middle of a road junction.


Jeddah Corniche
For 62 kilometres along the seafront, the seagull-themed promenade swirls around the bays and rocky shores, providing an area for walking, meeting friends, and taking selfies.


Artistically shaped seagulls adorn all the street furniture on the corniche


Mobile phone charging station



Outdoor Sculpture Museum
Like the globe, these works of art used to be displayed on a roundabout, but when the city was expanded, they were moved to a park on the corniche.



Al Ballad Old Town
This UNESCO-inscribed district of Jeddah is undergoing major restoration work.

The old city gate dates from 1507


Abir organises a golf buggy to take us around the streets of the old town.

Safi, our handsome buggy driver

Most of the inhabitants left in the 1950s and 60s, now the buildings are mostly rented out to immigrants from Yemen and India.



The restoration work is carried out using the original coral stone.


The higgledy-piggledy buildings are affectionately known as ‘dancing houses’. The titling is a result of shallow foundations – mostly just around a metre deep.


Each house is different.



The blue is a result of the mayor travelling to Tunisia and falling in love with the town of Sidi Bou Said

The balconies are constructed of teak from India.


650 houses have been restored so far.


Shafee Mosque
The mosque is said to be 1422 years old, but was renovated some 500 years ago.


Whereas the minaret is a mere 820 years old.


It is the only mosque in Saudi Arabia where we, as non-Muslims, have been allowed to enter. Abir contacts the Imam who opens it up, especially for us.



In front of the Mihrab, there is a vacuum cleaner left, but Abir managed to magically summon a janitor, who removes it for my photos. This woman has contacts in all the right places.




We struggle to open the door to get out onto the road on the opposite side of the courtyard from where we entered. Again Abir knows just who to call for assistance.

QR codes get everywhere!

Electric scooters are available for hire, and for some reason, it amuses me to see an Arab lady in full abaya, hejab and niqab, wearing a bright yellow jerkin as she zips along the streets on one of the machines.



Many of the old buildings have been converted into shops, selling leather goods, jewellery and spices.







The top of the sandals is made from goat leather, whereas the sole comes from the skin of a camel



The cannon was left by the Portuguese at the end of the 15th century, when they failed to capture the city.


As the lights fade, we enter one of the old buildings that used to be a private home, but is now open to the public.



In the living room, we are offered dates and coffee, while Abir shows off some of the items left behind from the old days.




We also enter a second house (mainly to use their facilities), which is now occupied by a lovely art gallery.



The home had three entrances at that time: one for men, one for women and the last was the entrance to the office. This is the one we use.

Abir on the steps of the ladies' entrance.

As we say our goodbyes to Al Balad (the whole old city is closing to visitors this evening, we are not quite sure why), the sky is painted in a gorgeous orange colour by the sunset.


On our way to the restaurant, we stop at the corniche again, in a different place this time, to see what is claimed to be the world’s highest fountain, at 320 metres.



Jeddah also boasts the world’s highest flag pole and the biggest LED billboard.


Tofareva Restaurant
As with so many places in this country, the menu is accessed via a QR code, which is useless when you don’t have a mobile signal and the restaurant doesn’t offer free wifi. We let Abir order for us.


This is said to be one of the most popular restaurants in the city, well known for its excellent traditional local food. The setting is unusual to say the least, with chairs and tables made of plastic wood, bare concrete floors, benches and a long bar in the centre (presumably for standing-only customers.


Jareesh: slowed cooked wheat with vegetables and tomato sauce, a speciality of the house. This is my favourite!

Stuffed vegetables - not keen on this


The trio of desserts is known as “A Must”, as it is so well known, and so delicious, that you MUST try it!

Left = Lutus biscuit cheesecake, middle = pomegranate pudding, right is angel hair pasta with rose water

It is all washed down with this delightful, if rather vibrant, freshly made mint drink.


At the airport Bacha finds us a porter for the luggage and a wheelchair for me, which I am very grateful for, as it is a long walk through to the check in. We say our tearful goodbyes to Bacha, who has become a good friend during our journey through the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia together.

After depositing our luggage and getting our boarding cards, there is a second check-in where all the passengers in front of us have their carry-on weighed and measured, whereas they just wave us straight through. Immigration checks do not throw up any problems, neither does the second passport check. Security, on the other hand, is a real pain. My camera bag is taken aside and everything has to be taken out of it before it is scanned through again. The same thing happens with my rucksack.

From there, the porter takes us in a tiny lift, down long corridors, on a train, more lifts, and along a travellator to reach the gate, where we wait for some time for staff to get the boarding organised. Again, we are just ushered straight through security, while others have themselves and their luggage X-rayed.

The plane is full, cramped and very uncomfortable, but it is only a six hour flight, and I manage to sleep for a while, and we make it home in one piece.

Thank you so much to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this fascinating and thoroughly enjoyable trip to a little-visited nation. Tourism is in its infancy here, so if you enjoy visiting unusual places, Saudi should definitely be on your list!


Posted by Grete Howard 21:59 Archived in Saudi Arabia Tagged mosque sunset fountain flight airport security billboard old_town scooter cannon departure immigration wheelchair restoration saudi jeddah corniche middle_east hummus saudi_arabia abaya hijab ksa undiscovered_destinations mirhab check_in jareesh the_globe_roundabout jeddah_corniche sculture sculpture_park outdoor_sculpture_park al_ballad city_gate golf_buggy shafee_mosque qr_code vacuum_cleaner electric_scooter hiqab water_fountain led_billboard worlds_largest worlds_tallest_water_fountain world-stallest_fountain worlds_largest_led_billboard tofareva tofareva_restaurant passport_control jeddah_airport saudia_airways

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