Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
On the Red Sea, Jeddah is gateway to Mecca, the birthplace of Islam and a required pilgrimage for the able-bodied faithful. The second largest urban center of Saudi Arabia, Jeddah provides a good look at the contrasts of life in a modern country where society is still organized strictly according to Islamic customs. For instance, all business activities and markets cease and are closed five times a day for prayer. Life here, however, is more liberal and cosmopolitan than most other places in this country, possibly because of its dual role as a sea port and as a destination for traveling Muslims, whose cultural sharing has impacted Jeddah.
The city has many historical buildings, and several nice museums worth exploring, such as the Regional Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography, formerly a palace but now the home of Stone Age artifacts and other mementoes from pre-Islamic cultures. Other attractions include the Jeddah fountain, where sea water jets nearly 900 feet into the air to create the world’s tallest fountain.
A busy city with nice beaches and excellent shopping, Jeddah hosts a variety of festivals, art exhibitions and musical performances. During the festivals, 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, but the prices are reasonably cheap. The city also has a great shopping district on Tahlia Street, where the designer labels illustrate how this city is experimenting with contemporary culture.