Jeddah at a Glance
Living in JeddahiStockphoto
Some fortifications from the Ottoman period belong to Jeddah’s local sights.
Sometimes, expats-to-be are a little skeptical as far as life in Jeddah is concerned. Both the extreme climate and the rules that regulate public behavior make living there seem somewhat off-putting to the outsider. However, while expatriate life in Jeddah is indeed a bit quiet, it is far from dull.
Living in Jeddah: Compound Life
First, as we have mentioned in our guide on moving to Jeddah, living in Jeddah’s expat compounds is a fairly luxurious affair. Most upscale residential areas for foreigners have a number of amenities, especially sports grounds – and satellite TV for the couch potatoes. Furthermore, those compounds are off limits to Saudi Arabia’s religious police. So this is where expatriates living in Jeddah come for the local nightlife. Every weekend there is usually a party in at least one compound. Rumor has it that even alcohol flows freely when there are non-Muslim expats celebrating. Although alcoholic beverages are outlawed in Saudi Arabia, this does not appear to deter people from brewing moonshine or purchasing smuggled booze.
If partying isn’t your cup of tea, the compounds offer plenty of other opportunities for socializing. Particularly expat women living in Jeddah are often grateful for the new circle of friends they provide. Since many women are traveling spouses without a work permit, they can spend much of the day together, e.g. to organize a club based on mutual interests. Compound life in Jeddah offers the chance to find a language-learning partner for Arabic classes, other music lovers for an a cappella ensemble, or whatever you want. Nonetheless, it’s important to get out of the compound every now and then, to avoid a sudden case of “cabin fever”.
Life in Jeddah: Sports and Events
In comparison to Riyadh, Jeddah has the advantage of being located on the beautiful Red Sea coast. Sports enthusiasts living in Jeddah’s expat circles will rejoice. In addition to golfing and horse riding, fishing, sailing, water skiing, and wind surfing are all practiced here. Ask at the marina, a beach club, or a private seaside resort where you can find the best offers for your favorite sport. Just like compounds, a few resorts cater to well-off foreigners living in Jeddah: here expatriate women can shed the abaya to play beach volleyball or bronze in the sun. While you are living in Jeddah, you should try diving at least once. Even though the area suffers from some pollution, the Red Sea still has a fascinating eco-system: among the coral reefs, you might spot a whaleshark, a manta ray, or a triggerfish.
When it comes to cultural life in Jeddah, you should remember to check out the city’s many consulates. They often host cultural evenings and festivities, such as a party for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee at the British Consulate or the 2011 Asian Film Festival organized by the Japanese, Sri Lankan, and Brunei Consulates. Occasionally, international companies based in Jeddah come up with promotional events that are accessible to the public. For instance, Lufthansa recently invited to the German-Bavarian Food Festival – just without the traditional beer and roast pork (which would obviously not be halal).
Living in Jeddah: Dining and Sightseeing
Going out to enjoy a good dinner is really popular among those living in Jeddah: some people like to quip that dining and shopping are Saudi Arabia’s national hobbies. For both, there are lots of opportunities in Jeddah. Fans of international cuisines will find various restaurants in Jeddah: Chinese, French, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, Lebanese, Thai, Turkish, and US American meals are within easy reach. Of course, you should make sure to taste some seafood specialties as well.
But life in Jeddah has a lot more going on than its many delicious eateries: pay an early visit to the local fish market; explore the Corniche with its numerous open-air sculptures; take your kids to a theme park or an ice rink (!); stroll through a souq in Al-Balad, the old center of town; or book a guided camping trip to the Arabian Desert. If you really need a break from living in Jeddah once in a while, Istanbul and Dubai are just a short flight away.