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Moving to Jeddah?

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Javier Vazquez

Living in Saudi Arabia, from Mexico

"I met some great Mexican people to spend my after-work hours with, so I immediately felt at home here in Jeddah."

Ava Sneijders

Living in Saudi Arabia, from USA

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Jeddah at a Glance

Moving to Jeddah

Are you planning on moving to Jeddah? As Saudi Arabia doesn’t have a secular tourism industry, you may not know very much about the gateway to the Holy Cities. The InterNations Expat Guide provides an overview of what relocating to Jeddah entails. We introduce the city, visa options, and housing.

After moving to Jeddah, you will be living in one of the most important cities in the Middle East, as far as religion and commerce are concerned. Jeddah, the “Bride of the Red Sea”, is located between that inlet of the Indian Ocean and the Al-Sarawat Mountains of the Arabian Peninsula.

Until the 7th century, Jeddah used to be a small town dedicated to fishing and trade. With the rise of Islam, Jeddah also rose to a place of international prominence. Since it is only 70 km from Mecca, it became the Holy City’s seaport. Jeddah turned into a major destination for Muslim pilgrims and merchants from North and East Africa, as well as South and Southeast Asia.

A Brief History

The western coastal region of Saudi Arabia was often under foreign rule, forming part of a wider Islamic state. This area, called Hejaz, belonged to empires administrated from what is now Syria, Iraq, Egypt, or Turkey. Jeddah thus acquired a regional identity apart from the rest of the Arabian Peninsula. Local residents and merchants prided themselves on their cosmopolitan outlook. In 1925, however, Jeddah fell under the rule of Abdulaziz bin Saud, who was to become the first king of a united Saudi Arabia.

As a contemporary Saudi city, Jeddah is no longer the heart of Hejaz. The traditional region was split into several administrative areas. Jeddah is the capital of the Makkah province. Pilgrims from around the world keep moving to Jeddah for the hajj or umrah. Moving to Jeddah also promises economic opportunities. It is one of Saudi Arabia’s largest industrial cities, a commercial port with a booming logistics industry, and the seat of several Islamic banks and Arab media. 

Population

Since the modern Saudi state was established, Jeddah has expanded far beyond its traditional city limits. The old town was defined by its 16th-century fortifications – built as protection against Portuguese naval attacks – which were slightly modified in the 1800s. The historic part of Jeddah is merely the core of today’s new urban sprawl. According to recent estimates, the city includes as much as 1,680 km² – urgently needing space to house its growing population.

In 2012, reported the metropolis had an estimated 5.32 million residents housed in 135 districts. It’s the people moving to Jeddah that keep its economy going. Though the 'Saudization' quotas of local companies are on the rise, the Saudi participation in the labor force is still rather low. The majority of Jeddah’s workers, employees, and executives come from abroad, from North and East Africa, Iran, Turkey, Yemen, South and Southeast Asia, Western Europe, North America, and Japan. The numerous foreigners moving to Jeddah keep some of the former cosmopolitan ambience alive.

Customs and Safety

In some respects, Jeddah is less strict than Riyadh. In exclusive beach resorts, wealthy Saudi families may flaunt some of the country’s severe rules to regulate public behavior. Outside such private beaches for the upper crust, expats moving to Jeddah will occasionally see men and women socialize or notice some muslimahs literally letting their hair down. Nonetheless, you should not forget that you are now living in a socially very conservative country. You should thus keep a few things in mind:

 

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