Jeddah is the second biggest city in Saudi Arabia after Riyadh, the capital city. It is also the prime city in the Makkah Province and the biggest sea port on the Red Sea. Jeddah is the chief doorway to the Holy City of Mecca, which is the holiest pilgrim city of the Muslims who come here in millions each year, as it is required of all Muslims who are strong enough to make this trip, to visit the city at least once in their lifetime.
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The city’s history dates back to 500 BC, as excavations reveal the settlement of the Yemeni Quada tribe that had arrived here from Yemen during this period. Jeddah was established as a fishing hamlet by the tribe. Some archeological surveys indicate that the city was first inhabited in the Stone Age, as excavations have shown the finding of some Thamudi scripts dating back to this era. Also Alexander the Great had made a stop at Jeddah before he carried on with his journey.
It was during 647 BC that Jeddah began to grow prominent, as a major sea port to pilgrims arriving from different parts of the world for the annual Hajj at the Holy City, Mecca. Since in olden days, people traveled mostly by sea, it was the only way for pilgrims to visit Mecca. While it became an important gateway to pilgrims visiting the Holy City, Jeddah also developed as an important trade route from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean.
Jeddah came under the power of several Caliphates and empires that include the Rashidun Caliphate, Fatimid Caliphate, the Ayyubid Empire, the Mamluk Sultanate, Ottoman Empire, the Nejdi rule and finally the Al-Saud dynasty. The old city was almost destroyed while what remained of it was pulled down in 1947. A great fire in 1982 gutted several historical buildings, but there are a few structures that are still preserved.
Although most of the old city was destroyed there are still some traditional buildings and merchant houses such as the Naseef House, Gabil Market and a few other ancient landmarks. The old city today is mainly a tourist attraction. The King Fahd Fountain is a prominent landmark and also holds a Guinness World Record of having the World’s highest water jet at 312 meters. There are a number of museums in the city that one can visit too.
King Abdullah Street houses prominent commercial buildings while the Tahlia Street consists of upscale boutiques and department stores where one can buy designer exclusives. The traditional cuisine of Jeddah is highly influenced by the different races that settled in the city, thereby providing a variety of interesting dishes to suit every palette. The city is serviced by the King Abdulaziz International Airport and the Jeddah Seaport while rail and car travel are used for inter-city transits.