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With a population of about four million inhabitants, Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia, and its long history as a major port and important commercial center is clearly palpable in the cosmopolitan mix of its people. Gathering millions of Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca and Medina throughout its history, the city has become an amalgamation of people and cultures, flavors and aromas, customs and traditions. Nowhere is this tradition more evident than in Al-Balad, the old town, which showcases the city's architectural past with its white coral buildings, narrow alleyway souks and old city gates. But it is also a city of fun and entertainment, as it is of fine dining, elegant cafes and great shopping. It is a place where the country's wealthy come to enjoy and indulge in the city's famous seafood and liberal attitude. The fabulous Corniche is the very essence of leisure, with friends and families enjoying pleasant strolls along the water, sunset picnics on the grass or parties at the hotels and beach resorts all along the 35 kilometers of walkway.
Many of the city's attractions and entertainment can be found along the corniche, from bizarre sculptures and a record-breaking fountain to parks, restaurants and museums. But savvy travelers will also want to stray a bit from there to discover the old town with its white coral buildings and historic city gates, or visit some of the city's fantastic museums. There are also mosques, markets and a top-notch aquarium to explore, so visitors to Jeddah are sure to have a full itinerary.
Pilgrims, traders and voyagers have been coming to Jeddah for centuries, bringing with them the delicacies from their own lands and cultures. As a result, Jeddah's dining scene today is rich in variety and quality. The city boasts a wealth of fine international restaurants, bringing together flavors from around the world, which are then combined with local ingredients to create truly unique dishes. Visitors to Jeddah will not go hungry.
Jeddah has a long history with coffee and tea, as traders and travellers often brought different and exotic varieties of beans and leaves. Today visiting cafés is one of the city's most beloved pastimes. Friends and families gather at the numerous Arabic and Western-style cafés to enjoy hot cappuccinos, fresh teas and fruity shishas.
The cultural environment in Saudi Arabia is highly conservative. Religious law forbids the sale or consumption of alcohol throughout Saudi Arabia, so there are no bars or nightclubs. Instead evening social activities are centred on shopping or dining out in one of the city’s many restaurants or cafés whilst indulging in a delicious mocktail (a mix of fresh fruit juices) or strong Arabic coffee.
Shopping in Jeddah, like the city itself, is a mix of old and new. Centuries-old souks still function as the commercial blood vessels of the city, selling everything from clothing and jewellery to fruit and spices in narrow alleys packed with people, colours and fragrances. At the same time, huge and modern shopping centres offer all manner of international products and entertainment for the whole family.
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