Saturday, June 3, 2023

[JEDDAH] Chilling in Jeddah

I never thought there would come a time when I would be excited to fly back to Saudi Arabia, of all places. Yet after those misadventures in chaotic Cairo and Giza, here we are. Perhaps, sometimes we really just crave for more order and discipline? In any case, I only have a few attractions lined up to see in Jeddah. This will more likely be an extended chill stopover, the penultimate stop before we head back to Manila. Jeddah’s airport is huge and modern but the WiFi is a pain in the ass. Don’t rely on it that much.

I just subscribed to another cheap roaming data plan from Smart to spare me from the headache. As is usual in the kingdom, Uber rates here are not cheap but they cars are easy to book. Maybe we can expect better public transportation options now that Saudi Arabia seems to be playing tourism hub catch up with neighboring UAE. For now, stick with Uber or Careem. They are expensive alright, but they are convenient and drop you off from point A to B without much drama.

Saturday was reserved for Al-Balad. Jeddah has this old town well known for its coral houses. What are coral houses? Quite self-explanatory, actually. They are tall houses constructed with corals as the main building blocks. How that works, I don’t really know. You’d be better off asking that question to a legit architect. Are corals as hard as cement? All you have to know is that the buildings are usually beige with window panes protruding from the facade like mini balconies, normally colored brown to complement the off-white hue of the building.

Many of them looked like they were in decay, although I’ve heard that preservation efforts here are far from fruitless. This area of Jeddah hosts a concentration of what was left from back then. There is a remnant of a gate close to the roundabout where you see two or three minarets as centerpieces, right after you pass by a simple mosque called Jaffali across the street from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which looks like a grand palace and supposedly off-limits to photographers.

There is no itinerary here. Basically, you just get lost in the maze of narrow alleys flanked by the coral houses. After half an hour or so of strolling under the sun, you will eventually find yourself ending up at the market, which I no longer explored because I wasn’t in a shopping mood. There should be an old house or a museum there somewhere but I probably didn’t get to visit because they were closed. Otherwise, I don’t see a reason why I wouldn’t go.

Sunday was spent at the corniche after a quick lunch and malling at Red Sea Mall which hosts your familiar western restaurants and usual capitalist brands you are familiar with. What followed was another long stroll under the sun to get to the corniche itself. Bring an umbrella, for your own sake, unless you are intentionally trying to dehydrate yourself. Sunscreen too! Apply loads.

The stroll towards the corniche was not as boring. You pass by a theme park called City Walk. And then there is a weird huge house that looks like a museum based on the weird sculptures you can see from the outside. After this, you’ll end up at the Formula One racetrack which straddles pretty much this entire area of the bay. Cross the overpass to the baywalk and just continue your stroll there. You are bound to end up at Al Ramah Mosque right next to the Golden Eagle Statue.

This area seems like a good chill spot after sundown but still under construction. I believe there were only two or three of us walking around there. The rest were south asian workers trying to find shade while on break. The mosque itself is small yet imposing, probably thanks to its location facing the sea along with its juxtaposition with the golden eagle floating on the water. And that was Jeddah for me. I believe that it is not as boring as Riyadh, but boring nonetheless.

[MAKKAH] Chilling in Jeddah

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