Saudi Arabia / Cities and Towns /
Other spellings: Jidda;, Jiddah; Jedda
Jeddah is the main port for pilgrims coming (both by air and sea) for the hajj or umra, as Mecca is only 50 km away. Due to this Jeddah has many diplomatic stations, mainly from other countries with a sizeable Muslim community.
The name of the city is believed to be derived from Arabic jadda, 'grandmother'. This is linked with the alleged tomb of Eve, the first woman in the world according to both Islam, Judaism and Christianity, who had a tomb and a cult here until it was demolished in 1928.
Jeddah has one of the most diverse economies of Saudi Arabia. Its port is the largest in the country, involved in exports and imports. The port also employs many with pilgrims coming all the year, for umra, but especially in the months surrounding the time of hajj (see Muslim Calendar for explanation to why hajj changes its date from year to another).
Jeddah is a commercial centre, important centre for import of livestock, especially camel and sheep. Jeddah also has iron and steel plants, oil refineries, and production of bricks, furniture and tiles. More traditional activities still play a role, involving cattle raising and dairying.
Jeddah has in many ways the most excellent infrastructure in the Middle East, perhaps in the world. The extreme demands that the large crowds of pilgrims for hajj have motivated the construction of a complex highway system. Jeddah also has the King Abdul Aziz International Airport, which also serves all national destination. The port has several passenger connections to Egypt, Sudan and Eritrea.
Jeddah has a very impressive modern city centre, with shopping malls and wide boulevards. While much has been demolished, there are still some of the most beautiful quarters of traditional houses in the Middle East, involving multistory buildings and merchants' houses.
The King Abdul Aziz University was founded in 1967, and is known for its departments in economics and administration.
With all the different nationals coming for pilgrimage through the centuries, but deciding to stay, Jeddah now has a more ethnically diverse population than the rest of kingdom. There is also more variations to the Muslim orientations with the locals of Jeddah. Modern times has led to a new influx of immigrants, largely from USA and southeast Asia.