My friend, Ethel who teach at one of the universities suggested that we take a weekend trip to Jeddah before she returns to the U.S. She had not traveled outside of Riyadh since she had began working in the Kingdom and heard from other instructors that Jeddah a nice relaxing place to visit as well as take advantage of immersing her feet in the infamous body of water; the Red Sea. It had almost been three years since I first visited Jeddah. I really enjoyed my time there, so a return trip was a good idea!
Jeddah is only an hour and 30 minutes by air. While we waited for our flight, just like before, we saw quite a few men, some with their families clad in towels that are wrapped around their waist and one draped around their shoulders. Jeddah is the principal gateway to Mecca so they would be flying there to begin their journey to Mecca where they take their pilgrimages.
The turbulent descent and view of sand dunes reminded me that we would be landing in Jeddah shortly. We were welcomed by the afternoon humidity and an atmosphere that was a lot more relaxed than Riyadh. It is still required for women to wear the abaya but Jeddah is far more diverse and cosmopolitan than Riyadh. We decided we would just relax the first day, grab a meal and start our exploration in the morning.
The next day, after securing transportation and grabbing a quick breakfast, we had a list of points of interest that we expressed to the driver that we would like to visit. The first stop would be the Floating Mosque located on Corniche Road. It is called the floating mosque because it sits right on the Red Sea. The pillars give the impression that the mosque is floating! The mosque was closed but that was fine. Along with the mosque’s magnificence and the historical significance of being at the Red Sea, the experience was surreal!
There was a group of woman who where coming from a tour bus. They immediately tied their skirts around their legs and put their feet in the Red Sea. Several splashed their faces in the body of water. I tried to communicate with them but they did not speak English. With several attempts to understand what we were saying to one another, I finally was able to get out of them that they were from Turkey! The two men with them wanted to take group photos. We exchanged email addresses in order to send the photos later. When I emailed my group photos, I received an email within minutes that said, “American Muslim, brothers and sisters, we are very happy to see the Red Sea with greetings and prayers”. So, they thought me and my girlfriend were Muslims!
Next stop on our list was the Makkah Gate known also as the Quran Gate. It is located on Makkah Mukkarran Road in the heart of Jeddah. This gate represented back in the day one of the main entrances for Hajj pilgrims.
After viewing those two magnificent sights, we hungry and decided to go get a bite to eat. On our way, I spotted a Harley Davidson store. You know I had to not only check out the bikes but also purchase a T-shirt that had “Jeddah, Saudi Arabia” on it. Mission accomplished….off to find something to eat!
The driver suggested a place called Salmontino Le Resto. Salmontino is French-Lebanese and specializes in all sorts of salmon dishes. His choice turned out to be a fantastic one! The restaurant is on the Corniche strip right across from the Red Sea. The ambience is one of fine dining, chic with jazz playing in the background. Once seated, we were greeted with a basket of fresh bread and salmon spread. As my appetizer, I ordered the Calamari and Shrimp Caesar. Both dishes were very delectable! The produce was fresh and crisp and the shrimp grilled to perfection! For my main course, I tried the Grilled Salmon Pavé served with wild rice and herb sauce. Absolutely, scrumptious! The ambiance and service is well worth every Riyal! Owners, Joe Bassili and Hussni Ajlani, your restaurant ....worth the trip from Riyadh!
To wrap up a wonderful day in Jeddah, what better sight to go check out than the King Fahd´s Fountain located on,.. you guess,… the Corniche. The water jet is 1,024 feet and is the highest in the world! The salt-water fountain was donated by the late King Fahd bin Abdul Aziz to the City of Jeddah. Not only is the fountain spectacular to watch, it is a great place to enjoy a picnic dinner as the sun sets or to just get out and get some fresh air while taking a scroll along the Corniche.
Jeddah. A wonderful place to escape for a revitalizing retreat.
Until next time,….
Alhamdulillah! (Praise to Allah!)