Saudi Arabia and City Contrasts

October 16, 2007 – Tuesday

City Contrasts
Current mood:
Travel and Places

If you were reading one blog solely about Riyadh and another solely about Jeddah you would likely come away thinking that not only are these two different cities but they must be in two different countries as well.  The contrast between the two is immense.  Perhaps if I had come first to Jeddah directly from the openness of the USA I would have eventually felt it was also conservative but after living in Riyadh for one year now I see and feel the vast differences between the two.Jeddah is much more open than conservative Riyadh.  Yes, the muttawa do have a presence in Jeddah but more subtle and not as blatantly visible.  In Jeddah one readily sees open and spacious restaurants where all patrons are mixed together and enjoying themselves.  For example last night we dined at a lovely restaurant where we sat with our friends, not only enjoying our meal but enjoying the exquisite view of the Corniche along with all of the other diners as well.Following our dinner we then went to an entertainment center which one could compare as a “Six Flags of Jeddah” and again, it was open without segregation.  Not only open but when we sat in a dining/snack area which overlooked a skating rink, we had a table of women behind us and many families and couples around as well.  This is not yet seen in Riyadh.  In addition, many of the tables to include the table of women were further enjoying the evening smoking hookahs which were provided on request.Even the women look and dress differently in Jeddah.  Naturally the abayas are still in evidence but with an added flair and style and more color.  Many of the women will elect to go without a hijjab or choose not to cover their face but only their hair.In Jeddah one sees couples strolling together and oftentimes holding hands.  I guess I would stress one sees much more togetherness and cohesiveness in Jeddah as compared to the conservative and sterile environment of Riyadh.Jeddah has an abundance of five star hotels many along the sea and in the city center.  I am surprised that so many major international events take place in Riyadh instead of Jeddah where visitors to the Kingdom are sure to come away with a positive and pleasing image.It is time for us to make our return back to Riyadh.  Naturally I’ll be looking forward to my next visit to Jeddah.

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