Saudi Arabia City Guide

Jeddah

The importance of opportunities
“We are determined to build a thriving country in which all citizens can fulfill their dreams, hopes and ambitions. Therefore, we will not rest until our nation is a leader in providing opportunities for all through education and training, and high quality services such as employment initiatives, health, housing, and entertainment.”
Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz
Crown Prince, Prime Minister, Saudi Arabia
Jeddah
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Jeddah

Jeddah has not benefited as much as Riyadh in the 'opening up of the country', spearheaded by the Neom project. The reason, perhaps, is that, simply, while eventually the country hopes Neom will be a private sector play, currently it is very much a government initiative, funded by the country's largest sovereign wealth fund, the PIF (and eventually, it is hoped, an IPO). Given Riyadh is the capital,  home of government, the PIF, and the financial sector, it is unsurprising Riyadh rather than Jeddah that has been the recipient of the largest wave of expatriates moving into the country to spearhead the Neomian transformation. 

Jeddah has however, been going through some major changes of its own. Saudi authorities have been demolishing major neighbourhoods across 4,000 square kilometres in order to "remove slums and random neighbourhoods", and create a US $20 billion infrastructure better able to attract tourists and wealthier residents. The authorities, in an initiative led by Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud himself, have moved with a speed that has been breathtaking. Equally the impact on those citizens cast adrift by the demolitions has been profound. Jeddah Ghair" locals say, "Jeddah is different". It will be 'interesting' to see how the loss of major communities impact the psyche of the city, and reshape this character.

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Source: Arab News. The Jeddah areas either being 'modified', or demolished partly or completely. According to the mayoralty, around 20 districts will be developed without demolishing them. These include Briman, Al-Ajwad, Al-Khumrah, Al-Sarwat, Al-Wadi, Al-Dahiya, Al-Quzwain, Al-Fadilah, Al-Qurainiyah, Kilo 14, Kilo 15, Kilo 16, Kilo 18, Kilo 23, North District 18, Hawarina, Mahamid, Faw, and Hudhaifat.

Precisely because Jeddah has been different it has, traditionally, been the city most favoured by expats moving to the country seeking ways to lessen the impact of culture shock.  Located in the Hejaz region, it is the country's commercial centre (second in the region to Dubai), the region's trading hub, the second-largest and second-busiest seaport in the Middle East (after Dubai's Jebel Ali) and, with a close proximity to the Red Sea, one of the its primary resort cities.

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Like Egypt, Jeddah offers the Red Sea for diving. Unlike Egypt, it offers it without the crowds of people, only the fish...

It os often characterised as a fascinating city in which to live, with a (relatively) cosmopolitan air, truly diverse cuisine, world Heritage Red Sea architecture, a bustling souq, and a laid-back coastline that's home to world-class dive sites. Diving is actually one of the major draws for visitors from across Saudi and more recently, the world. It is similar to Egypt's Red Sea Coast or off the Sinai Peninsula - just minus all the tourists and the broken coral.  Even if you don't dive, the resorts focused on expats allow women to shed the abaya and, in winter at least, truly relax under the Arabian sun.

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Jeddah is the gateway for pilgrims into Saudi Arabia.

Jeddah is the gateway for millions of pilgrims and every year fills up with visitors from across Saudi and the world. Mecca, the holiest city in Islam is just 65 kilometres (40 miles) to the east, Medina, the second-holiest city, is 360 kilometres (220 miles) to the north. And it's not just the world's holiest Islamic cities that are close... All of the capitals of the Middle East and North Africa are within two hours flying distance of the city, which is of course one of the reason why it's such a business city, and why you're reading this. 

When it's not full of pilgrims Jeddah has a population of over four and a half million people, making it the second-largest city in Saudi after the capital Riyadh, and the tenth-largest in the Middle East. It can be hot, dusty and in parts overcrowded...  Unlike other Saudi Arabian cities, Jeddah is warm even in winter, although temperatures that range from 15 °C (59 °F) at dawn to 28 °C (82 °F) in the afternoon will feel magical after the summer. Summer temperatures are next level, often breaking 48 °C (118 °F) in the afternoon and only dropping to 35 °C (95 °F) in the evening. And if the heat doesn't get you, believe us, the humidity will... For those moving from Europe, and to a lesser extent the Far East, the temperatures will be a bit of a shock.

Jeddah areas

Outside the very small ancient city (where the mother of humanity, 'Eve', was apparently laid to rest), there are plenty of good neighbourhoods in term of services, shopping areas, and schools. The northern parts of the city, the newer part of Jeddah, are said to be cleaner, safer, and to offer more modern accommodation. Try areas such as Rawdah, Salamah, Zahra, Shatie, and Nahda district.

If you're an expat moving to Jeddah, the chances are your company will have looked after your accommodation however, and will place you on a compound where you may as well not be in Jeddah at all given how separate they are from Saudi culture. 

Compounds vary massively in size and facilities. Some are so large they are like enclosed villages within Jeddah (some are even called villages), some will be a small cluster of a few villas. Most will contain a swimming pool, but the larger they are the more diverse the facilities and services. Many compounds do not allow locals, so expats are free to drop the social and religious requirements outside its walls - no Abaya is needed, and so on. 

Note: Alcohol remains, theoretically, unavailable anywhere in Saudi, even on compounds - although hotels will reportedly be licensed in Neom. Having said that, allegedly, where there is a will there is a way... and, at least so we have heard, some of the parties on compounds are said to be as wild as anywhere. Note also consulates will hold their own events, and while physically in Saudi, do not fall under its jurisdiction. 

If your company does not help you with accommodation, then you can search for yourself, or look for a relocation agent to help you. We detail some of these below. Demand for the better housing, on the better (or more sought after) compounds significantly outstrips supply however, so you are likely to need both help  and luck in equal measure. Even with help, the search will be time consuming, and frustrating, so our strong advice is to really push your company to sought all this out before you arrive. Should you be left to your own devices, there are web sites and experts to help, but be prepared for ghost listings, and lots of outdated information. 

Note, not all expats choose to live on compounds, and it is perfectly possible to rent a villa or apartment elsewhere. Choosing to do so however means a more local, 'authentic' existence, for all the bad and good that will bring.

Compounds in Jeddah

There are a many compounds in Jeddah, the following are probably the most well known:

Arabian Homes: Has over 2,000 apartments and villas across the Kingdom. In Jeddah there are six Arabian Homes Villages: Sierra, Andalus, Al-Habia, Montoro, Cadiz and Valencia. "All are conveniently situated for the principal shopping districts and within easy reach of both the International airport and prominent international schools..." Arabian Home villages offer residents swimming pools, tennis courts, squash courts and children's playgrounds, "as well as a wide range of other facilities including supermarkets, restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons, dry cleaners, gift shops, dental and medical clinics, travel agents and libraries." More detail here.

Al Basateen Village: Al Basateen Village describes itself as a "luxurious 5-star compound", and is smaller, consisting of 188 modern styled and spacious three or four bedroom villas. The oldest villas on the compound are just over 20 years old. Facilities include swimming pools, tennis courts, a basketball court, a bowling hall, meeting rooms, and a gym. There is also a floodlit multipurpose court used for football (soccer).
The British international school has a connected gate with the compound.

Annual rent prices is inclusive of management, maintenance and water charges. More detail here.

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One of the biggest compounds, Sharbatly Village in Jeddah offers its residence a variety of impressive facilities.

Sharbatly Village: Sharbatly Village boasts of having over 1000 villas ranging from 1 to 6 bedrooms, all set in their own private gardens. Properties are available unfurnished or furnished. A Health Club located in central pool provides a gym, aerobics and gymnastic studio, community lounge, conference room, multi-purpose room, library, massage rooms, spa & salon. Sporting and social events are organized for residents. 

Three additional recreation centers offers indoor and outdoor activities including; four glass backed air conditioned squash courts, snooker and pool club, various adults and children’s swimming pools, three toddler’s playgrounds, four tennis courts, two basketball, beach volley ball court, football field with practice nets and a games room with table tennis, television, youth club, snooker and various other games and activities. More detail here.

Schools

Demand across Saudi Arabia continues to outstrip supply, which means long waiting lists fore the best schools. That does not mean you should not try, just that you need to be prepared, and to start planning early. In Jeddah, these following are the schools expats talk about most often. 

The British International School of Jeddah

The British International School Jeddah, founded in 1977, is a not for profit organisation governed by a Board of Trustees offering a Pre-school, Primary and Secondary education, based largely upon the British curriculum and culminating in the IB Diploma programme.

In addition to strong academics, the school is said to be particularly strong for both sports and music. Approximately 40% of students are from Saudi itself. 

Click here for the full school review

American International School (AISJ)

American International School Jeddah is a pre-KG to Grade 12 school offering a US Common Core-based curriculum and a range of High School accredited courses including AP, SAT and, from 2022, the IB Diploma program.

The school is non-profit, which does not mean it's cheaper than other schools (85,400 SAR for Grade 12!), but does mean your fees should be reinvested either in better salaries (which should mean more experienced staff), more staff, or new / better resources - so long as it is being run well. 

Fortunately, by all accounts it is: AISJ moved to a purpose built campus in 2019 and today entices students and parents with strong facilities as well as its academic reputation.  

Click here for the full school review

Jeddah Knowledge International School

Founded in 1996, Jeddah Knowledge International School is an English-medium K-12 school offering the International Baccalaureate Primary, Middle Years and Diploma programmes.

Click here for the full school review. 

Jeddah Prep and Grammar School (JPGS)

Jeddah Prep and Grammar School, initially a British and Dutch-influenced school, now has a much broader mix of nationalities with both local families and expatriates of some 50 nationalities. Almost a quarter of the school’s current population are of Pakistani heritage, 17% are local Saudi Arabians and 12% are children of Egyptian expatriates living in Jeddah. As a result, most students speak English as a second language.

The school offers the Cambridge International curriculum leading to A' Levels, and offers a variety of ECAs are offered for those into music, art, debate, sports, and drama.

The school is accredited by the Council of British International Schools (COBIS), which means it will offer a degree Britishness in its culture and traditions, as well as its curriculum.  The school is led by Mrs. Zoe Woolley, who joined JPGS in August 2022 from her previous role as Principal at Repton School Al Barsha in the UAE. She has a strong reputation. 

Click here for the full school review.

Indian International School Jeddah Review

International Indian School Jeddah, formerly known as the Embassy of India School, is one of the longest established Indian curriculum schools in the Kingdom. The school offers the CBSE curriculum.

Click here for the full school review.

Click here for all current Jeddah based schools. Please note this list will continue to grow. 

Jeddah Communities
Jeddah’s Top Schools
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