Lindsey Galloway from BBC – Travel emailed me and asked if I would be willing to do an interview about what it is like living in Jeddah. She had read some of my blogs and said I would be a good candidate to have an interview for an article she was writing for the BBC – Travel. So she asked a series of questions which I answered.
Here is her article.
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Ranked 123 out of 131
Many visitors to Jeddah are on pilgrimages to Mecca. Those who stay longer, however, find the city to be affordable – and to have a unique blend of conservative and modern. Saudi Arabia’s religious laws inform much of the city’s culture and social interactions: technically, single men and women are not allowed to mix together, so restaurants separate the family and single sections from the men sections. But at night the city comes alive, with diners heading out to restaurants and men bringing out their fancy cars for drives around downtown.
Many social gatherings also happen in the family homes, so it’s key to make local friends. “When you enter a Saudi house, you are greeted with Arabic coffee and dates,” said Lyn Birrell, who emigrated from Bicton, Western Australia and writes the blog Living in Jeddah. Social status is very important here, so even typical, two-storey houses are often furnished with crystal chandeliers and gold-trimmed furniture.
Despite the interior decorations, Jeddah is an affordable city to live in. Gasoline prices are some of the world’s lowest in the world, costing just 0.50 riyal ($0.15 or £0.08) for a litre of gas (compared to $1.05 in New York City). Housing and food also come cheap: rent costs 3,797 riyal ($1,012 or £601) for 85sqm and bread costs 2.24 riyal ($0.60 or £0.35). But foodies and chefs, beware: produce is not as plentiful as in other parts of the world. “We do not have the variety of vegetables and fruit here as in Australia, which took a bit of getting used to. They eat a lot of coriander, parsley, mint, saffron and herbs,” Birrell said.
On the other hand, crafty residents can take advantage of the other cheap goods on sale. Birrell sews, for example, and said that beautiful fabric and material can be purchased quite cheaply, making clothing costs very affordable. Travellers can take advantage of cheap flights to nearby destinations too: roundtrip airfare to cities like Dubai and Cairo can be booked for less than 1,200 riyal ($300 or £190).