Life in Jeddah – What I know after 5 months

cultural adaptation Expat Life Saudi Arabia

I’ve been living in Jeddah for 5 months now (almost 6), I’ve settled down well, sorted out all the loose end at work, my children’s schooling, banking, internet, phones… it’s all operational now.

I’ve also had more time to discover my new home but you know what? In almost 5 months I still don’t know much about the city of Jeddah because:

1* I live quite far from the center and when I travel there it is to shop, that leaves me little time to explore, especially with 2 kids in toes. I did go to check out the impressive King Fahd water fountain which is a landmark in Jeddah.

king fahd fountain
The fountain can be seen from pretty much everywhere with water been ejected up to 300m in the air, making it the highest in the world.

2* I currently live on the housing compound of my university and, I’ll write more about his point soon, I do feel a little cut out from real Saudi life and culture. Most of the people here are non-Saudi, accommodations have been designed for westerners, everyone speaks English… not exactly the cultural integration is was hoping for.

Having said that i did manage to get a feel of Jeddah and some things about the city are quite clear to me:

City of Lights

The city of Jeddah is much prettier at night. During the day Jeddah looks like all desert cities: a dull cream/sand colour everywhere, very little green to brighten the scene. But at night, the city becomes alive and funky as many buildings are decorated with coloured neon lights. Suddenly the city looks vibrant and exciting.

Jeddah by day
Jeddah by night


Modern Vs Traditional

Despite the modern and high tech society around them, a lot of locals seem to prefer the simple and traditional ways that we could associate with desert people historical and cultural backgrounds. Driving around at night you will see loads of cars parked in the middle of nowhere and the whole family having a picnic right there on the floor… even though restaurants and other facilities are within walking distance.

There are a lot of rich and very rich people in Jeddah, with access to everything money can buy yet Saudis tend to be simple people. It’s of course hard to generalise but so far i’ve met lovely people who are content with simple pleasures. I know it’s not the image of Saudi but from what I’ve seen until now I feel certain that there is a lot of decorum and that people are ultimately much more modest than you would imagine.

Dress code

The dress code in Jeddah is not as strict as i had read prior to moving. While the dress code remains modest, expat women don’t feel pressured to wear the full hijab (head covering) and the niqab (face covering) is worn pretty much only by Saudi women. I have seen many women in the shopping malls with only a small coloured scarf loosely worn over their hair, abayas (long overdress) are not only black but coloured too and some women even choose to do without the hijab altogether. Within the housing compounds, men and women dress in western style clothing.

Food and drink

Eating out in Jeddah is a pleasure as food tend to be absolutely delicious. I’ve noticed that eating out is very common among locals and expats. Let’s face it this is one of the few forms of entertainment in this country. Eating out is also much cheaper than in the UK for instance, whether it’s fast food or restaurant, the whole thing won’t cost you much. Another good point is that eating out comes in all sorts of flavors with options from around the world… literally. In any given food court, you’ll find food from China, Japan, Italy, France, Mexico, India, Morocco… you name it.

Shopping malls range from huge to gigantic.


On the downside however, one thing I’ve noticed is that the quality of the products you buy is pretty low, tending on rubbish. Already many of the toy sets I’ve bought for my children are broken. My youngest son is now using his second bike as the first one simply fell apart within weeks. I’m not saying there aren’t any quality products but it seems that you have to chose very carefully because those low-end products are everywhere and not necessarily advertised as cheap. So here you are thinking you’re buying something good, paying a reasonable price for it and it turns out it’s not good enough to last. Very disappointing.


Finally let’s talk about the weather (if you’ve been following my blog you know I’m borderline obsessed with temperatures). Well Jeddah has got the perfect climate (if you enjoy summer weather). It’s summer all year round. This winter temperatures didn’t go below 25 degrees Celsius during the day and were often close to 30. At night temperatures dropped to the chilly 17 or 18 degrees Celsius but that’s it. Now that summer has arrived I was bracing myself for scorching desert heat but so far (it’s now June 9th) temperatures never really went over 40 degrees Celsius. I was expecting, hoping even, for much more than that. I guess Jeddah benefits from some coolness from the sea. Funnily enough, the worst of the heat comes when it’s cloudy: here clouds create a kind of bubble trapping the heat and those days staying indoors is the only option.

After 5 months in Saudi Arabia i couldn’t be happier that we decided to move here. It was quite hard settling down but now that pretty much everything is in place i feel confident we can make it home.

Right now, living in a compound makes sense for us but i do hope that we will have the opportunity to move to a Saudi neighborhood before our time here is up.

Have you been to Jeddah before? Please tell me what i’m missing and what i need to put on my to-do list.


36 thoughts on “Life in Jeddah – What I know after 5 months

  1. Hi Miss Jameela,U R Right.Jeddah Is A Vibrant City.U Reminded Me Of My Childhood.I”ve Spent A Great Portion OF My Childhood In Jeddah.

  2. i am moving soon to Jeddah from India to work as a staff nurse,,I am Christian by religion and want to know whether it is compulsory to wear a burkha and to cover face while going out or moving. What type of lifestyle do we have to adapt,,like in India its free to have any type of dress and hang out anywhere anytime.
    what and all should I need to take care when moving to Jeddah . and is it safe. ??
    What and all things do I have to change and keep in mind to avoid any trouble over there.

    1. To answer your question it is not compulsory to wear the niqab (face veil) but the Abaya (long and large over dress) is still recommended outside of expat compounds. However things are currently changing fast towards more freedom in that domain. Jeddah is a fairly safe city with loads of expats and I\’m sure you will soon find your marks here. As for going everywhere and doing everything well not quite yet but again things are changing fast. From June all women will be able to drive even and a lot more freedom is expected to derive from that. For the rest I\’m sure you\’ll catch on quickly. My advice is to remember this is a conservative country so it\’s better to err on the side of restraint and modesty if in doubt.

  3. Salam, I ‘m a British Muslim, moving with husband and three kids. I just wanted to check if I can contact you directly for some advice regarding relocation- accommodation, schooling and children’s activities.


  4. Hi. Assalamu alaikum. I am moving to Jeddah soon from India. Iam going to work there for 2 year contract. Accommodation is provided by the company. I want to know how much it will cost per month for 1 person food ? Please guide and help me, keep in touch with me. I’m really scared but excited to visit Saudi Arabia. Assalamu alaikum

    1. Walaykum salam. Hi. Your question is one that is difficult to answer because everyone is different but if I had to venture a figure I would say 500 sar in average per month. Where you shop will make a difference too: avoid the more expensive supermarkets like Manuel, Hyperpanda. Carrefour I think is the cheapest overall. As for keeping in touch feel free to email me anytime. All the best with your new job in Jeddah.

      1. Assalamualaikum Jameela,

        I’m a British Muslimah who is excited about moving to Jeddah next month for my teaching post! I’ll be living near the Read sea shopping mall. As I observe abaya and hijab I am looking for women only gyms, swimming (pool and sea) and martial arts. I’d be very grateful if you can direct me!

        Kind regards,


  5. Hello! I’m moving to Jeddah next month from Khobar; I’m from California but have been teaching here since 2011, met my husband, had a baby, and now we’re moving for hubby’s work. I’m nervous! Adjusting to Khobar was difficult, and I feel like after 7 years I’m finally settled, just to up and move again. I’m sure I have many questions to ask, but the first and foremost is one I’m not sure you’ll be able to help with (but fingers crossed…). We are looking for accommodation before we move that is up to our (well, mine really) standards of living, but also affordable. Do you know anyone we could reach out to? Thanks a lot! Looking forward to combing through your blog 🙂

    1. All the best with this new move inshallah you\’ll find Jeddah is a nice place to live. With regards to your question I\’m not sure I can help as I have aways lived in housing provided by my employer. My go to place for questions is the Facebook group \’Susie of Arabia\’ that you can find here:
      You can also email me if you think I can help you with your other questions. All the best.

      1. Hello

        I will move to Jeddah shortly. I am comming to Canada. How can get in contact with expats someone living in Jeddah. I tried it is really hard.

        Is it ok to exchange our email contacts?

        1. Hi Mirza,

          I don\’t think it will be that hard to get in touch with expats in Jeddah as more than half the adult population is made of foreigners. More concretely, I highly recommend the following Facebook group: Susie of Arabia. It has got more than 10K members who lived, are living or are about to live in Saudi Arabia. You can also get in touch with your embassy to get notified of expat events and occasions. Finally, I will be happy to stay in touch with you anytime. Simply email me: All the best for your move 🙂

  6. Hello I’m searching for some information about women in Jeddah. My husband and I might move to Jeddah as he is a maths teacher. My problem is about clothing and what things I can and I can’t do over there. We live in Bangkok and everything’s are not strict as Muslim country.

    1. If you ever move to Jeddah i\’m sure that you are going to love it here. Jeddah is a cosmopolitan city with a huge number of expats from around the world. I\’ll email you soon to talk about your questions.

        1. Thank you Harris for your comment. Please note that i have edited your comment to hide your number. If anyone is interested in reaching out to Harris, please leave a comment and I can put you in touch.

  7. Hi,

    i got offer letter from Jeddah company, they offered me 5000 SAR, is this good enough to survive in Jeddah along with spouse and 2 kids.

    1. It\’s always hard to tell how much someone needs to live on. It also depends on whether you are getting help with housing and the age/schooling of your children. If you are provided with housing and you are not looking at the top schools, you may be able to get by living a (very) simple lifestyle. I suggest you discuss those points with the people who made you the offer.

  8. Hi Jameela,
    I’ve been here for three months now. I must say, I do miss socialising with Westerners or doing the traditional “braai” A South African favorite which is a barbeque.Unfortunately we do not live in a compound but rather a hotel which has it’s restrictions. I also think that single male life here as an expat also comes with it’s own unique challenges. If you or anybody knows of communities that have get togethers then please share.
    Thank you

    1. Hi Jason and thanks for stopping by the blog. I\’m sure male expats must have a totally different experience and I hope that you are finding your marks now. Regarding get togethers with other expats, have you tried The facebook page of Susie of Arabia is a 3000+ expats group and people do share info about trips and visits and such, maybe you could get in touch with some like-minded people and organize something. You could also try hanging out at the expat-only beaches in Jeddah and see if they organize anything… All the best with your integration in the Kingdom.

  9. I am living in Jeddah for a month. I agree with you regarding the dress code. Its not at all a big issue. Weather is also better than my expectation. My only problem is, so far I didn’t get any friend here, it looks difficult to get in future too. Hardly any ladies are seen outside in Al Ruwais area.

    1. Thank you for your comment. It usually takes more than one person to convince people that the dress code is not as bad as people think it is so thank you very much 🙂 I hope you soon find your way to meet new people and make friends. Have you tried joining the facebook group called Susie of Arabia? There are 3000+ people in it, mostly from Jeddah and I\’m sure some of them must be not far from you. All the best for the future…

  10. I have been reading your blog with great interest and wonder if you can assist me with a project. I am undertaking a dissertation in Domestic Tourism in Saudi Arabia. I need to get an insight into how often expatriates travel within Saudi Arabia as a tourist and have therefore compiled a questionnaire. The questionnaire will take about 5-8 minutes to complete and will assist me with my analysis.

    Are you able to complete the questionnaire for me and/or distribute it amongst a small group of expatriates known to you?

    I would be very grateful for your time and efforts and look forward to hearing from you in due course.

  11. Your experience of saudi so far sounds great.. i have been reading so many different points of view online its nice to hear a positive perspective. are the compounds very big in general .. i am an avid outdoor jogger and considering saudi for a future destination to live.

    interesting blog too, i really enjoyed reading some of your saudi posts 🙂 thanks for this information..

    1. I think this is exactly what personal blogs are for, to offer readers as many different views and opinions about a topic. But you’re right, Saudi Arabia get more than its share of bad press which is really not fair as it really is a great place to live and work.

  12. Those pictures looks so beautiful. I guess I’ve read so many negative accounts of living in Saudi Arabia as a foreigner that I never stopped to think about the beauty of the country.

    1. I’m on a mission to take and publish as many pictures of Saudi Arabia as i can. I’ve even enrolled on a photography for beginners course to improve but picture taking in this country is a little hard as people are not very comfortable with it, more often that not i can only use my phone and take pictures very quickly while no one is watching lol.

  13. Wow, Jeddah fountain Looks Impressive Indeed! Bet it’s nice to Picnic somewhere nearby 🙂 I have also thought it’s typically hotter in Saudi, but around 40C for summer sounds rather manageable!
    ELENA recently posted…A Belgrade Welcome

    1. Yeah the fountain is crazy high, you can see it from so far away and when you're close you can see it goes higher than most of the tall buildings around. There is a Corniche not far, full of green areas and every night it is packed with families, there are also a few playgrounds. People come to eat, to relax, to fish even or to walk along the water. Very nice atmosphere. As for the weather i am also totally shocked it's not hotter BUT it is still early summer, in those parts of the world August is usually the hottest time of the year. And to give you an idea, just a few kilometers away in Mecca temperatures are usually between 45 and 50+ these days.

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