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It's one of those things:  so close, yet oh so far...

Jeddah is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia. (population around 3.2 million people)  It is the port and gateway to the holy city of Mecca.  According to Wikipedia: "For over one thousand years, Jeddah has received millions of pilgrims of different ethnicities and backgrounds, from Africa,Central AsiaRussiaSoutheast AsiaEurope and the Middle East, some of whom remained and became residents of the city."  Therefore, "Jeddah is one of the most cosmopolitan, diverse, and tolerant of all Saudi Arabian cities, hosting expatriates from all over the world who have made Jeddah their home."  Jeddah has it's high end areas where you can find shops such as  Dolce & GabbanaGucciBurberryChanelGiorgio ArmaniVersaceMassimo Dutti, and Tod's.  Huge malls sporting all sorts of shops, jewelry stores, and indoor play areas.  Plus monster homes and villas (hidden behind large walls, of course...this is where Google Earth can be fun!)
It is a major city and therefore there are the good areas and the bad.  (when you see my photos, you'll have no trouble guessing which part of the city we were in at the time)  You'll find sub-standard housing, as well as struggling stores and restaurants. 
Jeddah is known for very heavy traffic and considering the extremely lax driving laws, well, a drive around town will cause white knuckles and multiple near heart attacks.  (I am still beyond amazed that there aren't accidents every 20 feet...seriously)

That being said, I'd still love to live in Jeddah.  See, Yanbu (our home) is a bit like small town USA.  We have one mall, two major grocery stores, and a couple of workout facilities.  I think I'd suffer through the perils of traffic just to have the variety of options available to those living in the big city.  The hardest part is that Jeddah is a good 3.5 to 4 hour drive...one way.  Back to my original statement...so close, yet so far away.  Making a trip to Jeddah a special event, not to mention it requires careful planning if you want to get any significant shopping done.  
Remember, the weekends here are Thursday and Friday.  Most people get a hotel room for the night so they don't have to make a 8 hour round trip drive in one day.  You can shop all day Thursday (minus the five times a day the store closes for prayer), but on Friday...nearly everything is closed until at least 4pm.  (or till they feel like opening up)  So, instead of a whole weekend of shopping your limited to basically one day...unless you want to drive back wicked late on Friday...which my working husband does not want to do.  (neither do my kids)  So, you factor in where you want to shop then add in the travel time between malls/stores (which can take anywhere from 30min to over and hour just to go a few miles.)  If you're lucky you'll be able to hit up Ikea and maybe a whole mall...maybe.  ;) 

All in all, it's a fun experience and I enjoy seeing all the sites while we are there.  These are just a few photos.  (you have to be careful taking pix here)  But I will try to get more as time goes on.  If you click on the slideshow, you can view each photo separately and see the captions where I have typed info about each pic.  :)
I apologize about the quality of some of the photos...moving car, windows, etc...


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