Growing up overseas, some of my fondest memories were of family times spent at beaches close to Accra, Ghana, Lagos, Nigeria and, through pictures and stories, the beaches near Karachi, Pakistan, during my first two years. So many of the world's large urban areas are on salt water, including Seattle, the one we just left, and Jeddah, the one we currently call home. Bordering the Red Sea about midway up the western flank of the Arabian Peninsula, Jeddah is an ancient trading port and, even today, remains closely connected to the water which it borders.
Beaches here are largely private and, seemingly, intentionally located quite far from town and prying eyes. The beach we went to today, Silver Sands, was past the airport, itself about a half hour north of town, on a large inlet of the Red Sea. Like all neighboring beaches, ours was about $25 per adult to gain access to, with a fully westernized feel - paddle boats and wind surfers, bikinis and snorkels, palms and sand. The clientele seemed split 50-50 between westerners from all corners and middle easterners mostly from Syria, Jordan and other neighboring Arab countries. The beach staff, like all service workers we've seen so far, were not Saudi, coming instead from places like the Philippines, India, and Bangladesh.
The contrast from our earlier visit (Wednesday night - their "Friday") to a posh mall could not have been more marked; instead of completely covered women, fairly formerly dressed men, and an overarching Saudi feel, the beach seemed familiar, incongruous given the context of urban Jeddah and Saudi culture. We swam, kayaked, snorkeled, and just hung out, doing our best to avoid getting cooked too much by the unrelenting Arabian sun. The water was bath-like, the saline content high, and far out from shore was a man-made break wall, just past which the sea color went from very light aquamarine to equally dark blue, with more tropical fish than you find in many Disney movies. After four hours, refreshed and sun-warm, we were met again by the hotel's bus driver, making our way past the immense airport, with its completely separate terminal just for haj, with another sparkling terminal just for the royal family and seemingly about 10 extra square miles for future expansions.
Thanks for reading. More to come...