EXPLORE SAUDI'S SECOND CITY
All international visitors to Makkah transit through Jeddah, a glitteringly cosmopolitan city (Saudi’s second-largest after Riyadh) that unfolds along the shores of the Red Sea. It’s only an hour-long drive between the two cities, so a day trip from the Conrad Makkah to explore the best of Jeddah can be easily arranged by the concierge. Head first to al-Balad, Jeddah’s atmospheric old quarter, where well-preserved, whitewashed buildings with signature brown-and-green wooden shutters conjure a bygone age. Definitely pay a visit to the fascinating Nassif House (aka Biet Nassif), a gorgeous, 100-plus-room mansion constructed in the 1870s for the governor of Jeddah, whose family owned the property for nearly a century. It’s now a museum, though opening hours are erratic (ask the concierge to check before you go). The resident docent will show you the mansion’s curious staircases, purportedly designed to accommodate camels, which carried goods to the upper stories. Nearby, the 400-year-old al-Matbouli house is more regularly open to visitors, and offers a window into traditional home life in Old Jeddah. Spend some time getting lost in al-Balad’s quiet, evocative side streets, then hit the souks to bargain for scarves, dishdashas, incense, and more. After digging deep into Jeddah’s past, slip back into the present day at the chic Café Bateel, a contemporary Arabic teahouse operated by a well-known Saudi brand of dates (whose distinctive label you’ll recognize by now from your travels). Here, fusion pastries like za’atar-laced croissants, a Khidri-date opera cake, and dhibs (date syrup) mille-feuille are all popular, but the signature dessert is the “Bateel Sticky Toffee Pudding,” a brilliant riff on the British classic that incorporates a date-pudding base and tangy yogurt ice cream. It’s the perfect cap-off to a day of exploration.
The Conrad Makkah concierge desk can help you plan a half-day or full-day excursion to Jeddah (just an hour away by car), with or without a guide. Confirm opening hours of Nassif House and al-Matbouli before your journey.
NASSIF HOUSE (BIET NASSIF): 3297 Suq al-Alawi, al-Balad District, Jeddah
AL-MATBOULI: al-Balad District, Jeddah; +966-53-763-897
CAFÉ BATEEL: 8322 King Abdul Aziz Rd., Ash Shati, Jeddah; +966-12-290-0399