If you’re like me, a travel junkie who wishes to see the whole world during your lifetime, and you’re fascinated by the Middle East, the culture, the climate, the architecture, lifestyle and religion, it is only a matter of time when you will pack your bags and head to the Middle East. However, given that the Australian and Middle Eastern cultures are nothing alike, it’s essential that you get an education prior to packing for this kind of trip. Learn all the do’s the don’ts, places to see, food to taste, the proper attire, all of it.
Matters of the Suitcase
When traveling to a country more conservative than your own, you must think ahead and plan your wardrobe carefully. For Saudi Arabia, that means conservative clothing which includes ankle-length wide and loose dresses. This is one of the most conservative countries in the Middle East, so an abaya is preferable, as you are expected to blend in with the locals. Pants are allowed but only if worn under an abaya, and a head scarf is mandatory – so basically clothing that does not attract attention. The color palette should be kept minimal and not the least bit flashy, so your suitcase should be filled with a variety of black, beige, navy and gray. As for footwear, flat sandals are your best choice because you truly need something to cool you off. One thing of particular importance is that you always have your passport and visa upon your person, because fines and penalties for those who do not are severe.
Expect the Unexpected
In that spirit of blending in and avoid any kind of ostentatious appearance, pack minimal makeup and go for a more no-makeup makeup look, and pay special attention to skincare, as the weather conditions are quite different than here. So, don’t forget your moisturizers, cleansers and toners as your skin will endure sandy weather (even when you don’t see it it’s there) so it is of the utmost importance you are packing all the skincare you can possibly cram in your makeup bag. As it can get unexpectedly humid (but rarely to never rainy), to avoid frizzy hair, as there will be female-only places where you will be able to lose the head scarf, make sure you also pack products to help anti-frizz your hair. I did, and it is the smartest thing I did.
Sights and Culture
There are places that are restricted to foreigners, and on top of that places that are restricted for women, but there is still much beauty left to see. There is the King’s Fountain, the breathtaking Floating Mosque which looks even more spectacular when the tide is high, and let us not forget the place I spent hours just getting lost in my own thoughts and beauty – the Fakieh Aquarium. There are of course travel guides for those considering Jeddah as their next destination, so make sure you have you schedule packed beforehand.
As you surely must know, being a Muslim country, alcohol is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia, but that does not mean that you can’t enjoy fine dining. If you are wondering what to do in Jeddah as a tourist and still feel like a local, there’s a number of contemporary and unique cafes like Medd Cafe & Roastery, which I absolutely loved. If you do wish to dine like a king, then you must visit Al Khayam and relish the great food and the luxurious ambiance that only Arabs seem to do right. If, for some reason, you’re a travel junkie but you’re reluctant to try exotic and unfamiliar food, there are always good old Western places like the Cheesecake factory to rely on.
Take Me Shopping!
Even though all the Saudi women might look like they don’t care about fashion, as they are all covered in black abayas, if you find yourself in ladies’ company only, it will probably look like that scene from Sex and the City 2. Arabs love fashion, especially the high-end brands, and don’t shy away from flaunting it, just look at the only visible thing on them – their bags, and all will be clear. So, even though you will not be able to show your sense of style, you will be more than able to bring the latest fashion back home, as Jeddah is home to numerous (and enormous) shopping malls, such as the Red Sea Mall that is home to every brand under the sky, from fast-fashion and affordable to high-end and prestige. Saudi Arabia may be conservative when it comes to many things, but as you will be able to see, they are quite liberal when it comes to flaunting their wealth and income on clothes, makeup and accessories, so at least at the mall, every true fashionista will feel right at home.