I did not stray far from the Park Hyatt Jeddah during my recent transit through Saudi Arabia, though I did spend a couple hours in the evening walking around the Kingdom’s second largest city.
I was not near the Al-Balad (old town) district, housing the souqs and older coral houses Jeddah is most known for, but there would not have been much to see at night anyway. Instead, I made my way through the Jeddah Corniche (waterfront) district that is currently in the midst of a revitalization. The main road was torn up and despite the late hour (or perhaps because of the late hour due to the heat during the day) dozens were busy at work resurfacing Middle Corniche Road.
You can see that many people were out eating and shopping, enjoying Krispy Kreme donuts, Baskin-Robbins ice cream, and McDonald’s with friends and family. I emphasize that because there are so many misconceptions about Saudi Arabia in the west, and I was certainly guilty of having very different (and admittedly negative) notions about Suadi Arabian society before I arrived. I do not minimize the lack of religious and political freedom in many realms of the Kingdom or the limited rights of women, but society was much more open than I thought it would be and you can see that Saudis, apart from their garb, are really not much different than us.
How to get to Saudi Arabia
The best way to get to Saudi Arabia is on Saudia (formerly Saudi Arabian Airlines), the Kingdom’s flag carrier. Saudia is a member of SkyTeam and makes generous amounts of award space available to SkyTeam members. Saudia has three cabins of service and having flown them recently, I was really impressed by the hospitality onboard. Legroom, IFE, and food were all acceptable as well. From the U.S., Saudia serves both New York JFK and Washington Dulles. The carrier also serves most major cities in Europe.
While Air France/KLM Flying Blue, an American Express transfer partner, levies fuel surcharges when redeeming on most carriers, there is no fuel surcharge on Saudia flights. That makes Saudia an attractive redemption options for trips to the Kingdom or beyond–check connections to other points in the Middle East, India, and Asia. You can search for Saudia award space online using Flying Blue’s award search engine. Another good option is to use Delta Skymiles to book Saudia award flights. With Delta you are limited to economy and business class redemptions, but again will avoid a fuel surcharge and you have the added value of a complimentary stopover if you so desire in the Kingdom or at another point in your journey. Delta and American Express are running a 30K miles sign-up bonus now on the Delta AMEX card and at least until the end of 2013, Skymiles are still a good currency to have for travel to this region–
Read more of my Saudi Arabia + Afghanistan Trip Report–
Introduction: A Journey to Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan
How to Obtain a Saudi Arabian Transit Visa
New York JFK to Jeddah in Saudia Economy Class
Review: Park Hyatt Jeddah
Pictures from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Jeddah to Dubai in Saudia Economy Class
Dubai to Kabul on Ariana Afghan Airlines
Arrival in Afghanistan
The Panjshir Valley of Afghanistan
My Hotel, er Compound, in Kabul, Afghanistan
Kabul – TV Tower Hill and Darul Aman Palace
Kabul – National Museum of Afghanistan
Kabul – Gardens of Babur and Kart-e Sakhi Mosque
Kabul – The Green Zone and British Cemetery
Kabul International Airport and Departing Afghanistan
The Afghanistan Dilemma
Kabul to Dubai on flydubai
Dubai to New York via Jeddah in Saudia Economy Class