Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Jeddah (also Jedda, Jiddah, or Juddah) is a city in in western Saudi Arabia, on the Red Sea. Founded as a fishing village over 2,500 years ago, it first achieved prominence in 647 A.D., when the Muslim caliph Uthman ibn Affan turned it into a port for pilgrims making the haj to Mecca. The population of the city currently stands at over 2.3 million.
Two accounts explaining the etymology of the name of the city exist. According to the less common account, the name means "seashore," since Jeddah is located along the coast and is Saudi Arabia's most important port. The more common account has it that name is derived from jaddah, the Arabic word for "grandmother," because in the Arabic tradition, the tomb of Eve, grandmother of all humanity, is located in Jeddah. (The supposed tomb was concreted-over by the religious authorities in 1975, as some uneducated Muslim pilgrims were praying to Eve there, which is strictly against the Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.)
The British Foreign Office still insists on using the older spelling of Jedda, contrary to all other English-speaking usage - including other branches of the British government.
Culturally, Jeddah is far more liberal/tolerant of non-Saudis than Riyadh or Damman, due to the history of the Hejaz region. But definitely not as tolerant as Aramco cities such as Dhahran and Ras Tanura.
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