A coastal city of contrasts, Jeddah is home to both an ultramodern industrial centre and a centuries-old historic district. As the principal gateway to Mecca and a thriving economic power, Jeddah is one of the most important cities in the Middle East, both in terms of religion and commerce.

Each year, Jeddah welcomes thousands of Muslims from all over the world as they complete their Hajj. Many devotees stay long after, joining the countless foreigners who've moved here for employment opportunities in one of the city's many strong industries.

Despite quotas imposed on local companies by the government, Saudi participation in the labour force remains fairly low with the majority of Jeddah's labour force coming from abroad, ranging from North and East Africa, Iran, Turkey, Yemen and Southeast Asia to Western Europe and North America. New arrivals often find support in existing expat communities.

Though Jeddah is ruled by Sharia law, as is the rest of Saudi Arabia, it is the country's least conservative city. Respecting the cultural and religious norms remains important, but expats will find themselves under less scrutiny than they would be in other areas of the Kingdom.

Jeddah can be a salty breath of fresh air in a country where there are many restrictions. Though it may take expats some time to adjust to life here, respecting the local culture and being open to learning will make it easier to settle in.

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