Feature F1 Unlocked
DESTINATION GUIDE: Where F1 fans can eat, visit and stay when they head to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Despite being the new kid on the block with only two races under its belt so far, the Saudi Arabian GP has quickly established itself as a thrilling watch as the drivers battle it out under the lights around the fastest street circuit on the F1 calendar. In the second of our new series, Formula 1 paddock stalwart Amy Overy – aka food blogger F1 Foodie – gives us a guided tour of the best eats, treats and things to do when fans visit Jeddah.
The track, which is located on the Jeddah Corniche adjacent to the Red Sea, boasts 27 corners – the most of any F1 circuit – and has produced some of the most exciting racing in recent times.
Aston Martin Cognizant Aramco F1 team test and reserve driver, and Saudi Airline ambassador, Stoffel Vandoorne enjoys the warm welcome he receives whenever he visits the largest country on the Arabian Peninsula.
“Saudi Arabia is an incredible place, rich in culture, events and experiences,” he said. “The Saudi people receive us very well – they’re very kind, very open and they always put on great hospitality.
"The Jeddah circuit is located in a nice part of Saudi next to the Red Sea, and due to being one of the higher speed tracks it’s certainly one of the most physical and challenging to drive.”
Where and what to eat
Unsurprisingly due to its location on the Red Sea, Jeddah boasts some of the freshest fish in the world and seafood features prominently on the menus of restaurants all over the port city.
Speed is key in the preparation of the day’s catch at Jeddah’s Central Fish Market, and you can haggle with vendors over local delicacies such as Red Grouper (Najil) and Napoleon Wrasse (Tarabami), then take it to the preparation area to be cleaned and prepped, before enjoying it cooked to your liking at the market’s onsite restaurant – all in a matter of hours from being landed.
For those who want to enjoy the fruits of the (Red) sea but without the legwork, Twina Seafood Restaurant is a popular spot with a changing daily menu of freshly caught fish, and a vibrant atmosphere.
If seafood doesn’t float your boat, then there are plenty of other options to be had in this culinarily diverse city which showcases the very best of local Hijazi cuisine.
At Khayal Jeddah you’ll find authentic dishes made from traditional family recipes, delivered with warm and generous hospitality. Open from morning until late night, enjoy breakfast pies or succulent grilled meat platters in this colourful and popular restaurant.
Another local favourite Al Nakheel serves an extensive menu featuring many local dishes and has a spacious outdoor terrace with views of the coast. They are also operating a pop-up at the inaugural Islamic Art Biennale (see non-F1 highlights below).
Breakfast is a meal taken very seriously in this city, and there are many restaurants and cafes which serve popular breakfast staples such as foul – a fava bean stew usually flavoured with lemon and garlic. Try this delicious dish at Foul Abbas a tiny crowded establishment with a small menu done well, and which has been run by the same family for over 40 years.
Another Jeddah stalwart serving Saudi breakfasts of foul, shakshouka and tamees – traditional Arabic unleavened bread – is Tamees 09, a down to earth café specialising in local Hijazi cuisine.
Where to stay
There are many big-name hotels situated on the Jeddah Corniche close to the F1 track with price points to suit every budget. Alternatively head for the guesthouses near the old town of Al Balad to fully immerse yourself in this historic neighbourhood and the buzz of downtown Jeddah.
Where to watch the race
Whilst all of the grandstands offer great views of the track, the best view of the drivers battling it out on this challenging high-speed circuit is the grandstand surrounding the banked Turn 13.
Step back in time and discover a flavour of what this once small fishing port was like in bygone days by wandering around the Al Balad historical quarter, where some of the buildings date back to the 7th century and remain largely unchanged.
Since being listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2014, this tangle of souks, mosques and coral stone houses with enclosed balconies of latticed teak has been the subject of thoughtful restoration to help preserve the architecturally significant buildings, whilst ensuring the area loses none of its unique charm.
Many of the old houses are now museums and art galleries, allowing visitors to take a glimpse inside these charming ancestral homes. One of the most renowned is the Nassif House. Once the home of a wealthy merchant who was also a governor of Jeddah, it is now a museum, cultural centre and library.
It is said that the wide shallow staircase inside was so designed to allow camels to climb easily to the first floor to unload their goods.
Stroll along the scenic waterfront and immerse yourself in the striking sculptures that make up the Jeddah Art Promenade. This globally curated open air art gallery was launched in December 2021 to coincide with the inaugural Saudi Arabia Grand Prix, and features pieces by world renowned artists including KWEST whose golden falcon sculpture stands majestically in the Red Sea as a powerful statement of ‘art and creativity taking flight’.
Further cementing its status as an arts powerhouse on the world stage, Jeddah is hosting the first ever Islamic Arts Biennale until April 23, so F1 fans can experience the vibrancy of Islamic art both past and present at this exhibition honouring the richness of the Kingdom’s creative heritage, whilst championing innovation and fresh ideas.
With its pearly white minaret and aquamarine dome, the exquisitely designed Al Rahma Mosque appears to rise out of the water at high tide on Jeddah’s corniche, earning itself the moniker of the ‘floating mosque’.
It’s well worth a visit at sunrise or sunset to fully appreciate the beauty and grandeur of this elegant place of worship, not to mention the spectacular panoramic coastal views from the courtyard.
With jets of water propelled to a maximum height of 312 metres, King Fahd’s fountain is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest fountain of its type in the world.
This iconic landmark visible throughout Jeddah, uses saltwater from the Red Sea and the water ejected can reach speeds of 375kmph. In 2017 Team Red Bull Airforce base jumper Othar Lawrence set a global record by leaping from a helicopter and jumping the length of the fountain.
Jeddah is a dynamic city which embraces its culturally rich past, whilst having one eye firmly on the future. The city’s unofficial motto is ‘Jeddah ghair’ meaning ‘Jeddah is different’ and with its intriguing contrasts, this forward-thinking jewel of the Red Sea most certainly is.
SAUDI ARABIA AT A GLANCE
Currency: Saudi Riyal
Population: Approx. 4 million
F1 race held since: 2021