An astronaut aboard the International Space Station captured this photograph of part of Jeddah (sometimes spelled Jiddah), a major port city on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia. Jeddah is the largest commercial center and port in the nation and, with more than three million people, is the second largest city by population (after the capital, Riyadh). Click here to see another astronaut photograph of the northern part of the city.
Over the past twelve years, the port has been extended from the original coastline. Additional, wider channels were also dredged to make way for heavy ship traffic. Fringing reefs are characteristic of the Red Sea coast; several stand offshore from the King Faisal Naval Base.
Jeddah is sometimes referred to as the "Gateway to Mecca" because it is the entry point for pilgrims and for commercial goods headed to the inland city. Mecca lies approximately 70 kilometers (43 mile) to the east of Jeddah, and it draws millions of pilgrims each year for the annual Hajj.
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