The American Mission to Saudi Arabia began as a legation in Jeddah in 1942. Full diplomatic relations commenced in 1949 and the U.S Mission, located in a traditional house in the old city center, became an Embassy. The Embassy moved in 1952 to the current Consulate General location, which at the time was an isolated, beach-front property far to the north of the city limits. Along with all other foreign missions, the Embassy was transferred to Riyadh in 1984. The former Embassy compound in Jeddah is now a Consulate General in the heart of one of the Middle East's most dynamic cities.
Known locally as "The Bride of the Red Sea," Jeddah lies at about the same latitude as Honolulu and Hong Kong, and it shares their hot, humid climate. Tradition has it that the city derives its name (meaning grandmother, in Arabic) from the legend that the biblical Eve was buried here. It has, since nearly the inception of Islam, been the main point of entry for foreign pilgrims intending to perform the Hajj or pilgrimage to Makkah. Caliph Othman personally selected it as the ideal locale over rivals to the north and south. Jeddah's advantage was that it already was an established port with a history of facilitating the pre-Islamic pilgrimage and spice trades in the Hejaz, the western region of what is now Saudi Arabia.
Some 9,000 Americans live in the Jeddah Consular district, which encompasses the whole of western Saudi Arabia from Yemen to Jordan. Many work for large firms and others are employed by smaller international and Saudi companies.