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Shopping in Saudi Arabia


Few local products are of interest to tourists. Locally grown dates are of high quality, and religious paraphernalia is widely available, but almost exclusively imported. Copies of the Koran are produced in a wide range of editions and sold at very low prices. Zam zam water is available throughout the Western Region and at all airports.

Carpets are a favourite purchase, most of these coming from nearby Iran. Jeddah in particular has lots of carpets, many brought by pilgrims who sell them there to help finance their trip to Mecca.

Large gold and jewellery markets (souqs) are prominent in all major cities. Bargaining is a norm in most small to medium sized stores. Mecca and Medina offer a lot of variety in terms of luggage, clothing, jewellery, knick-knacks, souvenirs, toys, food, perfume, incense, and religious literature, audio, and paraphernalia.

Large, well maintained air-conditioned malls and grocery stores (i.e. Safeway, Giant, Carrefour) are scattered throughout the kingdom. Note that all shops, even those selling women's clothing and lingerie, are staffed exclusively by men and have no dressing rooms.

Shopping hours are generally Saturday to Thursday 9 am-1 pm and 4:30 pm-8 pm (Ramadan 8 pm-1 am). These hours differ in various parts of the country.


If there is one relatively unrestricted activity in Riyadh that can be indulged in, it is shopping. Shopping constitutes the city's parallel culture, and authorities have been sensitive to this by building mosques in every mall. They are impressive structures, brightly lit and usually open 24 hours a day. Kingdom Centre is the grandest of them all. It houses the swanky Al-Mamlaka Shopping Mall, which contains a special floor just for women called the Ladies Kingdom.

Al Faisaliah (at the foot of the Al Faisaliah skyscraper, Olaya Road), is one of Riyadh's swankiest malls, anchored by a Harvey Nichols department store. The food court on the third floor is among the best in the Kingdom; the one in the basement, on the other hand, is deserted. There is a fun park in the basement near the entrance on Olaya Road.

Other malls also have floors solely catering to females, the most popular being the Sahara Mall and the Al-Jazeera Mall. Sahara Mall has 180 shops anchored by a Tamimi supermarket and features what may be the largest food court in the city; if you can't find what you want here, the adjacent Sahara Plaza annex has more.

There are numerous options in the city when looking for traditional Arabic furniture and carpets, but be prepared for expensive prices.

If you are looking for an inexpensive souvenir, head to one of the local markets, and don't hesitate to bargain. Also known as Antique Souq, Souq Al-Thumair (Deira, next to Masmak Fortress) is Riyadh's most touristy souq. It specialises in Arabic goods cheap and expensive, authentic and fake, with carpets, coffee pots, daggers, jewellery and more. English is generally spoken.





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