Shopping (By Women) in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia is indeed a shopping paradise for the woman in Saudi Arabia who likes to shop. It does not matter whether she is young, old, Saudi or an expat woman in the Kingdom. Something is available for each woman’s individual taste in the Kingdom. Naturally among the most popular and generally appealing to all groups of women in the Kingdom are the gold souks, which are plentiful. Saudi gold is rated among the best in the world for its value, design and cost. Even the smallest town will have a gold souk or two.
Due to what may be perceived of the limited activities available for women in a segregated society, shopping is a favorite pastime. The malls in the Kingdom are among the finest in the world with their glittering and appealing displays of goods from all around the world. The latest fashions from Rome, Paris, London and New York arrive in Saudi Arabia probably faster than most other major cities in the world. There are many Gucci, Chanel and Armani clad women underneath the shrouding black abayas!
While one first naturally notices the gold and haute couture fashions the traditional items should not be overlooked as well. Dressmakers abound in the Kingdom and do a thriving business in part thanks to the plethora of shops offering the finest of fabrics and notions. Why go and buy that haute couture dress when you can have your very own made which fits to perfection? In addition for those who wish to create the Arabian nights experience there are many traditional souks to explore where one can purchase daggers, incense, oud, carved furniture and the finest of carpets.
The Kingdom needs to better promote its shopping opportunities. A book which distinguishes between the modern malls and traditional souks as well as their locations and specialties would be very useful regardless of whether a Saudi woman or expat woman.
To begin with if you are not aware, unaccompanied males are prohibited from entering the malls in Riyadh. Males are only allowed to enter if accompanied with a female. Now that being said, I have heard repeated that foreign western men at least are usually allowed entrée. This also explains why security details are always posted at the entrances to all shopping malls.
I’ve made a general list of some of the malls around Riyadh which individuals will commonly frequent:
Al Faisaliyah: Al Faisaliyah is an upscale shopping establishment located as the name indicates in the Al Faisaliyah complex which has its own hotel and apartments under the same name. This complex is owned by the two brothers, HRH Saad Al Faisal and HRH Turki Al Faisal. Al Faisaliyah is a lovely and secure shopping complex with a variety of shops although the emphasis (as typical in the Kingdom) is on shops for women. Al Faisaliyah is located in the Olaya district and known to all taxi drivers.
Al Memlikah: Al Memlikah is an enterprise owned by HRH Alwaleed bin Talal. Like Al Faisaliyah, it is an upscale shopping center. The third floor of Al Memlikah is for women only allowing women to remove their abaya if they choose while they shop. Al Memlikah is known to all taxi drivers and located in the Olaya district.
Granada Mall: Granada Mall is a smaller mall (as compared to the others described here) located off of exit 8. While again an emphasis is on women’s shops, it also has an Obeikan bookstore inside. It also has an outlet of the unique gift shop “Traditionals.”
Sahara Mall: Sahara Mall is among the largest malls in Riyadh going on and on and on. It’s a great place to walk for exercise. While this among the largest of malls, the majority of shops in this mall are for women and specialize in clothing, accessories, shoes, make-up and perfumes. And typical of large malls, this one also has a Safeway (Tamimi) grocery store connected within the mall. This is another mall that any taxi driver would recognize and know.
Hayat Mall: Hayat Mall is my favorite mall. I believe it has the widest variety of differing shops. It is also a large mall although not quite as large as Sahara. At this mall, something can be found for everyone. In addition to the usual plethora of women’s shops, Hayat Mall is a good place for formal dresses. I also like the fact that this mall has a Jarir bookstore attached and a shop called “Extra” which is known for electronics of all kinds. In addition, it has a Danube grocery store which has an outstanding bakery, deli with wide selection of imported cheeses and a good fish market. Hayat Mall is located adjacent to Sahara mall and known to taxi drivers.
Royal Mall: Royal Mall is a smaller mall very much specializing in formal dresses for women. It also boasts an indoor ice-skating rink which is fun to sit by and watch the skaters as they pass by. Royal Mall is located off of King Fahad Road and known to taix drivers.
Al Owais (Kuwaiti Souk): The “Kuwaiti souk” is among the oldest souks in Riyadh and located in Mohamadiyah off of King Fahad road. One must wander in and out of the many many small shops and narrow alleyways. Everything is negotiable. The Kuwaiti souk contains a little bit of everything from household goods, carpets, furniture to abayas, thobes, shoes and dresses as well as gold and spices and food stuffs. It’s well known to taxi drivers and should be a ‘must-visit’ on anyones list for a traditional shopping experience.
Deira: Deira is an area located in the old city adjacent to the infamous “chop chop square” where public executions are held. Deira, like the Kuwaiti souk, is another traditional style souk that goes on and on with a multitude of shops and offerings. Deira is especially known for antique watches, daggers, traditional clothes, hand carved furniture and other items representative of the Kingdom. All taxi drivers are familiar with how to get to Deira.
Euromarche: Euromarche is located on Takhusseesee street. It was one of the first “western” style shopping centers to be built in Riyadh and during its heyday was most popular among westerners in the Kingdom. It has been overshadowed now by the other larger and more modern malls but still worth at least one visit. The Euromarche shop can be compared to a “Super Wal-Mart” or K-mart back in the States with discounted clothing, groceries and many other items to set up house. It is well known to taxi drivers.
Azizia Mall: Azizia mall is located off of King Fahad road heading outside of the city. It is a smaller mall but a comfortable mall. The majority of shops are for women but it also has a Panda grocery story too. It is located in the same vicinity as the headquarters of Saudi Airlines. It’s not among my first choices but overall not a bad place to go, especially for leisurely strolls out of the heat. Like most malls in Riyadh, it is known to taxi drivers.