Haraj (bin Gassem) The Hidden Secret of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Each day I continue to learn of new and interesting tidbits of information about Saudi Arabia and especially Riyadh, which is where I live.  The other day I was introduced to Haraj (bin Gassem) which must be a well-kept secret since it took me over two years to learn about it.


Haraj (bin Gassem) is a second hand souk east of Riyadh.  It is an exceptionally large souk and extends for blocks and blocks.  Everything at the souk is second hand but so many items will appear brand new that it is hard to believe they’ve ever been previously owned.


The souk sells items from automobile parts to carpets to household appliances and household items to toys to clothes.  Many of the stalls are inside of the huge white beudion style desert tents.  And for second hand, the individual stalls are actually well-organized.  For example in the area with hundreds of stalls selling second hand clothing, racks of clothes will be neatly organized and arranged hanging on hangers.  One rack will have trousers, another shirts, another skirts, etc.


Now here is where the secret part comes in – the prices and the quality.  I will address specifically about the clothes.  I have been told that many of the clothes were likely cast offs from members of the Royal family.  The clothes span from items for children, western dress for men such as business suits, dress shorts, casual clothes, jeans to traditional dress such as thobes, bischts, smaughs, farwas and for the women, what an incredible selection!  Here is where one will even find a large selection of wedding dresses as well as haute coutre gowns in addition to skirts, day dresses, jeans, blouses and traditional Saudi thobes for women as well.  The maximum price one would typically pay for an outfit such as a man’s western business suit or a woman’s haute coutre gown is 30 SAR (less than US$10).


I also wish to point out that in regards to clothes, we are not talking about junk or out of fashion rejects.  Many of these items are designer clothes, very well made and still in the height of fashion.


Sadly a lot of Saudis when hearing of this souk have a stigma at the mere thought of going somewhere and looking at “second hand goods.”  Well, then that is their loss and everyone elses gain!  I have no qualms going to the second hand souk where I may find an Oscar de la Rente or Chanel gown in excellent immaculate condition and IN MY SIZE for 30 SAR as compared to 7,000 SAR from an exclusive boutique.


When you go, naturally be watchful of your purse and mobile phone.  Have plenty of small notes (1, 5, 10 SAR denomination) due to the incredible prices.  A woman -could- go without wearing a head covering but it is more suitable to have something over the head at such a traditional souk.  I know of a Canadian woman who went unaccompanied and without covering her head who found herself being harrassed and groped at while walking around.  I went with another female friend and we had no problems at all and were treated with respect.


Fortunately the majority of taxi drivers know if you are in Riyadh and ask to be taken to Haraj bin Gassem.  But a word of advise, try to avoid the souk on the weekend as then it is a frenzy of expat laborers who have nowhere else to go and crowd control and smell control can be pretty intense.

56 Responses

  1. Good presentation Carol.

    I just want to add that part of it is a black market. You can find your stolen stuff (TVs, videos and more) in there. Also, there are new shops which sell good quality things. By the way, I hate to go there because it is too crowded and you can get robbed easily.

  2. I love flea markets…thats what it is right? We have a big one here in Bahrain as well. It has stalls lined up under canopies..and then some scattered around on the outside. Theres even an area dedicated to animals…which I find heartbreaking as most of the animals you find there arent in the best of conditions…not to mention crammed into tiny cages etc without food or water. It has a large area dedicated to “Persian” cats…I say persian because bahrainis think any cat with longish hair is persian and there for worth lots of money. Stealing these cats from compounds etc and reselling them in the flea market is a big business.

    Your right about Saudis not liking second hand goods…same holds true for Bahrainis…you will see them in the market but they are mostly buying DVDs or electrical or plumbing supplies…or maybe the odd used mobile phone. There are plenty of stalls selling new items and these are where the bahrains buy from…all the used stuff is usually being gone over by the common laborers brought to Bahrain.

    And while there are plenty of used clothes for sale…cant say Ive ever seen a Oscar dele Renta(?)…but then again…I wouldnt know one if I saw it…lol.

  3. I don’t know many arabs who would ever shop in a second hand store. The emphasis on class/socioeconomic status is too great and really borders on obsession sometimes. I still remember when my father refused to go somewhere in public with me because I had on a pair of flip flops. I was informed that I looked like a beggar. And one of my friends looked at me in absolute horror when I told her I had gotten my lovely shirt from GoodWill for 50 cents (second hand)

    Anyways, personally i’m all for second hand stores. With some of the more expensive designer goods and fancy party wear you mentioned I’m sure they have probably been worn only once. Twice at the most. Brand knew clothes from a mall have probably been worn more, with all the buying and returning that goes on.

  4. I am trying to find some photos a friend took when we made our first visit there which gives an indication of the set up.

    Yes, coolred, it does indeed remind me of the flea markets.

    Again, for anyone in Riyadh, I stress that you try and go during a weekday or weeknight to avoid the larger crowds.

  5. I went for the first (and only time) last year and was very disappointed. We had new bus drivers who had no clue where they were supposed to be going and we were dropped at a really junky part of Haraj. Actually the who morning was a disaster! 5 mins after leaving the compound we had a collision with a car in our brand new bus (on an empty road) and had to wait for another bus since our driver had to wait for the police.

    We eventually set off once again for the souq, driver didn’t know the area, we were dropped in the wrong place. Wasted morning! So I am still hoping to get the opportunity to go some time.

  6. I bought a beautifil used jalsa set in excellent conditon from the haraj. the originally owners probably paid quite a bit to have it custom made. It is big enough to wrap around a huge majlis and came with 4 end tables that fit like a puzzle with the set. I only paid 500sr for it and was told i could have got it for less if i knew now to haggle.

    @coolred, is that the iranian souk? I lived briefly in Bahrain and I remember the Iranian souk being something like how you desrbibedonly i thought it was wholesale not used.

  7. I am SOOO excited!! Carol, can you email me and let me know how to get there? I’d love to go…I’m all about bargain shopping, and there is no shame in my game:)
    And maybe I’ll take a look for my mobile that got swiped a while ago right out of my purse;)

  8. I have since learned that a number of expats will go to this souk. One enterprising woman from Australia was buying up the haute coutre dresses, having them cleaned, and sending them back to Australia where she was reselling them for significant profit!

    Um Sumayah – Im not as familar with this part of Riyadh to give directions so that is why I suggest you ask a limo driver. The driver I use knew immediately where to take me when I asked him about this souk.

    I have found for myself since my body is still going through post-cancer changes my size keeps changing. I find Haraj an excellent alternative to get a variety of fashionable clothes at reasonable prices since each week it seems like my size has changed…not that I’m complaining since this continues to be weight loss!

  9. Hmm, you looked very slim to me Bedu!
    I’m all for recycling! I have very nice clothes from the Salvation army,( and I have only beautiful clothes), and I’m the first to dive into an interesting skip if I see one.
    I’m worse than a flea-market flea; I’m a garbage rat!
    I got my beautiful nineteenth century regence salon table with real gilding from a garbage heap. I’ve restored it and it has now pride of place in my salon!
    I got most of my antiques from flea-markets!
    Ofcourse I never have any money, so it’s my favorite hobby to hunt for antiques.
    So please put this on my list of five must-see places in Riyad. 🙂

  10. Aafke I relate to everything you say! I so appreciate a good bargain and love the quest to find unique things from faraway and unexpected places!

  11. Back in the 90’s, my family used to go to Haraj on nice days. I don’t remember any of it being in a tent, but I do remember the tremendous variety of sale items, some of them new, actually. Aisles and sandy aisles of whatever kind of merchandise you could think of, and some you’d never think of.

    An afternoon at Haraj was as much entertainment as bargain hunting!

  12. Actually while I did say tents, there are more like some kind of corrugated covered shelters … hard to describe. But most importantly they will keep the rains out (if and when it ever decides to rain)

    I think it is worth seeing, especially to compare against the shopping malls it reflects yet other choices and options in KSA.

  13. I have been to this souk many times, but I know it as either the Second Hand Souk or the Princess Souk because of all the amazing elaborate gowns. I have been there both alone and with groups of ladies and never had any problems with either pick pockets or being accosted. Of course I don’t leave my handbag open or put it down. Last spring I bought 15 wildly decorated gowns to bring back to Canada as “souvenirs” for family. They were a huge hit! I also bought more simple yet elegant gowns for myself for the formal events we attend here. What a bargain at US$2.50 each!

  14. I have never understood why some people place such a stigma on second hand items. How is anyone on earth to know that you didn’t buy it brand new unless you tell them? I have gotten so many deals shopping at second hand places, and the items don’t even look used! I’ve asked my hubby if there are any thrift stores here in Jeddah, but he said he doubted it. So I’ve told him, maybe we should start a business doing that here! Certainly there are enough ex-pats here to support it…

  15. Susie- check some of the local compounds they have yard sales from time to time. I got a few good deals before they stopped having them because the western expats were in low numbers. They have a car boot sale here in Bahrain at the BSPCA the first friday of the month.. I’ll have to check it out next month.

  16. Susie — check with our other mutual friends you have in Jeddah. I believe they may know of some places.

  17. I have visited this market on numerous occasions. One can find rare pieces of antique stuff and second hand items that might be of interest but be careful of your bags and valuables as crowds attract pickpockets, cell phone snatchers and all kinds of misfits. Make sure you have a good grip of your Arabic numerals as these vendors rarely speak English. Most items are fairly cheap, so bargain if it is more than 10 SR. If it is less than 10 SR, don’t bother negotiations, just pay it and go on.

  18. if you had told me about all those gorgious dresses at bargain prices I would have brought a ticket months ago! 😛

  19. Excellent advise Ali and thank youfor commenting.

    Aafke — go buy that ticket!!

  20. Aafke go with me I’m too chicken to travel alone.We could pay for the trip reselling the beautiful gowns LOL!

  21. as a saudi we rarly go to the haraj, but there are other places like Souk el Arab =Arab’s Market. the Problem with the haraj bin gassim is that not every thing you buy will function after one or two use, but if you dig deep maybe …. you will find a good deal.

  22. Abu Abdullah – where is Souk el Arab? And can you describe it please?

    In regards to Haraj from the female perspective, if one does not mind 2nd hand, it is a gold mine for clothes for everyone and the household section is very interesting too, particularly for traditional Saudi coffee pots and other traditional Saudi housewares. Lastly, the rattan/wicker section offers very good deals to get attractive furniture for a balcony, courtyard or deck at very reasonable costs.

  23. well if you ever come to Jeddah, consider visiting (souk Al-sawarikh) it also goes with another name (al-sina’iah)
    it’s the same as Haraj bin Gasim.
    I shop there for accessories, wrist watches and bags. sometimes, antiques, but not clothes because they’re usually in a very bad condition.
    However, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll find brand names getting rid of their old products there. you can find clothes with a price reduced from 200 riyals to 10 riyals.
    Most of the clothes I wear at home are from there, but not the ones I use when I go out.

  24. I love Haraj bin Gassim and I miss it so much. I wish we have one here in Nebraska (sigh)!
    I used to go there with my friends just for the fun of it, not necessarily looking for anything in particular. And as you said, I’d recommend it to everyone, especially the expats for it’s a real cultural experience and a good place to find good deals. I am a Saudi and I don’t mind buying second hand clothes for instance, but I never bought anything from bin Gassim because my thobes are tailor made to fit me perfectly, and plus, I am very picky about what I wear. Thanks for sharing.

  25. magicrealism – thank you and welcome to the blog. I’m sure readers from Jeddah will be very pleased to learn of a similar type souk there. Can you provide a location or directions? Do most limo drivers know it? Haraj is good for used clothes. The majority are in excellent condition and so many are well known brands and haute coutre.

    Naif – thanks for your comment! I understand that thobes usually do need to be tailor made. I’m glad to hear you are a Saudi though (and male) who has no objection to buying second hand. It saddens me that 100 per cent of the Saudis to whom I’ve mentioned Haraj to have all told me “don’t tell anyone you go there.” And of course they also made it clear they would never go there! Oh well…different strokes and all…

  26. Carol, now you’ll have to do a post explaining what you mean by Limo. People are probably envisioning you pulling up at a flea market in a stretch limousine, having your driver wait and getting back in wearing one of your newly purchased discount ball dresses 🙂

  27. you’re quite right…i remember when I first came here and all the females talking about their limo drivers before I realized that actually meant a private taxi service!

  28. ohh do you mean the ‘princess souk’? where you can get all the ‘princess’ dresses?

    I have been there once and I have to admit I didn’t like it at all. But a lot of my friends bought evening gowns there

  29. I believe it is also referred to as “Princess Souk.”

  30. If one can get a 7000 SAR clothing for just 30 SAR, that is what you call a steal!

    Only IF we have such things in Singapore. 🙁

  31. I am happy to say thanks to this post I know of a few more individuals who have recently experienced and enjoyed the finds of Haraj!

  32. One of my relatives – not a Saudi- is going to the Haraj market ever since he came to Riyadh some 20 years now.All his needs e.g. electrical equipments,houseware are from Ben Qasim.Those who live in Eastern Riyadh can visit the other Haraj located in the south of Naseem quarter. Bedu – I enjoyed reading through your blog.Regards

  33. Can anyone actually give some approximate directions to this magical place?

  34. it is somewhere after you pass IKEA. Was this approx. enough:)

  35. Abou Waleed – please tell me more about the other haraj! Is it like bin qassem? And thank you for the compliment and comment.

    Joeschmoe – i can say that the limo and taxi drivers know how to get there. If this helps, enroute you pass an area where you have to roll up car windows but even that does not help keep the bad smell out. So I think it is not too far from a waste treatment plant. I know…not the nicest landmark…

  36. Reuters liked this post. Haraj is no longer a Riyadh secret!


  37. The Chicago Sun Times also picked up this post:


  38. i am diya sauid is cool place i like it and love it…

  39. Welcome Diya and glad you also enjoy the souk!

  40. Interesting place but you need to be in the mood for it. I personally know it as the “Junk Souk” or the Haraj Souk and I’ve not found a driver yet who doesn’t know where it is. I walked away with a beautiful set of rugs for next to nothing. Could’ve done alot more shopping if I had more time to orient myself with the whole area.

    I keep my head covered and respect the laws of the land, I went there with my husband (who is also American) and we were not welcomed by many of the vendors. We actually had people who gave us the “go on” sign as they scooted us away from their area. Others “forgot” how to speak English or simply walk away when we approached.

    I do not feel too safe there but I’ve never been followed or harrassed in any way (knock on wood). Like I said, I will return, but only under the right circumstances…..1)being in a patient and partially pushy mood, 2)only with other women who cover their heads and keep a low profile and 3)weekday morning.

    Hope my opinion helps any of you skeptics out there.

  41. Welcome to the blog KSAblondie. Thanks for sharing your experiences. In fact, I spoke to an American friend recently and he was able to find a Bokhara handmade carpet there for 100 SAR – that is an incredible bargain.

  42. I’m off to Riyadh and Jeddah for the first time tomorrow. I assume there will be bargains in between in good quality good price shops.
    Any ideas as to classic Arab horse bridles and saddles to take back to Spain?

    Thank you

  43. For Riyadh have someone take you to Traditionals; Deira; Al Owais and Taybah souks. Those are the places for traditional and classic items representative of KSA.

    In regards to classic bridles and saddles, I’m sorry but I don’t know where to go for those in Riyadh.

  44. Hi! I am soo interested. Where is this place? I am only on visit visa..are there mutawa’s ? because I am afraid to go to Batha coz a lot say that Mutawa’s can harrass some people and to find that I dont have iqama I should better stay away. Is this near sahara mall as my place is near that mall? Thanks!

  45. Blanche,

    I cannot tell you exactly but it is not in “main riyadh.” Most taxi drivers do indeed know the way. Muttawa can be at Hiraj but as long as you have a valid visitors visa you should not have any problems.

  46. I’m so excited I can’t wait to go! Fingers crossed it will be as amazing as you describe! I am a Saudi lady and I have absolutely no qualms about purchasing second hand goods….. designer brands are such a rip off these days! Thank you so much for the tip! Kindest regards, Munira

  47. We went there for the first time today. Last time we couldn’t find it – there wasn’t really a definitive description on the net on how to find it. Indeed it is off exit 21, (from the direction of Ikea), take a right on the exit, make a U-Turn and then turn into the buildings. You have to weave a bit around the streets but here is a map position to make life easier:
    24°35’57.48″N, 46°43’51.35″E
    We bought a load of stuff for our baby (some of which he can grow into). We paid for 3x Jeans and 17 shirts around 60 Riyals. Have fun ^^

  48. Hi there!
    I just want to share my life or should I say experience in Haraj. Im living in Riyadh for almost 6 years now, specifically in Al Batha, just a taxi ride it would take for only 10 to 13 minutes away from my home and I would agree to all of you, it is really amazing to visit Haraj, I could say you will find “anything under the sand” in a very affordable prices! Its been a habit or addiction to visit haraj for shopping purposes, all designer jeans and branded items you will find it there. particularly ZARA collection (dress section) for a t-shirt and short sleeve polo it cost SR 5 for long sleeves you can even bargain for 2 pcs at SR 15 for jeans SR 10 and for lady blouses 3 pieces for SR10 and wide variety of cocktail dressess for the Lady, maybe I have seen one of you from Haraj, since I have noticed then lots of western or maybe european. I am not sure for the brands of these georgeous evening dress they used to hang in every wall of the stall, I believed this is their marketing strategy to attract buyers because the effort is justifiable for the quality, condition and style (from vivid colors, unique designs and most importanly the price is really very affordable! I bet you will all agree with me. Travelling there is easy, take a taxi and instruct the driver Haraj bin Gassim. From my place (Al Batha) they will charge you for SR 10, so you may calculate your distance for the fare from you place. Haraj is open to anyone as long as you have patience and of course budget. Business starts on a daily basis (Sat – Wed) 8:00 am to 20:00 pm and Thur – Fri (as early as 6:00 am to 20:00 pm (prayers time in between and must be observed). As long as you have IQAMA you can travel to the whole kingdom. I surpassed my addiction to clothes. Now, I’m very much interested on collecting unique & rare things made of silver, brass, copper and zinc and thank god i found haraj to fulfill my hobby. If you don’t like huge crowd or caught in the traffic, the best time to visit haraj is Tuesday and Wednesday (Based on my observation the delivery from the suppliers arrived every Tuesday, since they considerd Thursday and Friday is the big days, they used to prepare and arranged their quality stuffs on Wednesday in preparation on Thursday. Now, on bargaining skills always meet at the middle, if you will give your ideal price automatically for 50 % off, you are giving bad impression to the vendor, try to look the value of the item over the price if it is reasonable. Doing that this vendor wanted to see you again; ” I have new item newly delivered” they will offer you their stuff directly as you are the first customer to see their items.

  49. I want to go to haraj to buy a 40 foot container for used clothes for export to africa. Can someone direct me to the right person or company to talk to.
    I need a phone number or email address.

  50. I want to go to haraj to buy a 40 foot container for used clothes for export to africa. Can someone direct me to the right person or company to talk to. Please you can contact me by email [email protected].

  51. r there ny gud designer bags available there.like chanel or louies vuitton?

  52. I have been in Riyad for the past two months and I’m hoping to visit this Souk. What I’ve noticed among the locals is that any discussion of visiting the Souk with a Saudi will be met with surprise (“why are interested” kind of look) followed by “its not worth visiting!” But I’m determined! Stay tuned to hear of my experience!

  53. may i ask if the haraj near in batha is different with princess souk?
    if different place may i know the exact location?

  54. Amazed in Reading everyone post ..
    Pls pls pls can anyone tell me flea market in jeddah … i want to buy second hand accessories or handbags , which i cant afford so much money in malls .. im staying in jeddah for 10years but now only heard of flea market , it would be so greatful if anyone reply to my post and tell me second hand shops in JEDDAH ..



  55. Hi, can anyone tell me where to find a second hand mobile phones and gadgets for a cheaper price? im off to riyadh this year. it will be a big help for me to save more when buying an electronic item. Thanks in advance.

  56. Can someone tell me where in Riyadh is this market, what exit please

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