Hello and welcome to another day of sun in Riyadh. Since the last blog there has been a major sandstorm and yesterday there was a dust storm where the sky above us looked blue, but the dust underneath covered everything in a beige haze, reduced visibility and made it v unpleasant to be outside.
Anyway, today has dawned bright and sunny and I am just back from a swim in the pool!
Also since the last blog we were lucky enough to go with some friends on a visit to At-Turif a UNESCO world heritage site in Riyadh. It is the site of a city founded in the 1700s which is the forerunner to modern day Riyadh and was once home to the first members of the royal Al Saud family.
The area includes the remains of Salwa Palace built in the 18th century, a grand mosque, a souq and the houses of the surrounding city:
They have been carrying out a huge restoration program at At-Turaif in recent years and have included a number of interpretive museums including the Museum of the Horse, a living village demonstrating traditional crafts and a visitor centre. At-Turif was opened to visitors during Diriyah Season which ran at the end of last year but is currently closed again for further work to be completed. We were lucky enough to be invited along on a private visit which was a real treat and I am so pleased we had the opportunity to tour this important heritage site.
I also recently paid a visit to Taiba Souq also known as the Gold Souq, or the Kuwait Souq, or the Ladies Souq – but whatever you want to call it, it is a veritable Aladdin’s Cave of treasures!!
There has been a souq on this site for a long time – the current buildings date back to the 1960s making it the oldest ‘mall’ in Riyadh – although it is nothing like a modern day mall. It is a maze of narrow walkways radiating out from a central mosque crammed with tiny shops and market stalls. And although there are shops selling all kinds of things, his is the place to come to barter for gold – and there are SO MANY shops selling gold:
As well as gold you can also pick up fragrances, abayas, kaftans, toys, make up, toys and all kinds of household goods.
It’s unlike any other market I’ve been to because there is no shouting ‘come and look’, ‘looking costs nothing’, ‘please madam, look’ etc… you are welcome to browse, but only if you want to. The women at the clothes stalls or the make up stalls might ask ‘Can I help you’ , but then again they might not…
There also appears to be a gender divide with women running the open air stalls and men serving in the gold shops. Gold is sold by weight and each piece is weighed before the price is calculated and it fluctuates depending on the worldwide cost, apparently it has gone up recently and I would have got more bang for my buck a few months ago. And of course bartering is a must!
The market opens 4pm – 1am every day and gets much busier at around 7.30pm after the final prayer for the day. There is almost a stampede back to the shops from the mosque to get the shutters up and get trading again at the end of prayers – no one wants to miss the opportunity for a sale!
Did I invest in a piece of jewellery? Maybe I did… am I tempted to go back again? Maybe I am! It was a really fun experience. I went with my friend who speaks Arabic and who knows her way around which was a great introduction. Speaking the language definitely helps – especially when you’re bartering hard on prices. But it’s perfectly fine to go on your own too – and if there is a language barrier it’s amazing how the desire to secure a transaction can overcome any language problems!!
And that’s all for this blog on International Women’s Day. (I went to an event in Riyadh where we heard from a panel of inspirational women including one who campaigned for women to be allowed to drive in KSA in the early 1990s and was subsequently banned from working for 3 years).
Anyway I hope you have enjoyed this blog.
Until next time – stay cool!