WHAT TO BUY IN SAUDI ARABIA
If you are planning to visit Saudi Arabia, you are probably wandering about what souvenirs and gifts to buy and bring back home. In this wealthy, oil-rich country you can find anything from international luxury brands to traditional Arabian items. Here are some ideas of what to buy in Saudi Arabia. Just remember to check for prayer times when shopping since most stores still close for about half an hour several times a day and shop in the malls during the morning to avoid the afternoon and especially, the evening crowds.
WHAT TO BUY IN SAUDI ARABIA
Dates, date jam, date serving dishes
You can buy inexpensive but good quality dates at regular grocery stores like Tamimi and Danube. For beautiful boxes of dates, which make fantastic gifts, head to Café Bateel. They have a couple of stores in the city center, including the Kingdom Center Mall. You can also buy dates in Riyadh Airport, but no fancy boxes there. Look for the Ajwa, Ambar, Safawi and Sukkari dates. The grocery stores also sell date jam and date purée for cooking. And of course, you can't serve the dates without a beautiful serving dish. You can find date serving dishes at souks or even at large supermarkets.
Gold is sold by weight in Saudi Arabia, no matter how intricate the design. Most gold jewelry sold in Saudi Arabia is 22 karats and bright yellow, while white gold is virtually unheard of. 22-karat yellow gold contains almost 92% gold with added silver, copper and zinc for durability. If you have been to Dubai, you have most probably seen the enormous jewelry on display at the gold market. If not, check out the gold souks in Saudi even if you are not planning to buy anything. Read more about buying gold in our article here:
You will find perfume stores everywhere, the scent filling the air. Oud, extracted from fungus-infected agar tree, is one of the most expensive natural perfumes in the world and you can find it in the souks and perfume stores in Saudi Arabia. They also sell oud oil that can be added to the wood chips in the incense burner, which is another souvenir that can be bought in Arabia. If the scent of oud is too much for you, try the Taif rose which is less pungent.
CAMEL MILK SOAP
Vitamin-rich camel milk soap has many benefits, and is even used to treat some skin infections. Unfortunately it is not as widely available as you might think, but I have seen it sold in Riyadh Airport's duty free shop. Another quality skin-care product is date oil for skin, face or hair. It has a pleasant scent as is not greasy. But again, I have only seen it sold at some farmers markets.
CAMEL MILK CHOCOLATE
I have not found camel milk chocolate made in Saudi yet, but I still think camel milk chocolate made by the Dubai-based company Al Nassma makes a great gift. It is sold in supermarkets and in Riyadh Airport.
Dallah is the beautiful Arabian copper coffee pot. They come in regular and in small, souvenir sizes. Making Arabic coffee takes several steps and requires quite a bit of equipment, all of which is available in Dirah souk in Riyadh. The mortar and pestle used to grind the coffee can also be used to grind spices. They are made of copper and a little heavy, but you can find some smaller ones that are easier to carry back home.
Shops selling silk and wool rugs made in Kasmir, Turkey, Azerbaijan, etc. fill the alleys of Dirah souk in Riyadh. The prices are reasonable and the smaller ones will even fit into a suitcase. If you don't need a rug, get some cute rug coasters instead.
There are some spice stores around the city, but you can also find good quality spices in supermarkets. Make sure to buy some Saudi kabsa spice, it is wonderful with chicken.
This is the Saudi dagger with a curved blade you may have seen in pictures. They are also sold framed as wall decorations and you can find several store in Dirah souk.
Dirah souk is filled with stores selling the traditional Saudi men's red and white headscarves as well as scarves for women. There are also stores selling the traditional outfits like abayas, thobes and the fancy gold-embroidered bishts as well as handmade sandals. Look for the local artisans making agals (the black cord that keeps the headscarf in place) and the sandals.
BEST MALLS TO VISIT IN RIYADH
You have probably seen a picture of the tall tower that looks like a giant bottle opener. Inside, there is one of the most luxurious malls in Riyadh. Here you can find high-end boutiques from Burberry and Chanel to street fashion, as well as a food court and even a movie theatre. Besides, you can visit the Skybridge for incredible views of Riyadh. In spite of the construction all around the tower, the Kingdom Center is easy to get to by taxi.
The mall's food court is a little uninspiring with its low ceiling and no windows. If you are looking for something better than fast food, check out Spazio or Elements at the Four Seasons Hotel, both located inside the Kingdom Center.
Address: Kingdom Center Mall, Al Olaya, Riyadh 11321; website: kingdomcentre.com.sa
The Centria Mall is nowhere near as luxurious as you would expect from a high-end shopping mall, but it is considered the ultimate destination for high-end fashions in Riyadh. The prices for high fashion and accessories are about the same as in the US.
Address: Olaya St, Riyadh 11672; website: https://www.centria.com.sa/
Riyadh Park Mall
The luxurious Riyadh Park Mall is huge but well laid out and here you will find anything from clothes and accessories to home goods. The Vox Cinema has several screens and the kids are sure to have a good time in the Magic Planet--a fun park featuring rides, games and attractions. There are dozens of restaurants to choose from as well.
Address: Northern Ring Branch Road, Al Aqiq, Riyadh 13511, website: https://riyadh-park.com/
BEST MALLS IN RIYADH
The best souk to visit in Riyadh is Dirah souk. There are actually several souks clustered together, such as Souk al Zal and souk Thumairi, but everyone knows the area as Deira souk. It is a fascinating place with a laid back atmosphere where the salesmen aren't pushy. They generally speak decent English, are used to foreign visitors and are happy to showcase the traditional items for sale. Every Friday and Saturday, there are live antique auctions when the men dressed in thobes sit in circles watching the auctioneer calling out bids for items displayed on a rug on the sandy ground. You will find everything from Arabian coffee pots, traditional clothing, silver jewelry, hand-made sandals, perfume, and rugs here. There is even a small gold souk in Deira.
Location: next to Al Masmak Fortress
RIYADH GOLD SOUK
There are several small gold souks around the city, but the best one is known as the Kuwaiti souk on King Fahd Road (24.7356068, 46.6618699). Here you will find designs from Oman, UAE, Kuwait, turkey and everything is sold by the gram, no matter how intricate the design. L'azurde, one of the largest gold manufacturers in the world, also has a store here.
THE BEST MALLS AND SOUKS IN JEDDAH
RED SEA MALL
The mall is home to local and international brands, between high to mid-level, as well as a fast food court and a cinema.
Address: N. King Abdulaziz Road, Jeddah: website: https://www.redseamall.com/
MALL OF ARABIA
A huge mall with lots of high street brands and food options.
Address: Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah Rd, An Nuzhah, Jeddah 23532; website: https://www.arabiancentres.com/mall/index/ar/9/mall-of-arabia/
Mostly high-end international designer stores including Tiffany & Co., Prada, Gucci, Balenciaga, and Jimmy Choo.
Address: Ash Shati, Jeddah 23414; website: http://www.boulevard.com.sa/english/mall.php
Al Balad and Gabel Street SOUK
Al Balad or the old town of Jeddah is an atmospheric place to visit. Here, you can find souvenirs and spices, traditional perfumes and shoes. The Gabel Street Souk next to it is also known for its gold market.