Saudi Arabia’s traditional souqs exude Ramadan vibes
Bustling with tourists and residents, souqs are the beating heart of Saudi cities
Updated 19 min 15 sec ago
RIYADH: Souqs are the best place to buy Ramadan essentials — food, decoration or fashion — and to experience the hustle and bustle of the holy month.
Souq, meaning market in Arabic, is a modern shopping destination but with an old-world charm.
May AlSheikh, reservoir geoscientist at Aramco, spoke with Arab News to explain the importance of souqs in the Middle Eastern culture.
“Souqs are historical shopping and trading scenes that have been around for thousands of years. I strongly believe they remain an essential component for preserving culture and identity in Saudi Arabia, on the local scale, and the Middle East region as a whole,” Alsheikh said.
Alsheikh believes the souq is a place where tourists can indulge in culture and get a taste of tradition.
“I work in a company that is a cultural melting pot with people coming from all walks of life, and I always recommend my expatriate colleagues to visit souqs — they love it! It’s a great tourist attraction and a pleasant activity, where they enjoy the traditional ambiance while purchasing traditional goods and foods,” she said.
AlKhobar’s Al-Swekit Souq
One of the oldest souqs in the Eastern Province, Al-Swekit Souq, is a hub for affordable gold jewelry and abayas.
AlSheikh visits the Al-Swekit Souq during the month of Ramadan to buy all sorts of things for herself and the family.
Souqs are historical shopping and trading scenes that have been around for thousands of years ... they remain an essential component for preserving culture and identity in Saudi Arabia, on the local scale, and the Middle East region as a whole.
May AlSheikh, Reservoir geoscientist at Aramco
“Shopping in Swekit market is fun, especially around this time of the year with the holy month of Ramadhan fast-approaching. The shops in Swekit usually sell a variety of traditional merchandise and local produce. I personally love buying abayas, spices and customary festive attire for myself and the kids,” she said.
Jeddah’s Al-Balad Souqs
Al-Balad is Jeddah’s oldest neighborhood, founded in 7th century AD, and is home to a plethora of some of the oldest traditional markets: Souq Al-Badu, Souq Qabil, Souq Alawi, Souq Nada, Souq Al-Khaskeya, Souq Bab Al-Makkah and Souq Bab Shareef.
The souqs have a variety of shops to explore, selling gold, textiles, honey, spices and much more. Some of these markets have been around for decades and hold a special place in the hearts of locals.
“It is a lively, enjoyable, and unpretentious social activity where you see people from different backgrounds and economic classes shop and interact together. And, quite frankly, that’s the beauty of it! It breaks social norms, shrinks the social and economic classes’ gap, and promotes a healthy, inclusive society. In addition to that, souqs give thrive to small-scale businesses which feed into the overall economic growth,” AlSheikh said.
Just make sure to put your bargaining hats on to show off some negotiation skills.
AlUla’s Old Town Souq
Julian Ryall, Japan correspondent for The Daily Telegraph, visited The Old Town Souq in AlUla, where community locals set up clothing shops, fruit stands, pottery and crafts, and cafes amid a beautiful view of the mountains.
“Any foreign visitor who comes to Saudi Arabia is going to want to visit a souq. It has to be one of the most important elements of a trip, as important as drinking tea on a trip to England,” Ryall said.
He added: “I loved the hustle and bustle of market, of the stall-holders calling out to passers-by, of being encouraged to haggle on prices and just the items that were available,” Ryall said.
“The local gold shop was the perfect place. I was embarrassingly bad at haggling so the owner took pity on me and gave me a discount anyway. I think I’ll tell my wife I did haggle the price down when I give her the earrings.”
Riyadh’s Almaigliah Souq
Established in 1986, Almaigliah Souq is the first wholesales traditional market in Riyadh located next to Al-Masmak Fort.
The complex consists of four buildings, each specializing in a genre of shopping: gold, women’s clothing, men’s apparel, and perfume.
Almaigliah is best known for their great deals on the best Arabian ouds perfume, spices and women’s abayas.
For almost three decades, this souq has attracted tourists from all over the world and continues to be a retail destination for locals.
Who’s Who: Abdulrahman K Justaniah, first Saudi to become a partner at global strategy consulting firm Kearney
Updated 12 min 16 sec ago
Abdulrahman K Justaniah is the first Saudi to become a partner at the elite global strategy consulting firm Kearney.
Justaniah joined in January 2022 while being part of the strategic operations practice and supporting the firm’s growth in the region. He has been part of many of the transformational projects in the Kingdom supporting clients as a trusted adviser.
Previously he had several public and private sector leadership roles. The most recent was vice-president of strategy and excellence at the Expenditure and Project Efficiency Authority in 2021.
The authority was established in 2017 to support Saudi Arabia’s efficiency, project execution, operations and maintenance for all spending through the public budget.
He joined the authority as the fifth employee during the startup and served in multiple leadership roles.
Before his vice-presidency role, he held the same position for strategy and shared services from 2020 to 2021, and was executive director of strategy and organizational excellence from 2019 to 2020.
He also worked as executive director of the strategic procurement unit from 2017-2019 and led the establishment of the strategic procurement unit to increase government efficiency, and led the organizational design, developed processes, and set up governance with more than 450 government entities across the Kingdom.
Before that Justaniah worked with Procter & Gamble as manufacturing director in Dammam from 2015 to 2017 and led part of Dammam’s manufacturing operations.
He has also worked with P&G as regional supply chain director/IMEA demand planning leader in Cairo, transition and startup director, market planning senior manager, project manager and supply planning manager.
Justaniah obtained a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran. He also completed leadership courses, pathways to leadership process, GROW Coaching, situational leadership and emerging leaders.
Installation of 120 areas for prayer, 12,000 Zamzam water containers at Grand Mosque
Visitors to the Grand Mosque will be given the opportunity to learn more about the Prophet Muhammad following an initiative by the presidency to enrich the experience of those attending the site during Ramadan
Updated 26 March 2023
RIYADH: The Grand Mosque in Makkah boasts 120 areas for prayer and 12,000 containers of Zamzam water to help ensure a comfortable visit for pilgrims during Ramadan.
People at the location have worked round the clock on the third Northern expansion to make the mosque as safe and as hospitable as possible for visitors during the holy month.
The General Presidency of the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque has prepared some 120 areas for prayer at the site. New additions to help visitors include several allocated doors for entry and exit.
Walid Al-Masoudi, the director of the General Administration of the Third Saudi Expansion at the Grand Mosque, said that the specially allocated doors would facilitate the arrival of worshippers and aid them on their way to prayer rooms on the ground and first floors, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
He added that the roof level will be used for the first time, and in the event that the internal areas of the Grand Mosque are filled, the northern and western courtyards and parts of the service buildings will be utilized as they have the capacity to accommodate more visitors.
Al-Masoudi said that in coordination with the specialized agencies and authorities, some 26 elevators had been installed.
He added: “All the praying areas of the mosque have been provided with 22,000 carpets and over 12,000 containers of Zamzam water.”
Visitors to the Grand Mosque will be given the opportunity to learn more about the Prophet Muhammad following an initiative by the presidency to enrich the experience of those attending the site during Ramadan.
Bisat Al-Reeh festival returns to Jeddah for 22nd year
More than 170 exhibitors from 15 countries including Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon, Turkiye, Egypt, London, India and Jordan are taking part
Updated 26 March 2023
JEDDAH: One of the biggest festivals in the Islamic world dedicated to women is holding its 22nd event in Jeddah as part of the Kingdom’s Ramadan Season.
The National Charity Foundation for Home Health Care, also known as We Care, is holding its ‘Bisat Al-Reeh’ event for six days starting on Monday at the Jeddah Superdome under the slogan “Everlasting Goodness.”
The annual exhibition this year has two days for families and four dedicated exclusively for women to promote their creativity in fashion, jewelry and furniture and nurture young talent.
Bisat Al-Reeh is held under the patronage of Princess Adelah bint Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz and in the presence of Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan.
More than 170 exhibitors from 15 countries including Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Lebanon, Turkiye, Egypt, London, India and Jordan are taking part. Uzbekistan will also be represented for the first time.
We Care said Bisat Al-Reeh encourages entrepreneurs to exchange knowledge and experience with elite society members and promotes the display of various related industrial sectors.
Proceeds have supported We Care charitable programs and activities in home healthcare and hospitals.
Princess Adelah, the chairwoman of the foundation’s board of trustees, told Arab News at last year’s event: “The foundation works for noble goals, as today it serves ten different regions of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
“Its goals fall within providing home health care in addition to providing patients’ psychological and social needs and supporting them with medical equipment and supplies, as well as enhancing the functional capabilities of the patients and supporting them until they regain their independence.”
Ramadan Season also offers a series of cultural experiences and events in Riyadh, Jeddah and Makkah organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture.
The season aims to celebrate areas of the Kingdom’s historical and cultural heritage that relate to the holy month.