Saudi Arabia’s many modern shopping malls are the main hangouts for the country’s young people in this country without nightclubs, bars, or movie theaters. Jeddah alone boasts over 90 different shopping malls, many of which are located next to each other along the city’s oldest shopping thoroughfare, King Abdul Aziz Street. Riyadh’s main roads are also lined with endless shopping malls. The third floor of Al Mamlaka, one of Riyadh’s most upscale shopping centers, is reserved solely for women. Saudi Arabia’s largest collection of English-language reading material is sold at Riyadh’s two-level Jarir Bookstore.
Saudi Arabia’s malls may be filled with many of the same shops found in their Western counterparts, but the country’s most unique shopping experiences are found in Saudi Arabia’s souqs. These traditional outdoor markets are the best places in the country to find handmade Saudi souvenirs like ornately decorated swords and daggers, incense and holders, and jewelry. Riyadh’s most tourist-oriented souq is Deira’s Souq al-Thumairi, the antique souq conveniently situated next to the Masmak Fortress. Many Souq al-Thumairi vendors speak English, and haggling, like at all other Saudi souqs, is mandatory. Several Saudi souqs specialize in certain items, like the gold souq on Jeddah’s Gabel Street or the Al-Basha market where food and spices are sold in Jeddah’s eastern port.
All Saudi shops must close during the five daily prayers, and shoppers are often kicked out or locked inside during these times. Some Saudi shops remain closed all afternoon, but remain open well after midnight, instead of constantly opening and closing during prayer times. Saudi shops also remain open later during Ramadan because they are closed during fasting times. All salespeople in Saudi shops are men, even in shops specializing in women’s cosmetics or clothing.