When I am on my way from the palace of Ibrahim to Qaisariah Souq, I imagine a souq in the Middle Eastern fashion: lots of different sounds, smells good and bad, men pushing carts overloaded with all kinds of wares, women walking by with their latest purchase, piles of colourful spices, sellers yelling after you and promising you very good deals, perhaps a lost donkey walking through an impossibly narrow alley... The place you could walk around for hours without ever getting bored. How different is Qaisariah Souq! When I approach the block of Al Hofuf where the market is located, I hardly notice the shops in the souq. After crossing the street and walking under the galleria, it seems I arrive at a shopping mall: everything is very orderly, I see shops with clothes, incense, and perfumes. Instead of trying to lure me into buying something, the sellers give me a friendly greeting.
Entering the souq through one of the alleys, I discover that the rest of the souq has a similar, quiet atmosphere. Quite a few shops are closed, even though it is still several hours before midday. Some of the most remarkable clothes for sale are the besht: thick cloaks that protect the Saudis against the cold in winter. Then there are the summer dresses for both men and women, the latter often black. There are shops with traditional daggers and leather belts, and also the keffiyeh, a red-and-white cloth worn by men to protect their heads against the merciless sunshine. An old man is sitting in a stationary shop, reading a book. There are shops with utensils for the kitchen. When I look up, I notice the ceiling high above me, with wooden beams, looks older than the souq itself with its modern shops. The original souq was actually destroyed by fire in 2001, and has been rebuilt with some of the old characteristics in mind.
In the back of the souq, I find an old well at a small square with two gates to the alleys outside. An old man is sitting with his back against the wall, looking at the few people passing by. A group of young guys spot me, and want to take selfies with me. Then, a Saudi starts talking to me, and shows me around the souq before taking me to a bar I have passed before. The interior is quirky, with plates on the wall, but also a bicycle, paintings and pictures, Arabic writing, a carpet. A few people are having a drink, but the owner is already starting to clean up. The Saudis give me a sweet snack. I walk several more aisles of Qaisariah souq, with always less shops open. For the first time, one of the sellers lures me inside, throws a black-and-gold robe around my shoulders, and tries to talk me into buying it, immediately offering a discount because he likes a football player in the national team of my country, and saying that even the king wears a similar robe. When I leave the souq, the last shops are closing.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Qaisariah souq (Saudi Arabia). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Qaisariah souq. Read more about this site.