If you’re in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh and looking for shops to buy authentic souvenirs, you’re in luck as there are loads of places to explore. Although there are plenty of top shopping malls in Riyadh, for traditional gifts and souvenirs it’s time to visit the souks and step into a more authentic shopping experience. Whether you’re after unique gifts, antiques, oud-based perfumes or handwoven carpets, we round up the five best places to buy authentic Saudi souvenirs in Riyadh.
Incense, antiques, textiles and more – take your pick. Souq-al-Zal found in the Ad Diriyah neighbourhood is the oldest and biggest antique marketplace in Riyadh, making it one of Riyadh’s most sought out attractions. Its rich cultural history dates back to 1901 and the longstanding souk is a must-visit when staying in the Saudi capital. Whether you’re looking for a cheap treasure or a special antique, don your comfiest walking shoes and get ready to explore its cosy walkways. With a pocket full of riyals and your best negotiation skills at the ready, it’s time to source out some authentic souvenirs. Opt for musky oud perfumes, handmade camel leather slippers and traditional artefacts such as Arabic coffee pots (dallahs). Souq-al-Zal translates as carpet market, and the brightly coloured and beautifully designed handwoven carpets from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kashmir and Afghanistan are also not to be missed on a trip to Riyadh’s Souq-al-Zal.
Souq Al Thumairi
Located near Masmak Fortress in Ad Diriyah, Souq Al Thumairi is another souk that’s well worth a visit for authentic souvenir shopping, set right in the heart of old Riyadh. The tourist-friendly souk sells everything from handmade goods, traditional Arabic clothing like abayas and kaftans, pashmina scarves, perfumes and even toys. A trip to Riyadh’s Souq Al Thumairi, is almost an adventure itself and you can also buy tonnes of fresh herbs, spices and more, plus coffee beans and saffron. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon here and while you’re at it, don’t forget to make a pit stop at one of the many little food stalls and refuel with some Arabic coffee and delicious dates.
If there’s one souvenir that’ll definitely remind you of your trip to Riyadh, it’s gold. As part of Riyadh’s Souk Al Thumairi, there’s a dedicated gold souk with dozens of jewellery shops selling beautiful gold and silver trinkets. From rings to necklaces, bangles and bracelets, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Bargaining is part of the souk experience, so don’t feel shy about haggling away in that hope of bagging a bargain souvenir. Saudi Arabia is the largest jewellery manufacturer in the region so as the saying goes, go for the gold. Don’t forget to shop for a souvenir for yourself while you’re at the Gold Souk too.
Off Al Thumairi St, Al Diriyah.
Found on Riyadh’s King Fahad Road, Souq Taibah is one of the oldest markets in the north of the capital of Saudi Arabia. What was once known as a shopping mall is more reminiscent of a market place, due to the many new, swanky malls across the capital. The mega souk is often referred to as the “ladies’ mall” by the locals, due to the fact that most of the items sold in its maze-like corridors cater to women. Souq Taibah is categorised into sections selling woven carpets, silver and gold goods, home décor, make-up (including henna) and fashionable yet affordable abayas, other types of clothing, and toys and various bits and bobs for the little ones. Get ready to spend a day (or two) meandering its many halls and be prepared to come out with bags of goodies and authentic souvenirs.
King Fahad Road.
The Date Souq
Culturally, dates have long played a key role in Middle Eastern cuisine and rituals surrounding hospitality. So where better to visit to buy a sweet souvenir in Riyadh than The Date Souq? These sweet bites of tastiness (which are good for you too, bonus) are perfect souvenirs to give to friends and families (we find parents especially love them) – or take home and scoff yourself. Most dates found for sale across the region originate in Saudi Arabia, and no trip to KSA is complete without a visit to The Date Souk. The hugely popular souk is located just off of exit 14 in Riyadh and also sells loads of fruits and vegetables. Dates vary in colour, size, ripeness and sweetness but we’d suggest going for the ajwa variety. They may be pricier than the rest but they’re decadently sweet, super-gooey and are packed full of health benefits. Mark a date (ahem) in your calendar for this shopping experience in Riyadh.