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Riyadh`s Taibah Souk for Cinderella Gowns and Jewelry Galore

A souk is a marketplace. Some souks are completely outdoors, like street fairs or farmer`s markets, with clothing and flea market style second- hand things. This souk, the Taibah Souk, is the opposite extreme. It`s a fascinating labyrinth of angled pedestrian streets (blocked off to all car traffic) that takes up a square city block in downtown Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It`s indoors, airy and upscale, with stores opening out onto polished white pedestrian walkways that are open to the outdoors at the ends, covered with high, peaked rooves.

Taibah Souk, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Taibah Souk, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Among other things, it`s got aisles of shops filled with Cinderella-like ball gowns.

Elegant dresses for sale

Elegant dresses for sale

I`ve come to realize that the Saudis may not have a lot of traditional painted art, but they sure are artists when it comes to dressmaking. Stores full of elegant dresses like this fill this souk and all the malls here. I hear that the women wear these creative and elegant outfits to wedding receptions and parties, and they must go to a lot of them judging from the number of dress and jewelry shops around.

Dress Art

Dress Art


Dress shops in Taibah Souk

Dress shops in Taibah Souk

And there are even more aisles filled with jewelry shops, with pieces so elaborate and gems to big that I mistook it for costume jewelry until I looked at the price tags and saw that most items start at the equivalent of $10,000 Canadian dollars. Some stores have enough diamonds glittering on display that it looks like a starry night sky trapped under glass.

Expensive jewelry

Expensive jewelry


Fancy filligree

Fancy filligree


Some aisles are filled with dollar stores and some with furnishings and housewares. They must do a lot of catering at home to keep so many stores like this with fancy large scale serving dishes for sale afloat.

Housewares for fancy entertaining

Housewares for fancy entertaining


Silver Serving Dishes

Silver Serving Dishes

At this souk, you can walk down walkways like this for a good hour or more before you start to find places you`ve been before, and can get lost in two minutes if you take a lot of turns and don`t have a good sense of direction.

When the call to prayer comes lilting over the loudspeakers, it`s a bit like musical chairs as women try to appear not to rush to get a seat on one of the benches lining the periphery of the souk walkways to wait out the 25 minute prayer time while the men go and pray.Everything shuts up and comes to a complete stop during prayer time.

It gets dark at around 6 p.m. these days, and it gets dark quickly, making it feel like it`s the middle of the night hours before it really is. An endless night that matches the nocturnal lifestyle here in hot Saudi Arabia.

Taibah Souk at Nigh

Taibah Souk at Nigh

Most shops and all the malls open at 10 a.m. and stay open until midnight here, and most people only come out to shop after 4 p.m. The busiest time to go shopping here is between 9 and midnight, if you can believe it. Since the morning call to prayer is at 3:38 a.m. these days, they don`t get much sleep here. My students were averaging 4 hours of sleep per night the month before exams. It`s a very noctural existence here, but it makes sense since the evening cool temperatures are a welcome relief from the daily heat. It`s getting to above 40 degrees celcius here ( by 5 a.m.), and will soon get over 50 degrees everyday during summer. No wonder people save their shopping until the late night hours!

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