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7 Must-Visit Traditional Markets 'Souk' in Saudi Arabia

10 June 2024 22:20 WIB

TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Saudi Arabia presents a wide array of tourist destinations featuring diverse landscapes, from barren deserts, picturesque coastlines, and majestic mountains, to traditional shopping venues. Each region also boasts its own unique climate patterns and cultural allure.

One way to immerse yourself in the varied traditions of Saudi Arabia is by delving into its traditional marketplaces, known as souks or souqs. These markets offer a distinctive fusion of culture, history, and treasures. Here are seven renowned souks in Saudi Arabia, each exuding its own singular charm:

1. Souk Al Alawi, Jeddah

The historic alleys of Souk Al Alawai, the largest souk in Saudi Arabia, are a silent testament to Jeddah's affluent heritage. Located at Off Al Dahab St, Al Balad, Jeddah, the marketplace teems with visitors from around the globe during the Hajj season.

Tourists can find an assortment of goods ranging from local produce and spices to authentic handicrafts, jewelry, Arabian carpets, and traditional attire. Additionally, there are also electronics and everyday necessities, showcasing the richness of Saudi cultural heritage.

2. Souk Al Zal, Riyadh

Nestled in Al-Dirah, the heart of Riyadh, approximately 5.4 kilometers from the historic Al-Murabba Palace, Souk Al Zal spans an area of 38,000 square meters and stands as one of the oldest traditional markets in Riyadh with over a century of history.

Wander through the winding alleys and listen to the lively banter of vendors as they invigorate the ambiance with their auctions. The market is renowned for its antiques, rare coins, and furniture, including musical instruments, vintage record players, and an array of intriguing items reminiscent of a museum of ancient folk traditions. Additionally, there are shops offering incense, oud, and oriental fragrances. Don't miss the antique auction held daily in the market after the Asr prayer.

3. Souk Diah, Riyadh

Souk Diah, also known as Soul Al Thumari, is located close to the iconic Al Masmak Fort. Located at 3138 Abi Jafar Al Mansour St, Ghirnatah, Riyadh, this market is a haven for art and heritage enthusiasts. Its labyrinthine alleys lure shoppers with local artwork, perfumes, and handicrafts for sale. 

As you stroll through the souk, you'll be enveloped in the rich Saudi culture, surrounded by unique artifacts found nowhere else. Visitors can also acquire gold jewelry exclusively designed for the royal community.

4. Souk Al Tumor, Medina

Saudi Arabia is the second largest producer of dates worldwide, and Medina city is renowned for the quality and variety of its dates. These small fruits are not only a delectable snack but also an integral part of Saudi culture. In fact, the date palm stands as a national symbol. 

Dates boast a long shelf life, making them ideal souvenirs to take home for friends and family. Souk Al Tumor is the prime destination to explore the wide array of dates in Saudi Arabia. With over 150 varieties of dates available, from the locally grown Ajwa dates to the rare and luxurious Medjool, this market is a date enthusiast's paradise.

5. Souk Qabil, Jeddah

Also referred to as Qabil Street, Gabel Street, or Qabel Trail, the souk is a historic market, quite possibly the oldest in Jeddah and the first street in the city to be fully electrified. Currently, Souk Qabil is renowned as a bustling cultural center.

Especially during Ramadan and Eid evenings, the souk comes alive with traditional food stalls and entertainment. Although situated on a small street, it shall be an indispensable part of your visit to Al Balad, Jeddah's old town, as it provides access to numerous alternate alleyways leading to museums such as Nassif House, Al Matbouli House, and Al Shafie Mosque, all of which preserve Jeddah's historic cityscape.

6. Souk Qaisariah, Al Hofuf

Souk Qaisariah is a testament to the enduring spirit of Saudi tradition. Dating back three centuries, this souk in Al-Hasa invites visitors to bask in the sights and allure of a bygone era. Restored following a fire in 2000, the market now stands as a tribute to its illustrious past. This souk offers a diverse assortment of spices, incense, and traditional Saudi handicrafts.

7. Souk Okaz, Taif

Embark on a journey to the ancient city of Taif and uncover the spellbinding Souk Okaz. Originally an open-air market, Souk Okaz transports visitors to a bygone era of commerce and tradition. Experience the enchantment of its annual festival, where poetry recitals, storytelling, and cultural performances take center stage. Spanning over 14 million square feet and featuring more than 200 shops and 150 attractions, this cultural extravaganza stands as a must-visit during your trip to Saudi Arabia.

YUNIA PRATIWI

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