Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Okay guys, I just came back from Batha...sorry I've got no pictures because I was running errands while I was there.

Batha is a sprawling collection of shops and markets, so it's very easy to get lost there. The part I visited today was marked by a post office in the middle of a parking lot. Mental note: this is the first post office I've ever seen in Riyadh. It was empty. I didn't see any stamps. I don't understand!

Anyhow, the first thing you'll notice about the demographics here is a lot of Indians but also a lot of Filipinos. As a result, you'll find a ton of Filipino grocery shops and bakeries with delicious bread in them. The male to female ratio seems a bit higher at this souk than at Deira or Kuwaiti. That's just an anecdotal observation so I can't say it for certain, but if you get uncomfortable having too many sets of eyes on you at one time, this might not be the market to go to alone.

I believe I was wandering around in the electronics section of the Batha market, and consequently had nothing to buy. There are a couple of malls that are just full of computers, DVD players, TV's, clocks, etc. etc. Lots more back-of-a-van type stuff.

Batha also has a sizeable fish market and you can smell it from a mile away. I won't lie, it's pretty nasty looking, but I'm from Toronto where the closest thing we have to a fish market is Kensington, which is about ten notches up on the sanitary ladder to God, but then again, Canada is cleaner than most parts of the world. I know people who buy fish in Batha and they love it; they go out of their way to go there. So don't let me sway you either way.

Batha also has a fabrics section and many tailoring shops. We've accompanied a groom to help him choose material for a suit before, which was fun. This souk is definitely geared towards men, so there are a lot of men's clothing stores and shoe stores. Also, they have your usual cornucopia of junkyard sh*t - like a tower of duct tape next to a bin of socks, things like that.

They also have a row of uniform shops there, so you can buy yourself any kind of service industry outfit you need. Mechanic jumpers, maid outfits, waiters and stuff like that. If you're wondering why you would need anything like that, well I don't know. I'm just telling you what I saw!

Regarding safety, people recommend that you cover your head there and at Dira as well because there are supposedly a lot of Muttawa nearby. I know a woman who got her boob grabbed at Batha. And there are rumours of people getting stabbed in the Kuwaiti Souk. People have also talked about being mugged too. Well my only advice is to be alert, don't get lost, and try and bring a friend with you if you can. I've gone alone against common advice because I don't have any friends ha ha ha. I'm kidding (sort of). That being said, I didn't see too many other women there walking around by themselves. Riyadh's already restrictive enough without all the fear-mongering chatter, so do make a visit to Batha if you're curious - I, your internet friend - think you'll be fine. Just watch out for your boobs!


Tara Umm Omar said...

You are brave to go alone! One thing I like about Bat-ha is dirt cheap shopping.

Nalini said...

This is exactly why I haven't been to Batha yet - because of all the people that warn that I shouldn't go alone... since there is never enough time on the weekends to go with my husband (plus I hear it's rammed on the weekends)it remains a mystery to me... I will make it there soon enough cause it sounds like it's pretty unique from the other souks.

It must get pretty busy for grabbing to happen... not a nice thing, but then again, grabbing happens in Toronto clubs too so I guess it's not just Batha - it's just rude men - guess it's universal.

Orchidthief said...

Tara, that's what I've heard other people saying, but the way they said 'brave' made it sound more like 'stupid' ...ha ha...to each his own I guess.

Nalini, it is totally packed on the weekends, it's true - the first time I went it was just a sea of men, and I honestly didn't feel very comfortable there. But when I went in the morning to the section that has the malls and grocery stores, I didn't feel threatened. I did spot some red-eyed vagrants lounging around, but no one harassed me.

Tara Umm Omar said...

Nalini- I think the men take advantage of the crowding to cop a feel. It can get pretty packed and sometimes you have to go off the pavement in order not to brush up against a man. If you're in the thick of things, one man can grab ya and blend in with the crowd and you'd never know which one it was!

Orchidthief- LOL I really did mean you're brave lol

Om Lujain© said...

you are brave! Next time ur up for an adventure.. lemme know :D

I have driven by there, but never ventured in, i know the drivers we have had usually erny there every Friday... and its like a visit home for them.

When your husband is free, I would suggest you guys go to dir'iya. It has this historic area, of the homes and palaces and well and what of the old days.. very lovely... and very humbling. I made my husband take me there several times so I could take some pics.

Orchidthief said...

Om Lujain, I definitely will let you know next time I go somewhere I'm not supposed to go alone! ha ha

My husband and I keep meaning to go to Dir'iya, but after a year and a half we still haven't been! One day we will have to check it out. Another thing I've always wanted to do is go to a camel race here.

Stacy said...

The last time I was driving through Batha the boy pointed out those uniform shops and said that the Saudis he works with all go there to get their uniforms made. I believe he said something about them being responsible for providing their own uniforms. Seems kinda strange to me but looking in the windows it wouldn't surprise me. Tho I have to wonder if they have a way to stop just anyone going in and buying a uniform for the National Guard.

faizol said...

awesome blog you have Orchidthief, browsing through your post surely bring back memories...i went to batha just to have the delicious ever shawarma in riyadh (according to my taste scale) situaated in swailim fish market.

keep writing...interesting story indeed

jgjc20 said...

Thank you very much, I really injoy your story.. I am a Saudi and I want to tell you that batha is a place mostly for foreign peoply spacially from India bangladesh and philipens.

Batha is usaully crowded but the most is on Friday because it is a day off for non Saudi people. The only advantage of Batha is you can find evry thing you want particulary in the electronics section there are three building called Alrajehi buildinngs they are full of electronics devices but im not sure of the quality , but you can find a famous stors like soney or LG, etc...

for us as Saudis batha is good place to buy clothes like thoub or anything. for me I rarly visit batha sometimes I hate it because it is not clean and smell bad.

I hope you injoy your tour in Batha and don't worry you will be fine LoL ..

jgjc20 said...
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