Went on the bus today to the Deira Souk. The souks are all a little bit different, so I thought I'd do a post on the ones that expats frequent the most.
The Deira souk goes by a bunch of different names - some people call it the Clocktower souk, because of the clocktower right near the large square. It's actually a beautiful square, built in classic Saudi style. The square is known to Westerners as "Chop Chop Square" because this is where public executions are held. That sounds like the beginning of a joke, but there's no punchline because it's not a joke and they actually happen(!). Rumour has it that if a westerner happens to be at the square during an execution, they will get pushed to the front to ensure the guest has a proper view. **edit - I've been informed that the public executions are now held in the areas where crime actually takes place, and that they've stopped holding executions in the square in the last four or five years** Deira is also known occasionally as the gold souk, but both the Kuwaiti and Deira souks have jewellery sections, so referencing the "gold souk" could be either place. Who knows, there could be other gold souks in the Riyadh too?
Next to the square is Al Musmak Castle.
It literally looks like a sandcastle you might build on a beach. It's actually been converted into a nice little museum and I definitely recommend a visit there to snoop around.
The history of the castle is recounted through displays in arabic and english, so don't be shy. It's like a maze inside, but you won't get lost as there's huge arrows everywhere, so don't worry you have nothing to be afraid of. Just be careful you don't fall down the well because there's all kinds of dead bodies down there.
OKAY this is turning out to be a long post. I guess I'll get to the stuff you actually care about, as in - what can you buy there? Well, let's see. You can buy gold and jewellery, abayas, some "saudi" decorations for your house (which won't be Saudi, they will be from India), maybe some kids clothing...um....that's about it on the list of things that you might realistically purchase in this souk. I made a map for anyone interested to get an idea of where things are. It's not to scale or pretty, it's just to give you a general idea of what to expect, because I know it's easy to get lost in the souks. I think you should be able to enlarge the picture by clicking on it.
In the square near the parking lot is a man who sells honey, and it's very good. He has honey from Russia, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, all over the place, and he is happy to give you a taste if you ask for it. It's not a big shop, a bit of a dive really. If you get there and go, "whoah, hold on, why is the honey in gasoline containers?" I have no answer for you. I try not to ask questions like that when I go to the souks.
So there you have it! Deira in a nutshell
5 weeks ago