Abaya shopping in the souqs of Dirah

August 16, 2014

Saturday morning… the weekend is nearly over, and I’m up early to take a bus to Dirah (also spelled Deera, Deira), an old area of Riyadh home to souqs or marketplaces filled with shops of all types but especially abaya shops and a gold souq. Today I am going shopping for abayas with the girls from my GNO group!

I’m so grateful to do this… I only brought one abaya along and so I really need more! Considering it’s what I’ll generally be wearing when I’m not wearing hospital scrubs, I might as well invest in a few abayas!

We took the bus to an older downtown area of Riyadh, where we drove past crumbling cement buildings, so decrepit it was shocking that they still looked like they were inhabited! The streets were so dusty and littered with garbage! Although, that’s not surprising because most of Riyadh is quite dirty like that.

We excited the bus into the blazing hot sun, quickly moving into the souqs to try find shade. Fortunately, the majority of the shops had decent air conditioning so in our un-acclimatized state we didn’t melt completely!

We found many shops, filled with abayas. Most were black. But there were some beautiful colored ones too! Many of them were so intricate and detailed with beadwork, lace, and various other embellishments.  I’ve quickly learned that an abaya doesn’t have to be plain black and hot and boring. It can have beautiful designs… simple or fancy and completely extravagant… it can be cheap or it can be haute couture! But figure flattering it is NOT! Which is absolutely the point of the abaya!

I found a long enough (YAY!!!!) abaya that snaps down the middle (so convenient vs the one I brought from home that is miles of fabric I have to constantly pull over my head… not convenient when you’re going somewhere where you can actually take your abaya off) with beautiful beadwork in gold and blue and yellow and silver. Super pretty! And super cheap!! It was less Saudi Riyals than my first abaya was Canadian dollars! About 150 SAR which equals less than $50 USD! Not too shabby at all!


There were also so many scarf shops! With a plain black abaya, a brilliantly colored scarf with beautiful patterns is really so nice! So I picked up a couple scarves too for less than $10USD!

And 5 Riyal shops… the Saudi equivalent to a dollar store! Full of cheap stuff. But plenty of good stuff too! And considering we haven’t had our first paycheck yet… I’m quite ok with cheap stuff! 😀

And then… dum dum dum… we found the gold souqs!!!! Could have spent days in there just window shopping! So much beautiful jewellery… so many beautiful stones… One day!! Gold prices are incredibly low in Saudi Arabia… the entire Middle East in general actually in comparison with Canada and all of North America. So it’s understandable how many women walk around with so much beautiful gold jewellery. And hopefully, when my time is up here, I’ll leave Saudi Arabia with some bling too!


I’ll definitely be coming back here for another abaya… and some jewels!! Girl’s gotta have bling!!



2 thoughts on “Abaya shopping in the souqs of Dirah

  1. Hi Annemarie 🙂
    Found your blog from a link you left on mine, thanks 🙂 Keep linking so more ppl can find your blog, it’s very informative!
    One of your friends looks VERY Finnish, in the abaya shop pic you’re holding the abaya, the blonde with the glasses to your left, am I right?
    I wonder if she knew about my blog?

    • annemariekathleen says:

      Unfortunately no Finnish friends in the group! But I definitely read your blog a lot before I moved here and learned so much from it! So thank you!! I hope my blog can be as helpful to others as yours was to me!

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