By Sheila Marie T. Sultan (The Pink Tarha)
There’s a little corner in Riyadh that you might not know of. It’s a far cry from the skyscrapers along King Fahad Road, the glitzy shopping district of Olaya, or the busy night life of Tahlia Street. But it’s a spot that thrills the bargain hunter in me. I’m talking about Riyadh’s Haraj, a vast expanse of showrooms and flea market along Al Haeer Road, a little past the Old City of Deerah.
Not many people know that Haraj is divided by different sections, each offering a different trade. One section of Haraj is host to a number of showrooms for brand new, made to order or refurbished items like furniture, appliances, kitchen units and upholstery services. The shop prices vary but stay within range, for example, you can buy a new kitchen setup for SR 500 per meter, complete with delivery and installation. Drive a bit farther and you will find a part of Haraj dedicated for car repairs, parts and used cars sale. Drive farther and you’ll find a garden nursery that sells pots potting soil, small plants and even trees.
Despite being dusty and musty, Haraj’s most popular section is the flea market, sometimes called “The Princess Souk,” which probably spurred the lore of Princess Hand-me-downs. No one will be able to confirm that but it’s popular because of the dirt cheap prices. I kid you not when I say “dirt cheap” as you’ll find most of the items are piled on dirt floors. Imagine a whole street filled with mounds of old clothes piled high atop each other or rows of used furniture and kitchen setups. Fair warning for germaphobes, this part of Haraj varies in sanitary conditions with some shops better kept than others.
Most people feel queasy about buying used items, especially clothes. But bargain hunters and thrifters alike love the thrill of finding their own little treasure underneath the pile of rubbish. There are stories of lucky ones taking home an old handbag for SR 5 and later finding gold jewelry hidden in its pockets. Or maybe you’ve heard of the near-perfect Louis Vuitton bag that a Saudi Princess outgrew, imagine finding a pre-loved LV for SR 20? Unfortunately, shopkeepers can now recognize high-end items and they sell it for a higher price
But the flea market is still worth visiting if you’re looking for decent ball gowns, abayas, coats and children’s clothes. Expect prices to be around SR 5 – 20 depending on the item. I once bought a Burberry coat for SR 5, but that was years ago. New in the Kingdom and looking for decent furniture that won’t cost and arm and a leg? You can easily buy the basics with less than a SR 2,000 in your pocket, if you’re up for the challenge. Whether you shop at the flea market or the showrooms, one things is for sure, it’s cheaper there.