Souq Al Bado and Alawi are historical markets.
Souq Al Bado and Souq Al Alawi are gems nestled within Balad, saturated with history vendors beckoning, “Ashra riyal, ashra riyal, ashra riyal!”
Wade deep into Balad’s historical district and find the entrance to Souq Al Bado, a long path that splits into many smaller lanes lined with shops on each side. Souq Al Bado is situated near Bab Makkah and is the go-to market for residents of the neighborhood of Badia.
The Old Women of Souq Bado
As we entered the souq, we were greeted by a common sight – robust men pushing loaded carts and trolleys to their respective shops or spots. Old women in abayas set up their wares along the main lane of Al Bado. Colorful displays of thobes are laid out on their crates at regular intervals, the women selling them quick to pull out our favorite colors and flaunt the full length of the garment for our viewing.
When you visit, go the extra step and speak to these women, who have been breathing the musty air of Balad for decades; you’ll discover the dear secrets and many wonders of Souq Al Bado. What many don’t know is the governor of Jeddah, Prince Mishaal bin Majid, has authorized these women of various nationalities to sell their goods, which has allowed them to support their families.
Give these old women a chance and you’ll discover vibrant garments that will cost you next to nothing. We found them selling bags of henna powder – a better alternative to the chemical cones that are commonly found in shops. Old tins of milk powder were filled to the brim with bakhoor balls and oud sticks. These can beautify a room with their spirited fragrance reminiscent of olden Arabian nights.
On the right side of the central lane is a curious little shop; every inch of the space is covered with laces of every kind imaginable. Strips of black, white, silver, gold and rainbow colored laces hang from the wall, adorning it with shocks of colors and endless options. A meter of this and a meter of that will be enough to turn any simple outfit into a statement piece.
Many shops display scarves on their walls and have them hanging from the ceiling. Cotton, linen and silk; take your pick – brightly printed, decorated with silver sequins or soft ones fit for winter. They make an excellent add-on for any outfit that needs a pop or color.
The Jewelry Market
As we exited Souq Al Bado, we walked into an intersection bustling with honking cars and pedestrians making their way around Balad. Leaving the fruit and vegetable market for another time, we turned right towards Balad’s jewelry market. On the side of the road was a woman selling bright gold-colored bangles in every size. We found a shop nearby that sells faux silver and gold jewelry – delicate or gaudy, you’ll find just what you need. Their renditions of traditional jewelry crowned the shelves.
Souq Al Alawi
For the final stretch of our trip we explored Souq Al Alawi, closer to museums and the Shafi Mosque. We found a vibrant spice shop that sells kohl, a traditional eyeliner and eyeshadow that’s freshly powdered by grinding a mineral stone. The shop displayed a pot filled with a heap of the little stones and a fresh batch of glittering powder ready to be bought.
In a courtyard where children chased a ball, we found a corner store dedicated to subah (prayer beads) and rings for men and women. These statement rings featured heavy polished stones that were mostly gigantic in size.
Towards the end of the lane we found a wondrous shop that sells handcrafted goods like straw baskets and hats and traditional dolls. This shop is a treasure trove of useful traditional items for your living space, especially if you want to express your heritage in your living rooms.
For many of us, a visit to Al Balad is literally a walk down history lane. It’s the oldest area of the city and it’s the center that sprawled into the Jeddah we know today. In its heart you’ll find treasures to cherish forever.
Souq Al Bado’s name was derived from the tribal people of Bado who used to come to barter goods with the people of the city, at a time when the souq was built on sand and there was no concept of money.
Turn your BALAD finds into fashion statements
Taking a trip to the Balad souq can be exhausting but it can be just as rewarding – you might outwit a seller and get them to lower their prices even further, or pick up something precious that other shoppers may have overlooked.
Even better, you can repurpose some items into new modern ensembles with a traditional twist. For instance, the futa, primarily used for loungewear, is a piece of cloth that men wrap around their waists.
Originating from Yemen, it is also traditionally worn by Saudis from all generations and social classes. Giving it a modern twist, we repurposed it to fashionable items such as pants, skirts, tops and dresses.
If you’re a newbie at hunting for souq finds, here are tips to get you started.
DON’T JUDGE A BOOK!
Keep an open mind – dirty items can be cleaned, and slight defects could be the mark of uniqueness!
Exercise some patience and don’t be afraid to sort through tons of items until you get the perfect one.
CHANNEL YOUR INNER CREATIVE
Pieces you find can be altered, reconstructed or repurposed. Don’t limit yourself; blend various pieces and suit them to your personal style.
Take comfort with you to the beach.
Necklace SR 10
Thobe SR 10
Bag SR 20
Slippers SR 25
Patterns speak louder than plain.
Earrings SR 15
Thobe SR 10
Bracelet/Ring Cuff SR 15
Bangles SR 10
Madas SR 55
Show up at gatherings in your creative best.
Your personal style brought together.
Match made in fashion.