Jeddah is home to a reasonably large Afghan souk, shop sellers either travelling home to Afghanistan to collect their products or purchasing things from people travelling to Mecca on pilgrimage. I have heard that it is THE place to go for carpets. Now I must admit to being a bit of a carpet and kelim fan, something that runs in the family. My parents bought so many while in Turkey that there is no more available floor space in the family home and my sister recently had to put half of hers in storage. Our own carpets are all in our container, waiting for the day we purchase a forever home to put them in but that does not mean that I would mind having a few to travel with, in fact I have my eye on a very fine silk on silk Iranian carpet that I saw at an exhibition the other day.
|Afghani rugs are easily available in Jeddah
My compound has a twice daily shopping bus and one day last week this was due to go to the Afghan Souk so I leapt at the chance to spend a morning looking at carpets and kelims thinking that if I found something decent Mr EE and I could go back at the weekend to see if he liked it too.
|This part of town is less picturesque than the main
UNESCO area of Balad but has its own charm
In the event I never got to the souk. The driver parked the bus a short walk away and I got distracted by the ordinary streets of the town. The area was a less picturesque part of Balad which is so popular with tourist/pilgrims and, of course, expats like me! This part of town was all together more functional. I was fully intending to walk down to the Souk when I was distracted by the smell of bread. One of my fondest memories of our time in Diyarbakir (Turkey) was the beautiful fresh bread that came straight from the oven, so tasty that we would often eat it on its own, sometimes taking just enough time to get some honey. Turning a corner I saw a traditional oven turning out the most beautiful rounds of bread. Unable to resist I bought one and spent the rest of the morning tearing strips off from time to time.
|Bread straight from the oven
While I was enjoying the bread I spent some time looking in the windows of some of the gold (some were gold plated) shops. I was given a beautiful, very pure and very delicate gold filigree necklace for my 18th birthday which was stolen in a burglary 4 years later. I am forever on the look out for a good jeweller that will stock something similar. Sadly nothing I saw even came close, some of necklaces were pure rather than plated filigree but were far too large and ornate so my quest continues. A few of the shops also stocked good collections of silver jewellery. The styles are too big for me not really to my taste but it would be a good place to go for people who can pull off that sort of thing.
|BIG and flashy is the way to go here...
I have not seen many flower shops in the malls but a number of the places here sold the most beautiful flower garlands and decorations, the owners sitting on small stools while stringing them together. The options are all shown on the walls, I didn’t want a garland or fancy concoction but they sell single flowers as well, they are all kept in the fridge for freshness.
|Shops sell all sorts
|From Shisha/Hubbly Bubbly...
|...to Abayas for all occasions
Not wanting my flowers to wilt I took them back to the bus so they would be happy in the air conditioning and, realising that I would not really have time to make it down to the souk I decided to cross over the road and spend the rest of the time seeing what else I could find. There were more jewellery shops, some shisha sellers, a lot of shops selling perfume and incense and shop after shop selling abayas with a hugely diverse range of decorative patterns. The area was covered which offered a welcome respite from the strong sun.
|I have not seen trunks for sale in ages
|Some welcome shade
All in all, although I did not get to my destination of choice I found the places I did visit absolutely fascinating, so far removed from the tourist bustle of the main part of Balad and yet still friendly and welcoming. I can go back for carpets another time!
Posted as part of the Travel At Home blog linky.