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Saudi Arabia Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Saudi Arabia

The vast range of available goods, from luxury fashion to fragrant spices and oud perfume, makes shopping in Saudi Arabia a treat in itself.

Riyadh, the capital, is packed with gleaming shopping malls that tend to combine retail stores, restaurants and entertainment options. Among them, the upmarket Centria Mall is where luxury brands like Cartier and Gucci are located, along with fine dining options.

Taking a trip to any of the vibrant souqs (markets) is an absolute must. Souq Al Zal, set in the neighbourhood of old Riyadh, comes alive at about 6 pm when the daily auctions of antiques and carpets take place. On Fridays, join the locals for the halaj (the biggest auction of the week) in the central plaza. Another souq worth visiting is Taibah in the north of Riyadh, best known for its gold and diamond merchants. Haggling is essential if you plan to purchase something from the souqs.

Among the many products sold in Saudi Arabia, oud perfume deserves a mention. Distilled from the resin collected from the agar tree, oud oil is blended into perfume or made into incense. Saudis burn oud wood at home during Eid, and present oud oil or perfume to wedding celebrants.

Another fragrant worth mentioning is the Taif rose, named after the city of Taif, which lies some 86km (53mi) east of Makkah. When you're there, visit the Al Gadhi Rose Factory or Al Gadhi shop in Taif's central market to buy a bottle (or two) of rose oil or rose water.

Saudi Arabia imposes 15% VAT on all goods and services with a few exceptions.

Shopping hours

Sun-Thu 0900-2100.

Nightlife in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has strict laws against alcohol and is devoid of bars and clubs, but the country is far from boring. Every October, the capital kicks off The Riyadh Season, a five-month arts and culture festival covering everything from live concerts to food and sports. The music isn't restricted to traditional either – genres like EDM, Reggaeton are embraced and performed when the sun goes down.

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