We’d been here about a week before we decided to travel to Jeddah to pick up some stuff we really needed for the house. Desperately needed. Couldn’t do without needed. Our list looked like this:
Writing paper and envelopes
Dog food and toys
What we actually bought was this:
Two pairs of Birkenstocks
An avocado slicer
So we didn’t do *that* well. It’s pretty easy to get distracted away from your shopping list when you are inside a gigantic, air conditioned building of happiness that sells everything you ever wanted and more. We even almost got a fancy telly that cost a grand. At the time it didn’t even seem like a ridiculous idea because we were surrounded by polished marble and designer handbags and massive aquariums with fish in them. Then we remembered that we are in fact paupers, and that it was a completely moronic idea. Lucky escape.
So we caught the bus from outside tamimi at 4pm on Friday (6pm on week nights), different buses go to different malls so check the sign on the front of the bus before boarding. Also you will need your KAUST ID card. We decided to go to the Red Sea Mall which I think is supposed to be the biggest. The journey in took about an hour, avoid sitting at the front of the coach, it’s easier to see all the INSANE driving that’s going on around you and scare yourself to death. I saw a truck drive across the middle barrier to join the other side of the motorway. What. is. even. going. on. So yes, ignorance is bliss – go sit at the back, keep your curtains closed and you lull yourself into a false sense of security.
The coach drops you off outside the mall, you meet them back at the same spot at 11pm (10 on weekdays) so try and remember the number of the entrance you go in by. Then, you are free to shop! The malls have everything, from top end (Mont Blanc, Burberry, Chanel, Bvlgari etc) to high street shops like H&M, Mango and Next. There is a MAC make up store that made me break into a dance of exultation and joy; yeah I’m shallow – so sue me. There are Apple stores, electronics stores, department stores…everything you can think of.
There is also a great big store called Danube which is a ‘hypermarket’ (aka massive shop) that sells loads of homeware, electricals, food, drinks, cosmetics, clothes etc. It’s much cheaper than tamimi, particularly for imported items so it’s a good opportunity to stock up. Good for vegan/speciality items also, I definitely spotted a frozen soy cheese pizza in there. Admittedly it was about ten quid but hey, you can’t have everything.
One thing there isn’t is a bureau de change, for some reason we brought 1000 USD with us (I’m blaming Paul for this one, why would you need US dollars in SAUDI?) so we weren’t able to change it. However, some of the bigger stores will accept payment in dollars if you ask them.
It’s a good idea to download a prayer time app before you go and check when the prayer times are that day. Everything will close down approximately 20 minutes before prayer time starts so aim to get food/a coffee just before they close so you aren’t wandering around like a numbskull looking at closed shop fronts for 35 minutes. Alternatively if you can time it so you are in a supermarket they will just lock you in so you can keep shopping during prayer time which is also a good idea.
Ladies, wear your abaya when in the malls. Hijabs aren’t necessary and I took mine off half way though the day because I was too warm but carry one with you just incase you are asked to cover your head. I know a couple of people this has happened to so its best to keep one in your bag at least.
One weird thing I noticed was that all children have given up on walking and zip around on handlebar less segways. They are EVERYWHERE, zooming around, doing tricks, getting fatter and letting their limbs wither away into nothingness through prolonged misuse…it’s weird. Here’s Paul making friends with them all like a complete weirdo:
Kids generally are let run riot, I think there’s a culture of indulgence when it comes to kids and as far as I’ve noticed, no one believes in telling them to sit still or be quiet. I don’t particularly like kids (sorry parents out there) so this kind of winds me up but hey, who am I to judge how offspring is raised, I can barely look after a pot plant.
Anyway, back to the mall, when it gets to about 9/10 at night hordes of teenagers appear (not that odd – they do this all over the place don’t they) what IS weird though is that they all wear retina-burning yellow trainers and tops. Like a particularly tasteless teen uniform. Neon, is big news. It made us feel very old and uncool anyway as the only stuff we own in that shade are bike safety jackets and so signalled that it was almost time to leave. So it’s back to the bus, and back to KAUST. If you have bought a lot of shopping you can ‘borrow’ a trolley from Danbe and push it all back to the bus, it can go in the luggage hold beneath the bus and then back in KAUST the campus buses will be there to take you home.