Al-Balad is the historic center of Jeddah and can literally be translated as “The City”. Balad traces its history 2,500 years back as a fishing village when the Quda’a (Arabic: قضاعة) fishermen tribe settled th there. Al-Balad has been transformed through the years as the cornerstone for one of the most thriving and cosmopolitan neighbourhoods of the Arab world. Balad is a beautiful blend of the modern and the classic where the glass facades of modern skyscrapers stand beside with historical buildings made of corals and with the distinct horizontally embedded wooden beams that has come to symbolize Balad over the years. Balad has become a Shopper’s Paradise in Jeddah . It has upscale shopping centers with high-end fashion brands from Milan and Paris, along with the traditional street vendors and open air Souks (eastern markets).
For the number of times I have been in Jeddah, Al-Balad has become my fave destination with my hubby and daughters as it is a shopper’s paradise. The place has several malls built closely to each other and one can go from one mall to another by passing thru a cobbled park with water fountains. If one decides to go to the gold shops where everything is being sold by the gram, once can easily cross the side streets and find the shops literally glittering and shining with pure gold. One time, a friend hurried to my hubby’s side and told him that he had a gift for me. It was a 22-K gold ladies ring which he had bought from a nearby shop.
There are also lots of open air souks (markets) where carpets, bed linen, personal accessories , household wares are being sold. I was able to buy from an old Afghan merchant with his head wrapped in white turban a few pieces of beautiful hand-woven carpets. He was selling it at 25 SR (P312.50) per piece but was able to haggle it for 20SR (P250). Then just around the corner are the shops selling the latest gizmos, mobile phones and other accessories. My ever-generous hubby bought and gifted me a new and sleek mobile phone over my protests as I am still happy with my old phone which is equipped with multi-farious functions. It was being sold at 1,250 SR (P15,625.00) but the charming salesman gave my hubby a discount of 35 SR (P437.50) for being a regular customer. He has bought all the celphones he has been bringing home for the kids in this shop.
Together with my new friend Melba (my seatmate during my flight from Manila to Jeddah and who works as a hotel supervisor), we visited the stores selling jewelry made of sterling silver. She surprised me with a gift – a beautiful brooch. Mashallah (Praise God), I have been blessed with many gifts. In that silver store, I bought six pairs of silver earrings inlaid with pearl @ 20 SR (P250) from the original price of 30 SR(P375) and a pair of trendy dangling earrings @ 20 SR too.
My hubby brought me to Al Bawazer department store and we bought a few sets of porcelain and crystal “qawa” cups. These are small and dainty cups used for tea and arabic coffee. Then we passed by a souk selling “abayas” (black robes) with different styles and dress embellishments- some adorned in faux diamonds and pearls and embroideries. I chose an abaya with a simple silver design for 50SR (P625)from the original price of 70SR (P875) to add to my abaya wardrobe. This comes with a matching headdress.
There is shop located at the basement of the building near the old Train where you can shop to your hearts content. There are so many interesting items found in that store with prices ranging from 4 (P48) to 10 SR (120) — all sorts of kitchen wares and utensils, bathroom accessories, mens and ladies garments, handy tools, towels, pretty trinkets, etc. I was able to fill three large shopping bags with a few pieces of gold and silver cutlery, button down men’s polo, porcelain qawa (cups) @ 8 SR, handy sewing kits, kitchen sponge (pack of 8 for 5 SR), lovely crystal candy jars @ 15 SR (P180) and more. Adding to my enjoyment is that the cashier effortlessly added up all my purchases by mental calculation, a unique display of math prowess for an old man.
On regular days, most malls and shops close by 11:30 or midnight.During Eid (which is like New Year to the Arab world), shops closed at 2AM. Even at these late hours, one can safely roam and shop without the fear of being mugged or pickpocketed.
In between shopping, we dined at Shawly’s — a Chinese resto where the waiters are mostly Pinoys or at the Lebanese resto where grilled lamb chops is the specialty-of-the house. Then to cap the night off is a visit to the coffee shop to drink Turkish coffee.