Al Balad is the real Saudi. A little history first. This area is the original part of Jeddah, this is all there was in 1950 with its circa 30,000 people. The city now holds 3.5m folk.
As I say this is the real Jeddah, nice freindly people that will try to sell you anything but they are not as presistant as Turkey markets. I work in Jeddah and never tire of wandering round this area and I am a bloke and shouldnt like shopping!
If you get a taxi to the Cornice comercial centre the market is land side of this building. This is the new part of the souk. As you wander inland the market gets older and older. finally you go through an underpass and enter Al Balad proper. Look up and you will see the original coral and timber frame houses. the streets get narrower and the market gets more interesting.
Most of the shops are open all week but Friday is the day that everyone from hundereds of miles around come to shop. Dont bother going till after 5pm as the shops will close for prayer. Then they will close again a little later for sundown prayer, then everyone just sit around or even pray although most sit around and use it as an excuse for a break.
One word of warning is that the clerical/religious police (mutaween) are jumped up jobs worths. You can spot them as they carry an old school masters cane. They like to hit people because they are holier than thou. They are volunteers, lets just say keep away from them.
Back to the souk and Al Balad area. Currently there is a lot of work going on as the municipality wanted to demolish the area and rebuild anew, Pressure has meant that the old buildings are being rebuilt preserving a way of life.
You will think that you are getting a bargain but your not, You have to be local to get a real bargain. But thats all part of the fun.
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