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Retail in Dammam

Shop the Eastern Province

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Shopping in Saudi’s Eastern Province may revolve primarily around Dammam and Al Khobar, the oil-rich cities on the coast, but there are also gems to be found inland in the historic oasis of Al Ahsa.

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The most atmospheric shopping experience in Dammam is the Share Al Hob market, in a series of narrow streets and fountain-filled plazas – so named for the gold and jewelry shops that line its outer streets. The market comes alive at night, when the air is filled with the scents of spice and perfume, and concessions sell everything from traditional carpets to ceramics, art and ceremonial swords. There are live sketch artists and singers, and locals come to eat falafel and steaming luqaimat, a type of sweet fried dumpling doused in date syrup and sesame seeds. The Dammam Souq, also known as the women’s market, is another rich local experience, a 17,500sqm collection of jewelry, handicraft and clothing stores, as well as traditional stalls mostly overseen by women.

Dammam and Al Khobar, its cosmopolitan coastal neighbor, are well catered to when it comes to modern shopping centers. The Al Othaim mall, designed like a ship and filled with high palm trees, is home to global brands like H&M, Mango and Next, as well as a dedicated children’s amusement park and extensive food court. The circular, glassy Marina Mall has views across the Dammam Corniche to the sea from the dining area. In Al Khobar, the Rashid Mall is built around a striking central water feature, and is home to cool global fashion brands from Adidas to Dutch fashion label Scotch & Soda.

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There are interesting shopping experiences to be had in the desert inland, too, especially in the World Heritage-listed oasis of Al Ahsa. The Dougha Handmade Pottery Factory isn’t just for learning about the 15,000-year-old craft of moulding clay, described in the Quran as the substance from which humans were created. You can also watch potters molding lumps of clay the traditional way, and buy everything from mandi cooking pots to mabkhara incense burners.

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Also in Al Ahsa, the Souq Al Qaisariya is a centuries-old market in a 7,000sqm area of clay-brick buildings and narrow alleys that feels like a fortress palace. Sellers across more than 400 wooden-shuttered stalls offer everything from bright tea pots and chests to prayer beads, abayas, yashmak veils, incense and knives newly forged on a street of blacksmiths.

Popular food includes vacuum packs of dried fish and shrimp, often eaten with spicy dip, and one of the regional favorite dishes available at the Al Said cafe at the northern end of the market. Although widely believed to have been built in 1822, some historians argue the souq is actually 600 years old. Either way, it is a history you can feel, and buy a piece of to take home.

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