Abaya Finder: Dirah Souk 1/2

The first time I set foot in Dirah five years ago to buy my second abaya (the first was bought for me by my father before I arrived Riyadh for the first time), I told myself that it’s the first and last I would venture into the place. I held that promise… until two weeks ago when I, together with Shoegarfreeruby and Eyecandy, visited Dirah to buy — what else? — abayas. 
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with Dirah. (There is something wrong with me for being too lazy to venture out that same way again.) As a matter of fact, it’s one of the places I would suggest a traveler to visit first in Riyadh because I believe in the saying that in order to get to know the country you’re visiting, you have to immerse yourself in its bustling bazaars. Next to Batha and Haraj, this is the bazaar you have to see in Riyadh. The thing is, I’m not just visiting Riyadh five years ago, I am staying… so Dirah is one place that is just there; popping up once in a while in conversations with friends and in questions of readers where to buy this and that, waiting to be revisited but saying “take your time in discovering new places and wandering somewhere else first.”

A souk in the heart of the old district
Dirah Souk (also spelled as Deera, Deirah, or whatever pleases you as long as it’s pronounced as Di-ra) is also known as Soul Al-Thumairi. It is located in the center of the old district of Riyadh. The simplest way would be to take King Fahd Road and head to South (direction of Ministry of Interior and Batha) and exit just before you reach Salam Park. Turn left and go straight and you’ll see the souq to your right. Or, if you’re cruising along Olaya Road, just head straight to Murabba via the King Faisal Road and when you reach the Al-Deerah Cemetery, turn right. You’ll see it in your left. (I know that it’s kind of hard to visualize that but here’s the map. Utilize the “Get Directions” feature of Google Map.
Anyway, we chose to go on a Thursday afternoon, around 4pm, which is, if I may say so, just the right time. This is after the asr prayer, when most stores open and Dirah is not yet packed to the brim. Come night time, you’ll be elbowing your way among the throng of people in the area. Parking can be difficult and the religious police swarm the place because their building is just a stone’s throw away. Dirah also gets crowded and noisy and dirty as the day wears on so afternoon is your best bet.

Vendors getting ready for a day’s worth of work
I find it easier to navigate Dirah during daytime. Among The Pink Tarha ladies, I’m the one in-charge of directions thus preventing us from being lost because believe me, if you get too fascinated with what you see and enter a lot of stores, you’ll lose your way into the alleys and nooks that would seem like deja vu every time you turn a corner. We visited the Swaigah Trade Center where most abaya stores are.

Where most of the shopping happens.
Abayas stores are everywhere in Swaigah. Some of the stores have a black fabric hiding a a third of its door making the inside dark. We couldn’t see the designs clearly and every time I go out of the store I had to blink to get my sight bearing back. Not sure why they had to do that (maybe because of their female customers? Or maybe sneaking on what designs are available and what kind of selling tactics work is a no-no?).

It’s like some kind of secret shopping.
Abaya prices range from SR 120 to SR 200. Haggling is a must so don’t be shy.

Welcome to abaya land.
The way they display the abayas are kind of scary, hehe.
It’s all about the designs.
So many choices aaaaagh!
There are abayas on the rack outside the stores and here you can find really cheap ones. Just less than SR 100. Most of them are just SR 60.

Cheaper abayas are displayed outside. From SR60-SR80.

You will definitely get carried away with the abayas here. There are so many designs to choose from. Do you want embellished? Laced? Embroidered? Studded? 

Here are some designs that caught our eyes (warning: there will be a lot of black in these photos :P):

Like I told you… a lot of blackness over here. 😛
Abayas with Chinese collar and glimmery designs
Colored fabric + lace (around SR 150)
Gold design on the lining (around SR130)
Rosettes on the sleeves (around SR 120)
Like a Tudor royalty: lace overload on the shoulder (around SR 150)
With a cinch on the waist, like a robe (SR 130)

We have this kind of abaya but we got it from Al-Akaria Shopping Center. This design in Dirah is all-black while the ones we have have a colored fabric underneath.

Silver embroidery with studs (around SR 200)
Old rose lace on the sleeves (this is what R bought)
Other colors of the lace (around SR150)
The Ms. Universe abaya (around SR200)

I named this “Ms. Universe” abaya because it has  sash-like feature in a different color. And the huge gem that gathers it, acting like a brooch. The fabric is a bit clingy. It’s a bit heavy and follows the shape of the body making the wearer lean and model-like. It pretty much negates the concept of an abaya but this would be perfect for special events.

The “million dollar” abaya.

This abaya is not exactly priced at a million dollars. Actually it’s just SR 350. But it’s the most expensive one we’ve seen in our trip to Deira. And we quite like it. If the price is just SR 200, I might have gotten this. The embroidery is delicate and fine and the fabric is amazing; the kind that is easy to clean and doesn’t wrinkle. 

Sometimes, it’s all about the design in the sleeves:

What pattern would you like on your sleeves madam?

Ornaments in an abaya?
Tribal and colorful
The usual silver and gold
Lace, jewels, different fabrics
Studded!!! Hello, fierceness! This is E’s choice.

It’s better to invest in one abaya priced over SR 100 than fill your closet with a few cheap ones. The problem with the cheap abayas is the fabric. I bought one with interesting sleeves: black floral lace over a hot pink lining. While the design is nice, the fabric is not. It’s a bit thin, sags rather than flows, and attracts dirt easily.

I have to cut this entry right here because it’s getting too long, especially with the number of photos I have to cram in here. Other stuff that you can find in Deira and places you can see around the Swaigah Trade Center on the next entry! By the way, forgive me if some of the photos are blurred. You probably know by now that I’m just doing commando shooting with my iphone. As usual. 😉 ~ Sundrenched

Shopping

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Janelle
Janelle

The Editor-in-Chief speaks 7 languages: Filipino, English, Wit, Sarcasm, Truth, Creativity, and The Pink Tarha.

10 Comments

  1. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    Do they provide alteration, fitting services??

  2. @Anonymous 10:48AM: Haven't seen any alteration corner in the stores but you can ask the salesmen about it. They seem eager to please so they probably can accommodate requests for alterations. 🙂

  3. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    ok I will check and also update here if get the feedback.

  4. @Anonymous 11:01AM: Please do update us. Thank you! 🙂

  5. Avatar Kelly Reply

    Yes, it's very normal for them to alter the abaya for the agreed upon price (no extra charge). I've had the length shortened, sleeves brought in and waist brought in. Done at different abaya shops including Deira, Sahara and Andalus.

  6. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    These abayas are very nice…I really like them

  7. Avatar Anonymous Reply

    This shop is only for ladies or men can also buy from here?

  8. Avatar Saima Reply

    Hello. I am new in riyadh, just arrived a month ago. i just visited DIrah today after a lot of search for a reasonable abaya.. well i bought one for 130 SAR. it was simplest of all. yes the bazar is very crowdy but it was a nice experience. if anyone knows any place where i can find quality abayas( better than those in dirah), do update me about this..i wish i had read this blog before starting a search for abayas in riyadh:)

  9. Avatar cris Reply

    hi just wanted to say thanks for all the info you put on here. really helpful. especially the one about the DMC store. Love it! THANK YOU!!!:)

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