This is actually a second hand souq located near to Batha the infamous "ghetto" of Riyadh.
It's like a huge open area marketplace, fleamarket, garage sale, whatever you call it, it's worth a visit!
At first visitors might be taken aback by the set up, looks like a shack village with all the ugly metal sheets, dirty carpets, and general uncleanliness of the area.
But this is a place where women (and why not some adventurous men!) can make incredible bargains and make some surprising finds.
The name of the souq comes from rumors that the clothing was donated there by royal family princesses. This might be partly true judging on some of the items that can be found there but the majority of the clothing is normal everyday brands (not saying real Princesses wouldn't wear such but..) also some of the evening gowns are just..so interesting. Take a look at the pics below and you will see what I mean. Would an Al-Saud Princess step out to a gala dinner in something like this for example:
Princess souq is open everyday but the best days to go are weekday mornings. Not too much of a crowd and you can actually see the clothes! Sometimes at night the whole area might be out of electricity and even if they do have it, the lamps are ridiculously bad quality! The shops start opening at 9-10 am and close at Dhuhr prayer sharp. Muttawa roam this area frequently so shopkeepers will promptly close their shops in fear of getting arrested. Next the shops open after Asr and then close after Isha'a prayer. On Fridays the souq is closed in the morning.
The Princess souq is also called Haraj bin Gassem and most taxi drivers will know it by this name. If you want to venture out there on your own vehicle, be prepared to get lost a few times as the area can be confusing. Take the exit 22 ask for Haraj or carpet souq which is next to it and you will be pointed to the right direction.
The vast styles Saudi ladies wear to weddings and parties is really interesting. There are simple elegant ones and way over the top ones with the motto of "you cannot put too much lace, satin, bows, beading, crystals, ruffles and embroidery on one dress". It's amazing what women will actually wear! Reminds me of Christmas somehow..hmm..
The first guy pretended to be purchasing something. I told him to take a hike and he started asking if we were Russians and wouldn't listen to me telling him to piss off, he just continued his game.I finally shouted at him very loudly and he shouted back F**k you Russians! He left cursing us.
The perv #2 was just staring at us. I tried to take his pic but he kept turning around. So next I told the salesman about his behavior (they know these guys sometimes) and he just picked up and old shoe from the ground and threw it in the perverts direction! The slimeball ran away.
So if you find yourself in these situations it's best to make a big deal to expose him and do ask the salesmen for help, they are very friendly and polite.
For once the Hai'a who are strongly present in this area would come in handy but guess what? They only concentrate on shouting from their megaphones for women to cover and men to close shops for prayer and go pray. Sometimes they even beat people to go pray. One of my Asian colleagues got shouted at and beaten on her legs for wearing an abaya that had small butterflies on it. She was forced to cover it with a plain black one from the souq.
That's the priorities of the religious police for you..
Normal clothing is much cheaper, you can get three shirts or skirts for 10 SAR. If you find an expensive brand name don't mention it to the seller, sometimes they are not even aware. The above blue evening gown cost me 15SAR and it's flawless and looks stunning! If you are not getting results with your bargaining skills, simply WALK away. 90% of the time the seller will run after you and sell for the price you asked.
You can find the most beautiful wedding gowns here as well. Most of them have been custom made. The above dress came down from 750 to 220 SAR. It has intricate lace and beading detail and is high quality silk, the veil is simply breath taking! Below one of the beautiful gowns more my style that I found for 20SAR:
So is it worth the dust, traffic, perverts, sometimes heat and all the hassle? In my opinion it's a definite YES! But I like little "adventures" and don't mind a few setbacks. This place is surely not for everyone. I took my mother and sister there when they were visiting Saudi and they really liked it.
Here are my little nieces fascinated by their new REAL Princess dresses :)