I wrote a post, a few weeks ago, about a trip I made to ‘downtown’ with the express intention of looking for carpets only to be side-tracked by other places of interest nearby. The other day our compound bus was scheduled to go back to the area in the evening so Mr EE and I decided to get a babysitter and go carpet hunting. We had been due an evening out together as we very rarely get an opportunity to be ‘off work’. In the UK, Kazakhstan and Miri we went out, just for ourselves, at least once a week and often more. In Ipoh a lack of babysitters meant that we only ever went out alone together if it was absolutely necessary, ie for work. Here we have easy access to a babysitter and we are out quite a lot. Other than one meal out with friends, however, all of our evenings have been connected with Mr EEs work so we were looking forward to an evening together for some time.
|This shop advertises the souk pretty well...|
In case you have not guessed from our decision to spend our evening together in carpet shops, we LOVE carpets. I can happily spend hours sipping tea with the owner looking at various colours, qualities and designs. I am, sadly, no expert on carpets (although I would love to take a course), but I have spent a considerable amount of time in carpet shops, first with my parents and later with Mr EE and/or my sister, all of whom share my passion, feasting our eyes on all the many beautiful pieces on sale. Of course, like everyone, I am very partial to Persian silk carpets. A few years ago my family had a nasty experience with an incontinent elderly dog on a very beautiful Persian rug (picked up by my Father 20 years ago on a business trip to Tehran), so given Bessie’s age any silk carpets we do buy will not be used on the floor! That said now that we have a cat I wonder whether she will see wall mounted carpets as climbing material… Wool carpets have their place and can be very beautiful and practical. My parents had two made to measure and design when we lived in Turkey, they are so dense that any spillages just bead on the top and can be soaked away without staining the wool. Both of our older children walked for the first time on those carpets (there was something about the feel of them on their feet) and all three of them have enjoyed pretending to ‘pick’ the flowers of the pattern. Kelims are cheaper, cheerful and hardwearing making them perfect for high traffic areas or children’s bedrooms!
A number of sellers, normally based in beautiful high end shops, come to display their wares at the compound every so often and I have seen some stunning top quality carpets there (for top drawer prices as well, one that I have my eye on has been quoted to me for the price of a second hand car although I have not started to bargain on that one yet). The shops on the souk are an altogether more earthy experience, they don’t tend to have anything approaching the high quality of the really good places, indeed most of what is on sale is cheap acrylic floor coverings and plasticky blankets but there are one or two which have some decent products for sale, if you ask to see them.
|Searching for food|
The traffic in Jeddah can be appalling and the bus took about an hour to make the 20 minute journey downtown. By the time we got close to the area we were in danger of running into prayer time so we hopped out and walked down to get some food. While I love a lot of the recipes and flavours of street food sold here I am always very careful about what we buy. Nothing with meat in as we have no guarantee how long it has been lying about, nothing with raw salad or vegetables as they might not have been cleaned. Apart from that as long as it has been cooked as we watch I am generally ok with it. We picked up some onion baajhi with a curry dip and a few cans of soda and wandered around until prayers were over. This gave us a good opportunity to look in through the windows and decide which shops to look at in more detail once prayers were over.
|Wools, silks (some with less traditional designs) and kelims.|
Our Indigo and Saffron purchase is bottom right
We found a few that looked promising and started browsing. Our house has a tiled living room and we have been wanting to get a good sized wool carpet to warm it up a little. Settling on a colour scheme (dark in case of spills) we spent a happy half hour looking at carpets of various qualities from the very basic at a bargain price to some surprisingly good carpets. While I truly loved some of the rugs we saw we were constrained by the size of our room. In the end we found a lovely Turkmen carpet, deep red with a repeating pattern of octagons known as gul or ‘elephant feet’ and a decent but not spectacular knot count.
|More silk rugs, the two on display top right were particularly fine.|
While we were looking at the functional carpets we could also not resist looking at some of the silk carpets for sale. Many were poor quality with a long pile and small knot count but there were a few that were really worth looking at. I fell in love with a silk carpet in deep blue and gold, while not of the highest quality something about it spoke to us. I think it may have been made as a training piece because although the knot count is high there are some places where the knots face a different direction and there are obvious variations in dye lots. The price was, accordingly, very reasonable meaning we could afford to purchase it on a whim. It is by no means a statement piece, the type of carpet we would save up for for a few years (like the carpet I have seen on display in a particular carpet shop in Turkey for years and have coveted that whole time) but it is beautiful and something we will enjoy for years to come.
|Spectacular table tops and some interesting, and|
not so interesting knick knacks.
The shop has some furniture as well, many modern pieces masquerading as antiques and some beautiful doors. A popular thing to do here in Jeddah is to take old wooden doors (many of which are very ornate) and turn them into a table by laying them flat and topping with glass. Much like a very high quality silk carpet this is something we would like but given the expenses, not only of purchase but also onward transport in the future it is definitely something to be seen as an investment rather than a purchase on a whim. We did pick up some footstools for the children to sit on when watching tv. They look ‘antique’ but are almost certainly modern made with old wood and bits of old kelim to simulate an old fashioned look and probably beaten with chains and buried in the garden for a few weeks for good measure! I can never get too het up about this sort of thing, while I would love some genuinely old pieces with a story to them (and we snap them up when we can) there is no harm in something not quite ‘authentically antique’ as long as you know what you are buying and are not hoping to take them along to an Antiques Road Show to be told you have bought something worth thousands for a bargain price!
|Our new carpet and footstools help to warm the place up|
Anyway our ‘date’ night ended with us carting what looked like a dead body (carpet wrapped in plastic) back home where we spent the rest of the evening beating out the dust and running over the carpet with the vacuum. Who says romance is dead!
For more posts on life in Saudi click on the picture below