Shopping Experience Riyadh Fish Market

What to do on the weekend?  Go to the Riyadh fish market.

We woke early this morning so Glenn could experience the Riyadh fish market in Batha.  The fish market, or fish souq, is near Diirah.  If you get there before 10am the fish still looks in good condition, the smell is not ripe and the flies are few.  It's not a big market, but it gets busy and the fish is brought in fresh each day from Jeddah, apparently.   (Given Jeddah is a nine hour drive away I'm not sure how fresh that makes the fish...but let's not quibble over minor details).

The first time I visited the fish market was last weekend with another kiwi lady from our compound.  We noted we were the only women around so early in the morning which could have been a bit unnerving if we let it, but we were bolstered by each others company and there was no way I was going to come all this way only to leave without looking around.

The market was swarming with male fish merchants mostly from Bangladesh and Egypt.  They were all vying for we westerners to buy their fish, mostly so they could put the price up.  Haggling is acceptable in this market and if the price is too high, just walk away.  However, when comparing the prices to back home the fish in Saudi Arabia is sooooo cheap.

There's quite a range of fish and a lot of it we didn't recognise.  Fish guide pamphlets would be helpful, but are nowhere to be seen.  Most of the fish merchants don't speak, or have very limited, English, so our conversations with them went something like this:

Us - What kind of fish is this?
Them - 30 SAR (price per kilo)

What to do Pounamu?  We try again,

Us - Name of fish?
Them - Hamour.
Us - OK.  And this fish (pointing to completely different fish)
Them - Hamour

We eventually found Abdule, from Egypt, who spoke fairly good English, had a sparkle in his eye and even knew something about New Zealand.  He was also able to name the fish.  Needless to say, we bought our fish off him on that occasion.

All fish are whole and you can take them home to gut, scale and fillet yourself or, once you've decided which one you want, it can be cleaned and filleted by the guys working in another part of the souq.  You pay a few extra riyals for this service.  They will give you back the head and bones if you ask for them, otherwise there are a few cats hawking about waiting for any fishy morsels that may be tossed their way.  We discovered it is also a good idea to ask for ice to be put in the bags with the fish, because by the time we left last week with our red snapper the sun was high in the sky and the temperature outside was starting to get hot.

Abdule and Glenn

Our husbands came along for the ride to the fish market today - one because he was the driver, the other as company so two wives didn't have to suffered by one man.

It was quite funny to see that the conversation we had with the Riyadh fish merchants last week is exactly the same for Glenn and Paul this week.

Glenn - What's this fish
Them - 40 SAR
Glenn - Yes, but what is it
Them - 40 SAR
Glenn - What's the name? Is it Tuna
Them - Yes
Glenn - And what about this fish
Them - 26 SAR
Glenn - What's it called
Them - (Something in a foreign language)
Glenn - (gives up, walks away).

We bought our fish from Mr Abdule again this week.

Our shopping expedition included a stop at Jariir book store where I bought a copy of Arabic For Dummies so that, hopefully, the next time we visit the Riyadh fish market, I will have learnt Arabic for 'What is the name of this fish?'

Riyadh Fish Market Location

If you are in the mood to rustle up a fish pie or some other exquisite seafood cuisine, or just want to spend a morning looking at fish and trying out your Arabic language skills, then by all means go visit the Riyadh fish market.

Ka Kite,

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