The Art of Shopping, with help from Sun Tzu.

ImageA couple of days ago, I was invited by a select group to go to the Thumairi Gold Souk in Riyadh on a shopping expedition.  I have, so far, been wary of shopping in the Souks as I am not very good at haggling so this was an ideal opportunity to go under the protection of a group. I thought that an attacking approach would be the best way forward,  and looked to the “Art of War” by Sun Tzu for helpful hints.

“He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight”

Know your shop keepers.  The Thumairi gold souk is a warren of shops situated by the Al Masmak Fort and part of the larger Deira souk complex.  Tiny shops each selling an array of fine jewels and precious metals.  You need inside information as to which shops are the best to do business with.  The group I joined had their own jewelry expert along with inside intelligence on the best shops to deal with, which the group had been collecting for some years.  Some shops are easier to negotiate with than others depending on how they are owned and managed.

“He will win who knows how to handle both Superior and Inferior forces”  

It is important to know that the quality of merchandise varies between  shops and bargain accordingly.  Our forward troops had already honed in on two shops: one for upmarket high quality jewelry, the other for cheaper, everyday finds.  They established an approach to get the best deal  from each seller.

“He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks”

Whilst I am a new recruit to this shopping group; its aims are laser true.  To discuss each piece of jewelry on its merits and get the best possible price for whoever was buying, by group assault methods well known to experienced shopinistas.

“He will win, who prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared”

I was pre warned not to take any more cash with me than I was prepared to part with as there would be much temptation.  I wanted to buy a pair of earrings to replace some I lost.  So I brought enough cash with me for those.  But I bided my time and allowed my compatriots to enter into a variety permutations, arrangements and joint purchases in order to get the very best deal.  It just goes to show that a single wily shop keeper is no match for a group of determined women.

“He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign”

At one point in our trip I strayed to another shop alone,  and was completely overcome by a shop keeper trying to sell me an indifferent tanzanite ring.  Luckily,  re-enforcements swiftly appeared and said shopkeeper retreated overcome with the amount of ladies now crowding his shop.  Shop in numbers,  Shop without husbands.  The DH would be fine allowed to negotiate on his own,   but undoubtedly things would have been more complicated had there been men involved with this trip.  They are best left out and taken on separate cutting out expeditions at weekends.


The morning passed quickly,  and a number of purchases were made.  We only just made it out of the Souk before prayers,  and nearly ended up locked in for an hour,  luckily one of the accommodating shopkeepers showed us to a back door which we managed to get unlocked.  I bought some pretty cockle shell shaped 18ct gold earrings and a ‘Saudi Diamond’ and silver tennis bracelet. ( I should explain that ‘Saudi Diamonds’ are a type of quartz that is picked up in the desert.  There are also chemical ‘Saudi Diamonds’ which I think are cubic zirconia.)  My friends equally came away with good spoils,  including strands of freshwater pearls, rings, bracelets and earrings.  I shall be going back.  I believe that you get to the heart and soul of a nation through its shopkeepers.  Those words will probably inspire fear and OCD credit card checking in the DH!

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