Dammam, Asharq Al-Awsat—The renovation and development of Dammam’s traditional women’s souq (market) will be completed in September, according to an official from the Eastern Province Municipality.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat, Mohamed Al-Sufyan, a spokesperson for the Eastern Province Municipality, said: “Development work on the Dammam old market is now 80 percent complete, and it will open within four months.”
The project aims to fully restore and develop the city’s traditional women’s market, which sells women’s clothing and jewelry and in which only women are permitted to shop, transforming it into a tourist destination. The market will have both indoor and outdoor areas and will cover an area of 17,000 square meters. The two-story indoor area will include shops and 165 traditional bastas (market stalls), as well gold workshops, jewelry showrooms, a goldsmith-training center, restaurants and cafes. The building itself will incorporate elements from the Eastern Province’s unique architectural style, and will also house modern facilities such as a training center and parking facilities.
“The project includes 75 shops for various commercial activities, including cafeterias located in carefully selected places, to achieve successful integration with the market’s services and its trade activities,” said Sufyan. “At the center of the project, a small park will be used to host special events and celebrations.”
The new market will largely target shoppers from lower socioeconomic strata. “The project has high cultural and a social value . . . [and] is designed especially for low-income women, as it includes 165 bastas which women can rent for a low price, thanks to a subsidy the city’s municipality has offered to low-income women,” said Sufyan.
The project was awarded with the Community and Culture Award at this year’s Cityscape Jeddah real estate event, held at the beginning of May, in recognition of the benefits it will bring to local residents. Sufyan said the market would be providing some 200 new job opportunities for women, especially for the traditional occupation of a market “hawker,” who attempts to attract potential shoppers to their wares with loud and often amusing methods.
Hawkers are considered an integral part of the country’s old souq culture, and are part of the ambience of a day out shopping. Hawkers will usually sell goods such as traditional women’s clothing, prayer carpets, incense, jewelry and fabrics. The market is expected to help systematize the hawker profession in the area, helping make sure the traditional occupation continues to thrive.
Safyan said the municipality had also been keen to establish an occupational training center for women from low socioeconomic groups seeking to work as hawkers, in order to help improve their skills and enable them to operate a thriving business from their stalls.