A Typical Trip to the Bookstore in Saudi Arabia

DISCLAIMER: This post may either offend you or make you laugh, please be wise and choose the easier path, as advised by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

This weekend I gave myself a much needed day off from studying. That means I found myself at the bookstore.

This is what my afternoon off looked like:


I got some reading and writing done! I’m working on a bunch of short stories but it’s really difficult to focus with uni and work, so whenever I get some writing done it feels like an achievement.

Back to the issue at hand – A bookstore in Jeddah is not your usual Waterstones or Barnes and Nobles. The experience is completely different. Here is my typical bookstore experience in Jeddah:

  1. I get super excited and walk up the stairs to the Books floor.
  2. I run to the fiction section.
  3. I look through the shelves. Multiple times, multiple rows.
  4. I may find a book or two that I want.
  5. But that doesn’t always happen.
  6. In fact, sometimes I stand in an aisle staring at the shelves, feeling betrayed and alone.
  7. I also feel disbelieving of the fact that a bookstore could be so badly stocked.

Okay, so I may have exaggerated a little bit, but really I haven’t (whatever that means).

Here are things that are almost always impossible to find at your typical Jarir Bookstore in Jeddah:

  1. The first 50 books on your wishlist.
  2. The box sets on your wishlist.
  3. Any editions designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith.
  4. Any clothbound editions (unless it’s a journal!!).
  5. The books that just won the Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize or any other prestigious literary prize.
  6. The choice between hardback or paperback of a book.
  7. Books by Franz Kafka, Neil Gaiman, Fitzgerald, Capote, and Jack Kerouac (etc etc etc).
  8. Books by writers that the rest of the world is talking about.
  9. Any gorgeous edition you can think of that I might want.

Things are bad but people do leave the bookstore satisfied because you’ll find a book or two that you might like to read. I speak strictly of fiction, GOOD fiction, the kind that makes you think and deepen your understanding of life. I am NOT talking about Young Adult fiction, although that is a rant for another time.

When I went to the bookstore today I was hoping to find A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, anything by Don DeLillo, A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler, or Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. These are the books I’ve recently found myself wanting.

Instead, I found The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck:


So even though I did not find the books I wanted I found this Pulitzer Prize winning book! I’m always looking for classics by women so all was not miserable.

Here are the two gorgeous clothbound journals I bought:


They’re so perfect! I love them, especially because they’re unlined and small enough to fit in any bag I have.

And here’s a picture of Maggie Cassidy by Jack Kerouac (which I bought from India), my current read:


I hope you enjoyed reading this post! What’s the best and worst feature of the bookstore you regularly visit?!


11 thoughts on “A Typical Trip to the Bookstore in Saudi Arabia

  1. I live in Jeddah, too. I love going to the bookstore, but like you, I end up buying something different because I can’t seem to find what I really want to read. 🙂

    The plus side is that the bookstores here also sell gadgets which I don’t in bookstores in other countries. So it’s like being in two places in one building. 🙂

  2. ok I’ll check it out. I’m part of another book club, but wasn’t able to come to the meetings because I had to take care of my sons. I’m freer now, though. 🙂 Thanks for the info! I’m excited. 🙂

  3. I am in Doha, Qatar and Jarir is what we have as well! The selection is often sub par, but occasionally I will find something. I usually just purchase online, or when we travel back home to the US in the summer. Though online is convenient, there is something magical about browsing bookstores. I can spend many hours in Barnes & Nobles!

  4. I don’t know why i never read this post before! And i completely feel you, i live in India and its the same problem. Tell me who regrets going to the bookstore, (impatiently,asking friend for a company) ending up finding nothing there. Which part of india do you visit ?

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