Thuwal, our host community, is just 4.5 kilometers from Tamimi. It's a bustling market town selling many of the essentials for life selling for lower prices and with more variety than you would find within the walls of KAUST. Getting a bit compound bound? Feeling like the streets here are just too clean? Tired of the same old cucumbers and tomatoes at Tamimi? Thuwal is your medicine.

I've taken many trips into Thuwal, and make it there almost once a week for shawarma or some broast chicken. I've felt safe, welcomed, and able to function with my limited Arabic. At most shops you'll find at least one person who can speak enough English to help you out. Many of the shop owners or workers are from India and Pakistan, and as Thuwal is host to the many Saudi Oger employees who work at KAUST, simple English is the common language for the many expats who live there.

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While Thuwal is a gritty town with plenty of traffic and dust on the streets, it feels lively and real. Evenings after 5:00 the markets are all open and filled with people. (know your prayer times) In all my ventures into Thuwal I've felt safe and many times welcomed when I take the time to talk to shop owners. Most will ask you where you are from and be curious about you. It's rare for them to see people from the university venture the 5 minute drive out the gates, so we are an interesting species when shopping there. Please remember that going to Thuwal is nothing like KAUST. You are completely responsible for yourself. Look both ways when you cross the street, no one is going to stop for you...that kind of thing.

Women, be aware, this is a town filled with men, and in the market area you will see 100 men for every 1 fully covered woman. Women are present in Thuwal, but they are not a big presence in the market areas and they will often stay in the car while their men shop. Others have commented that there have been no concerns or problems for women visiting Thuwal, just be aware that you will be in the extreme public minority.

There is a small grocery store, with better prices and sometimes better produce than Tamimi, along with sellers that sell their veggies out of their pickups along the road. When shopping from the merchants on the roadside (who are primarily Arabic-speakers), know how to ask, "bikam" (how much) and "min fadlak" and "shukran" (please and thank you), know your numbers from 1-10 in arabic, at least, and keep prices that you've paid elsewhere in mind to check how much they are marking you up.

What can you find in Thuwal?
  • Groceries, including fresh baked arabic bread. Just walk into the bakery room in the main grocery store and pick out your own arabic bread...4 for 1 riyal.
  • Hardware: plumbing, cement, paint, wood, hoses, electrical
  • Shawarma
  • Broast (fried) chicken
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Pakistani Food
  • Cell Phones and electronics
  • Rope
  • Toys
  • Some inexpensive men's clothing
  • Tailor
  • Fresh Fish
  • Vegetables and Fruits
  • Tires
  • Auto Repair
  • Barber
  • Goats
  • Shoe and Sandal Repair
  • I'm sure there's more, please add to the list as you find it!

Hours

The shops in Thuwal are usually open from 0900 - 1200 and 1600 - 2200/2300 except for Prayer Timings. Some shops are open well past midnight as well.

Getting there
The best way to know what is in Thuwal is to just go! Get in your car and drive out the CSOB gates. Turn right onto Highway 5, drive a kilometer, Turn at your first right, then your next left just a few hundred meters down. You'll be on the main street of Thuwal and will come to a gas station and then the market area just beyond. Park, get out, and wander. You will be looked at. Get over it. It's just about 4.5 kilometers from Tamimi. For those intrepid bicyclists, it's a short ride, but on a main highway with cars driving 100 km or more. Driving back from Thuwal you will need to drive past the CSOB gates and when you get almost to the bridge crossing the highway and the police checkpoint (you'll see a water tower on your right) you want to use the turn around in the highway median to do a U-turn and head back. There are two gates to KAUST you'll see your right..the CSOB gate is the SECOND gate.

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Where to Go?

Here's a few of my favorite places.

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1. Hardware, paint, electrical, hose, wood, plumbing
2. Tailor. Get your thobe!
3. Shwarma. 4sar for a shwarma. Delicious. Beef *(skip it) Chicken, (yep.) and Falafel for the vegetarians.
4. Fried Chicken (BROAST) Get a 1/2 chicken plus french fries, garlic sauce and a few arabic breads for 11sar. Yes, you heard me...11sar, and it's to die for. Everything is fried fresh when you walk in.
5. Electronics. Memory sticks, cell phones, etc. Best selection and prices that I've found.
6. Grocery store. Good prices on veggies (you pay the seller directly for veggies, everything else do at the checkout) also get your cleaning supplies, some office supplies, household stuff here.
7. Rotisserie chicken. 22 sar for a whole chicken, rice and arabic bread.
8. Fish auction.

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The above information, and a few other locations are also accessible via google map. This map is editable by anyone in the world, so feel free to add to it any other places you know in Thuwal.

View Thuwal, Saudi Arabia in a larger map