Believe it or not, it gets cold enough in Saudi Arabia for wearing winter coats! Although admittedly, for a Finn such as myself, the +24C temperatures feel more like the perfect summers day weather, whereas in Saudi Arabia you will start seeing people in wool coats around then. Did you know that in Saudi-Arabia’s Northern areas it sometimes snows during the winter?
The traditional Saudi winter coats, the farwa and the bisht, come especially handy when out in the desert where temperatures can quickly drop close to freezing after the sun has set.
A Bisht is a traditional Saudi cloak which is normally seen worn over the thobe at important occasions and celebrations such as weddings. These bishts are a very thin, sheer fabric. There’s also a type of winter Bisht made of thicker fabric perfect for the Saudi winter.
A Farwa is an even warmer and thicker winter coat, especially great to wear out to desert camping trips. Whereas the Bisht fabric is normally more rough to touch, the Farwas are soft and snuggly. Some farwas are incredibly heavy and thick, I swear you could wear these out to an expedition of Antarctica and survive!
The two best places to find these coats in Riyadh are the Al Owais souk and the Bisht souk (which I just coined btw) in Deerah.
I actually bought some Bisht and farwa for myself and family as gifts, which I’m going to take with me to our winter holiday in Finland! This also means the Saudi farwa will be going through vigorous testing in extreme Finnish winter weather conditions, ya’ll. I promise to report back how they perform. You can check out some pics from our previous winter holiday in Lapland here.
The Farwa coats range in price depending on where they are made (KSA vs abroad) and what materials have been used. Farwa Handmade in Saudi Arabia will cost more but is also harder to find. The most expensive ones will have the real lamb skin as lining and can go up to 2500 riyal in price such as the below examples of an exceptionally high quality Bisht found at the Bisht Souq in Deerah.
Tips for buying a farwa or bisht:
1. Always bargain from the price given and then bargain again. If the price doesn’t move then move your business to the next shop and you will see how the prices suddenly drop.
2. Find out where the coat is made and what materials were used, always support local produce if possible.
3. Try it on! Don’t be shy even if you’re a woman to try the coat on top of your abaya. I have bought several traditional farwa for myself in the “men’s” style. They are way more attractive and better quality than the ones aimed at female customers and quite frankly I don’t care if people think I’m wearing a “man’s coat”. You will find with the gold trims and embroidery some men’s designs are actually quite feminine.
4. The farwa and Bisht are both supposed to be very lose when worn so you can wrap it around, so don’t buy one that’s too small, the sleeves will be too short.
5. Check prices from several shops before buying to see the price range.
6. They have sizes for babies and toddlers too, don’t pay more than 100sr for those.
7. Yes a woman can wear a Bisht and farwa too. You will love it.
8. If you like the Bisht size but it’s too long they can normally fix this for you on the spot at the Bisht souk, they have many tailors there, expect to pay around 20 sr for adjustments.
9. For the cheapest, thin version of farwa which are usually made in India you will expect to pay from 100-300 riyal. The thicker and the more decoration it has the more it will cost.
10. The farwas don’t have buttons, you’re supposed to wrap it around and hold it closed with one hand. The bishts will have strings to close it lightly.
Location of Bisht Souk in Deerah
GPS coordinates: 24.629248,46.712315
GPS coordinates: 24.737758,46.661482
Have you bought a farwa or bisht? Did you ever wear it outside Saudi Arabia?
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Hello there! I’m Laura, the founder of Blue Abaya- the first travel blog in Saudi Arabia, established in 2010. Travel has always been my passion- so far I’ve visited 75 countries and I’m always on the lookout for new adventures inside and outside of Saudi Arabia! Follow my adventures in Saudi and beyond on instagram: instagram.com/blueabaya
as a saudi girl am very very glad that you liked our tradition clothes. I remember I took my south African friend to Deerah and she was amazed by different collection of farwas, and she bought many as gifts to her family.
thanks a lot for sharing your experience.
Thank you Haifa!
Yes I really love the traditional clothing a lot! And I’m sure others would feel the same if they only knew about them, what they are and where to buy the, SO that’s why I wrote the guide :)
I love your website, it’s addictive, every time i find a new interest in Riyadh and type it in the web search bar, I end up back here!
I’ve been wanting to buy a bisht or farwa for a few years now, but never find the time. How long have you been in Riyadh?
I’d love to make the mens majlis room traditional, from carpet to jambiyyahs! We find ourselves in Dir’iyah on the weekends too! Really admired your doors! I actually took so many pictures yeaes ago, before finding you, a shop opened up in Dir’iyah lovely gift shop!
Thank you for all your efforts blue abaya..
Umm AbdurRahman Sumayyah
Thank you for the message, that’s great to hear that my site has been so continuously beneficial to you.
To answer your question, I’ve been in Riyadh almost 8 years now.
Is the gift shop you mentioned i Diriyah the one inside the AMA Art venue? Or perhaps some other one I haven’t discovered yet.
The gift shop is located at the entrance, where the resturants are. Beautiful traditional gifts, i was like a kid in a candy shop!
Please do reply here once you’ve found it and tell me what you think..
Ok, I think I know which shop you mean, the one with the little trinkets like dallah coffee pots, baskets, oud burners etc?
Yes! That’s the one!
Hi there… Thank You for the information…
You’re welcome Johan! Are you thinking of buying one for yourself :)
Hello blue abaya. Please help me. I just want to know what date will start the janadriyadh festival 2016. I am a bachelor and i want to know the schedule for bachelor. I really want to go to janadriyadh festival. Thank you very much for your help blue abaya. More power to your very good website.
hi Eric! Janadriyah begins 3 rd February. the first week until sunday are always reserved for singles (men only days).
Asalamu alaikum wa ramatullahi wa barakatuh, we have one Bisht (a masculine version) and I love it (often wearing it when eating outside during the autumn). Jazakallahu khair for sharing this beautiful detailed article ! Wa salam
I am having a hard time finding a website online to buy a farwa. I live in the United States now and really really want one. Any idea where I can buy one online and have it shipped?
Does anyone know any websites from which I can buy a farwa and have it shipped to the United States?
I found some on ebay and amazon. What part of America are you? I could ask my American friends in Riyadh if they know specific places to order from more nearer to you inshaAllaah.
I just wanted too say I love your site. Seriously, your awesome.
I have a few questions I’ll be going to saudi soon but I dont want too be taking a lot of money with me for no reason ( I have a tendency of attracting pickpockets and mosquitos lol) . I’m going in ramadan I just wanted to know what the prices of abayas are like there .
Any addition info would really help. Especially with the hot heat .I’m used too cold rainy British weather.
Thanks in advance.
hey there! thank you for the awesome feedback! Made my day!
For abaya prices, it really depends on what you’re looking for and which city you’re in. In Riyadh for example, a “souk abaya” can be as cheap as 100sar. This abaya will be of poor quality and it will not look or feel great, but it serve do it’s “purpose, cover you in black, albeit in polyester lol. So for the heat, a no go for me personally. You can find polycotton which is slightly better for around 200-400 in the Riyahd souks.
I rather invest in pure cotton linen or silk which are of course much more expensive. the first two material is easy to find in Jeddah souks for around 300-600. Linen and silk is more, around 600-1000 sar. if you get from a well known abaya designer they will be 1000+, sometimes around 2000-3000 even. Those abayas would most likely be best for special occasions not everyday wear. Hope this helps!
[…] surrounded by Saudi history. Highlights of this festival, situated next to the Al Musmak fort and Deerah souvenir and antique souk, include traditional folklore tents, handicrafts markets, Saudi food stalls and lots of activities […]
[…] come in so many different styles, show your personality with a pretty or individual abaya. Go to Dirah or Tayba souq and find tons of different abaya designs and colors. Design and personalize it! It’s what you […]
[…] Interested in finding more Riyadh souks? Check out this post: Bisht Souk […]
[…] Another popular family activity is rent your private “villa” or chalet or private pool for a day, in Arabic called isteraha. They can have inside anything from big grass fields, football fields, basketball, gardens, kids playground, indoor/outdoor swimming pools and large rooms with AC, TV and all luxuries you want. Because Saudi culture is very private, they like to rent out an isteraha for weekends so that the whole family can join. Some people rent them for special occasions like birthdays and Eid holidays. Renting a private villa/isteraha is the best way to enjoy a day of family swimming, as mixed swimming pools in Riyadh do not exist. It’s actually quite affordable and some even have staff if you want to take care of catering and looking after the kids. There are literally thousands of isteraha to choose from around Riyadh. Just search with the term #chalet or #isteraha on instagram and you’ll find them. For more Riyadh swimming pools check out this post: Top Ten Swimming Pools in Riyadh The summer heats are a good time to visit The King Abdul Aziz Historical Center and the National Museum. It consists of a remodeled mosque, the old original Murabba’ Palace with main Diwan renovated as “living museum”, the “Memorial Hall” on the outlines of an old courtyard house, a modern exhibition hall for the car collection, the new Al-Dara main lobby and multipurpose hall, a documentation center with a separated men’s and women’s library each, an art gallery and a large internal garden. Nearby and definitely worth a visit, Riyadh National Museum will take you a good three hours to walk through. The whole area is surrounded by parks, waterfalls, fountains and picnic areas. It’s especially nice to stroll around in the beautiful evening lighting. It’s possible to walk to the now restored old water tower, there is a restaurant on top with nice views of the city. The whole Historical Centre area covers some 360,000 square meters! The nearby area called Dirah (Deerah, Derah),where Musmak castle is located there’s a clock tower next to the huge souq area. You can easily spend hours wandering around the antique, gold and carpet, Bisht, abaya, souvenir and furniture souqs of Dirah haggling and having endless cups of tea with the shopkeepers. Check out the directions to the Bisht Souk here. […]
[…] A Farwa is an even warmer and thicker winter coat, especially great to wear out to desert camping trips. Whereas the Bisht fabric is normally more rough to touch, the Farwas are soft and snuggly. Some farwas are incredibly heavy and thick, I swear you could wear these out to an expedition of Antarctica and survive! Visit Bisht souk: Riyadh Bisht & Farwa Souk […]
Hi Laura, awesome information. I am lucky to be heading to Riyadh today. My first time. I would love to know what is on or great to visit at this time of year. We did want to travel to see the black and white volcanoes but I’m thinking it might be too hot. Perhaps you can suggest tour operators that might be helpful. Thank you.
Hello I am new to this wonderful site . Seems very engrossing ! Loving it so far . I am an expat from USA and got married here . Though a Muslim . I had my baby back in USA but back now . I was wondering if there are any lady gyms in riyaDh that allow you to take your baby along ? Mine is 10 months old . And are they any good baby day care centers around here ?
Dear Laura, thank You for such an inspiring website! I wonder if the Bisht Souq is open now, or does it open only during winter?
Yes open year round!
Having lived here for 35 yrz….i luv the way u depict and highlight the beauties & traditions of the country…..!!!
Lovely post Laura! I read your Blog for the first time back in 2012 when my husband got a job in Saudi and it played a huge role in my life at the time as I got most (if not all) the information I needed through you. Your perspective on things gave me the confidence to make the move with a positive attitude and have a lovely time during the two years we called the Kingdom our home. Now, seven years later we are coming back to Saudi and I find myself once again going through your blog :) I remember being given one of this massive coats at il terrazzo while dining on their terrace on a chilly December evening, it definitely kept me warm! Might have to get one for my first winter back in Saudi ;)
Hi Johi thank you for the message, that is great to hear! Welcome back :)
Awesome post! I recently met someone who had bought a few while living in Saudi Arabia and I instantly wanted one, to the point I’m prepared to buy a plane ticket to Saudi Arabia! Do you know of any good online stores that sell Farwas? Thank you!