Ever since I moved here from Canada, I’ve found that I’m becoming more and more interested in buying antiques from the region for my home. I’m not really interested in huge pieces of furniture, but I think it’d be great to have a few accent pieces that have more meaning behind them and that would add some character to my space. If you really think about it, it’s actually a huge perk of living in this part of the world… Antiques are probably less expensive here, and are quite unique and valuable keepsakes for someone like me since I’m not from the Middle East!
In my search for “old” items, I thought it’d be best to talk to someone who had some experience…
Lucia and her husband moved to Dhahran 6 years ago. They’re avid antique collectors, having collected unique pieces their entire lives, and have continued to keep up this hobby while living in the Middle East as well. They’ve collected pieces from the local favorites as well as from other nearby countries, such as Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt.
We don’t shop. We don’t go in looking for a chair or a table. We go into a store and we grab something that attracts our attention. It could be the color of something or that it looks authentic. We look at it as a piece of art that we just have to display!
Lucia talked to me about how in Saudi you may not necessarily find antique stores, but you are able to find many antiques – sometimes in the dumpsters or in some of the touristy souvenir shops on King Khalid Street. She explains that sometimes the reason antiques are sitting in the trash is because they aren’t given much importance as they’re used items.
However, if a shopkeeper does call an item an antique, you really have to look closely and do your research. Some stores have been known to leave new pieces of furniture outside to give it the “old”/antique look. It’s easy to fake here, but at the end of the day, if you like it enough and the price isn’t ridiculous, you should probably buy it!
Since I’m totally clueless about all of this, I asked Lucia to help me understand the process of picking out antiques and how to start my search for unique items in the Middle East…
First off, what is an antique anyway?
Wikipedia – the best source ever – describes an antique as an old collectable item that is,
… collected or desirable because of its age, beauty, rarity, condition, utility, personal emotional connection, and/or other unique features. It is an object that represents a previous era or time period in human society.
Lucia likes to buy antiques that have actually been used by someone in the past… Approximately 50 years or older.
How do you pick an antique?
You develop an eye for picking out antiques over time, but you can usually try a few things…
- Google it! You can easily educate yourself on an item by simply “Googling” what you’re looking at. You can pull up images of similar items, find the style that you’re looking at, pricing information, the official name of the item as well as articles on copies or authentic designs.
- Find the “right” nicks and scratches. Think about the way an item is utilized and if the scratches and bumps make sense. If you see an old door with a handle, make sure that there are scratches where people would have used their hands to open the door or that the wood is soft there. Some sellers will create marks and scratches in various places to make it look old, but you can figure it out just by checking how the item would’ve been used. If it’s in the right place, chances are, it’s real.
- Buy books on the subject. Spend some time looking at books or magazines to see how people lived in the region in the past. If you see how they lived, you can also see what they used. And you don’t necessarily have to buy what some of the magazines will tell you to buy.
- Look for the signature. Sometimes there will be signatures on pieces by an artist or manufacturer, so if you find it, Google it to see where your piece may have come from or how unique it is.
- Become the expert. If you want to buy antiques, make sure you’re confident in front of the seller or he will win the bargaining war. Be tough, show interest, and make sure you tell them if you think they’re charging too much. Ask them to show you it’s an antique. Just make sure not to insult your seller… but do ask for proof.
When vacationing, make sure to ask locals for places to shop for antiques. It could even be the hotel manager as they aren’t getting a finder’s fee from specific stores. While Lucia looks for pieces while on vacation, she does find it a little riskier…
Sometimes you just buy it because you like it and you know you’re not going to get it again. It’s a risk because it could be new, but just beaten up and left outside.
Where do you go for your antique shopping?
I have a list of various places that I go to in the Middle East and all over the world (listed at the end of this article), but I also spend a lot of time buying things off of our community classifieds page and from garage sales.
Your favorite country for antiques?
My favorite are European countries for antiques, but in the Middle East, it’s Oman. It’s much easier to get items there. We actually found a lot of things at an abandoned town where people had left their belongings behind. I noticed that blue is a very popular color in Oman as well, which seems to have been influenced and inspired by the Mughals.
Check below for contact information and store locations for all of Lucia’s favorite antique shops in the region and all over the world!
Lucia’s Favorite Antique & Carpet Shops in Saudi
ROYAL KASHMIR & ARTS OF KASHMIR (Al-Khobar)
There are actually 2 or 3 stores that sell the same kinds of things that you can check out in the area. There’s a lot of nice new wooden furniture, that’s carved, as well from Pakistan and India in those stores. It’s not old, but it could be valuable in the future.
Contact: Zahoor Ahmed Ganai, TEL: +966 13 893 7909, Mobile: +966 50 597 1326, Address: Prince Mohammed Street Cross 1/2 Opposite Saudi Hollandi Bank/King Saud Street Cross 1/2 Opposite Hakeem Med- Center Next to Kadiwa, Saudi Arabia, Email: firstname.lastname@example.orgUsed by pearl sellers, this is an antique pearl organizing box.[/caption]
ARABIAN TRIBAL ARTS (Al-Khobar)
Note: This is not the exact location, but it is located on Prince Mohammad Street in Al-Khobar.This beautiful blue/white console & mirror in Lucia’s house is made out of camel bone! Photo courtesy of Lucia Landa.[/caption]
Lucia’s Favorite Antique Shops Around the World
Freddy’s Leather Upholstery, TEL: (+973) 69990066, 69990077, Fax: (+973) 69990088, Address: Majaal Warehouse No. 2, Unit 4 Building 1994, Road 1527, Bahrain Investment Wharf, Al-Hidd 115, Bahrain, Website: http://www.freddysleather.com/, Email: email@example.com
Iraqi Folklore House, Phoenicia Centre, Adiya Manama, Bahrain
Alaa Aladeen Handicrafts, Phoenicia Centre, Bldg. 56, Road 306, Shop 5, Adiya Manama, Bahrain
The Dry Bridge Bazaar in Tbilisi, Georgia
Jordan Jewel Art & Mosaic, Seyagha St. , Amman Jordan.
Avenida de la Paz, San Angel, Alvaro Obregon, Mexico City
Plaza San Jacinto, San Angel, Mexico City
Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico
Shops around the Old Town Square Clock in Prague
Kensington Antique Row, Howard Ave., Kensington, MD
A Mano, 1677 Wisconsin Ave., Georgetown, NW DC