Sometimes in life, things are not always as you would expect. Riyadh’s pet souq could well be a classic example.
Situated south of the city on the Al Hair road in Aziziyah district, it is a conglomeration of shops with birds of every description, fish in a myriad of colours, as well as other animals, most notably dhab – a large spiny-tailed lizard (Uromastyx aegyptius microlepis) that lives in the desert.
Think twice, though, about taking children to this souq as some of the animals are not very well looked after and for some it could be a distressing sight.
In common with many countries around the Middle and Far East, pet birds are often dipped into vats of dye to make their colours stand out; and it’s not even just the plain chicks that get dyed, but even budgerigars and other birds that already possess quite outstanding plumage!
Dye is even injected into some of the fish!
If you get to wonder what kind of a pet a dhab would make, you should be aware that they are considered a cullinary delicacy by bedouin and the fact that there is an istiraha (meeting house) for bedouin just eight kilometres down the road might explain the brisk trade in this species.
For many people, the pet souq
may be the only place they are
likely to come face to face with
one of these amazing creatures.
are spotted in the desert only
from a distance and then they will
quickly scramble away to the
sanctuary of their burrow at the
slightest hint of danger.
The Dhab may look ferocious but they are really gentle giants and strictly vegetarian.
That apart, this souq also sells every conceivable kind of cage or tank, sells pet food very cheaply and is a fascinating place to wander around, though photography is definitely not a good idea.
Go down Batha’a Street and cross over the southern ring road on to Al Hair Road. Come off at the first flyover, turn left under it and then left back north the way you came. The pet souq is on your right hand side.
24o 35.2’ N; 46o 44.6’ E