One of the best parts of having a job that moves me around so much is the ability to delve a little deeper into the culture and products of a country than is possible for many short-term visitors. My current tour in Saudi Arabia is my second stint in the Middle East, and two months in I am finally finding my footing here — scouting out the warren of shops and marketplaces that offer a chance to purchase one of a kind pieces that I would never find back home. This past weekend, a fruitless quest for Halloween decorations took an interesting turn when a recommendation from a friend led to me to Anteak, a store featuring new and antique handcrafted wooden furniture.
The moment I wandered into the store, I knew I wouldn't be leaving empty-handed. Anteak offers an interesting selection of Arabic furniture as well as pieces from India and Tibet, tapestries, mirrors, and of course carpets. Antique wooden doors (and furniture crafted from them) are a signature style element here in Saudi Arabia, and stores like Anteak are the most accessible way for visitors to take home a piece of that history.
Thanks to my time in Kuwait, I already have a coffee table made from an old door, so my attention was captured instead by the selection of chests available for sale. Though I normally prefer the intricate carvings found on pieces in this region, this time I found myself drawn to a roughly carved, wheeled chest with an interesting paint treatment of deep aqua and gold. Of course, on my way to pay for my new chest, I literally stumbled across an ornately carved mirror that was just perfect for my new entryway.
For a furniture and design junkie like me, the ability to ship home large purchases at the end of my tour offers an excellent reward for the hardships of living overseas. I love finding stores like Anteak — places that offer a glimpse of a different culture and a different way of life. The pieces here are unique, and much of the joy of shopping in such places comes from the thrill of the hunt, the stories the salesmen tell about the products, and the friendly competition of the negotiating process. In the end, I walked out with two great pieces of furniture that I'll have for a lifetime and a memory of a wonderful day — not bad for my $350 investment!
Images: Colleen Quinn