Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Living in Saudi Arabia, I quickly learned that the scented oils everyone uses here are called “oud” (rhymes with “food”). But that’s not the kind of oud this post is about. Oud is also the name for a beautiful stringed instrument that is used in Middle Eastern and North African music.

We were out walking one evening when I spied this shop that sells oud stringed instruments. The shopkeeper told us that the cost of an oud starts at about SR200 (about $50 US) and goes up to about SR1000 (about $250 US).

The oud is a very distinctive looking instrument. The main body of the oud is made of wood, hollow and pear-shaped with a rounded back side. There are usually three sound holes which can be outlined with a painted design or mother of pearl. On a more expensive oud, the sound holes are often adorned with intricately carved bone or cut-out wood rosettes.

It also has no frets and a much shorter neck than a guitar. The neck of the oud has a big crick or bend in it as well. If you are familiar with what a lute looks like, the oud is its cousin.

Both the lute and the oud have been around for thousands of years. Because of its lack of frets like most other stringed instruments have, the oud is played with lots of sliding and lots of vibrato on its strings. Most oud instruments have eleven stings.

The oud also comes in an electrical format which does not have the rounded hollow pear shaped body. This is what the electrical oud looks like.

This short video features Oud Music by Ali Hassan:

To listen to a longer song of oud music, watch this YouTube video featuring Abdel Wahab on the oud:


  1. The Oud is a beautiful instrument. I have a mandolin that was my grandmothers and it looks quite similar (but sounds very different).
    Thanks for sharing.
    Hope all is well over there.

  2. Such beautiful music! We have many CD's at home featuring the Oud.

  3. Oud are really beautiful. I wonder if somewhere else in world are made such decorated instruments. They're amazing. And their sound is so vibrant and hipnotic. I envy You that You could see all these instruments. I bought couple days ago an oud on e-bay. It's great, but unfortunately I can't play on it. Maybe someday I will learn.

  4. Susie, Where in Jeddah is this shop located. I would really like to go there. Thanks.

  5. Hi Susie, Was there any problem with you (an accompanied female) going inside the shop? I've been reading on-line that there was/is a ban on women entering musical instrument stores. Maybe that's over or maybe it's just Riyadh. Thanks for responding. Great article!

    1. Hi KHC - I haven't ever heard of such a thing. I have been inside at least 3 musical instrument shops that I can think of and it was never a problem. I would not recommend an unaccompanied female going alone into any type of small shop here though. Last year a friend of mine went into a small shop with just the shopkeeper inside. She said hello to him and began looking at merchandise. When she turned around to inquire about something, the pervert was exposing himself to her. Ladies who are alone should never go into small shops with no one else around.