Bamyan cafe gives Afghan women a safe space

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The Bamyan Women Cafe provides a space for females in a male-dominated society. (Arab News)
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The cafe is abuzz with girls and women from different walks of life socializing, studying, reading or eating. (Arab News)
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The first-of-its-kind cafe in the country was established four years ago with support from German NGO Help. (Arab News)
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The cafe is abuzz with girls and women from different walks of life socializing, studying, reading or eating. (Arab News)
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is abuzz with girls and women from different walks of life socializing, studying, reading or eating. (Arab News)
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The Bamyan Women Cafe provides a space for females in a male-dominated society. (Arab News)
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Located in the middle of Bamyan city, the cafe opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. (Arab News)
Updated 19 November 2017
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Bamyan cafe gives Afghan women a safe space

BAMYAN, Afghanistan: Nasrin Hassily is busy discussing a classroom project with her friend Nusrat, in a cafe that she visits almost daily after university to hang out with friends.

She is not alone. The Bamyan Women Cafe provides a space for females in a male-dominated society.

“Away from prying eyes and attention, I feel quite comfortable in the café,” 21-year-old Hassily, a student at Bamyan University, told Arab News.

Originally from Balkh province, she came to Bamyan to study “because this place is more secure than other places in Afghanistan.”

The first-of-its-kind cafe in the country was established four years ago with support from German NGO Help.

“We established this cafe for women to feel free, calm and relaxed away from their home,” Manager Aziza Mohmmadi told Arab News.

“In a normal restaurant, women always have to watch what they say and wear, and how they behave. But here they can be themselves,” she said.

“We allow girls to bring their male friends if they want, and discuss whatever they want over a cup of tea. Women need this kind of space if you want Afghan society to move ahead.”

Located in the middle of Bamyan city, the cafe opens at 10 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. It is abuzz with girls and women from different walks of life socializing, studying, reading or eating.

Fariha Sadat, a 22-year-old handicraft entrepreneur, said it is an ideal place to discuss business with her partner and clients.

She moved to Bamyan a few months ago to expand her business, and feels that “the atmosphere here is safe for women.”

She told Arab News: “I’m very happy to be here. You don’t have to fear suicide attacks or bomb blasts like you do in Kabul.”

Sadat added: “The cafe gives you the kind of space you don’t get anywhere else, even at home. I come here for business dealings, discussing plans and arranging meetings.”

But “to come to this oasis of peace in Afghanistan, we have to pass through so many Taliban-dominated areas on our way from Kabul, and that makes us very insecure.”

Hassily said: “In the last 15 years, women have made great progress. But the atmosphere in Afghanistan is so uncertain and insecure that you never know when the country will be taken over by the Taliban. This is the biggest fear women have.”


Foodex Saudi promotes Kingdom’s agriculture

Prince Abdul Aziz bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz launches the event. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 14 November 2018
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Foodex Saudi promotes Kingdom’s agriculture

  • The government has been encouraging farmers to produce organic products
  • Organic food products were noticeably present at the exhibition, proving that Saudis are reconsidering their eating habits

JEDDAH: Saudi food exports will become a major non-oil industry over the next five years, according to Prince Abdul Aziz bin Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, who inaugurated the four-day 6th Foodex Saudi 2018 at the Jeddah Center for Forums and Events on Monday.
During the opening of the largest Saudi international exhibition specializing in the food sector, the prince emphasized the importance of concerted efforts and international partnerships to achieve agricultural development and sustainable food security.
He said the participation of 52 countries represented by 500 international brands reflected the position that Saudi Arabia occupied economically. “It also shows the leading role played by the Kingdom in the Middle East as the largest and most attractive market for all investors,” he said.
The prince said the achievements of food and beverage industries in Saudi Arabia during the first quarter of the current year had reached 82 percent and total funding had increased by 217 percent, according to information issued by the Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources. This also revealed that total Saudi exports in the food sector during the past year amounted to SR14 billion for 2017, and the sector ranked fourth in the list of major non-oil exporting industries.
Haya Al-Sunaidi, chairwoman and CEO of Reed Sunaidi Exhibition, organizer of the exhibition, told Arab News that the launch of Foodex Saudi had seen wide participation from international brands, including the latest products in fresh, chilled and frozen foods, dairy products, food services, canned goods, meat, poultry, snacks and sweets.
“This year, we have more exhibitors than those in the last edition or any previous edition of the exhibition. We have both public and private participants,” she said.
“The government has been encouraging farmers to produce organic products. Now we can see that we are producing olive oil, a thing that I had not imagined we could really have,” she said. She added that Saudi Arabia was now exporting dates, poultry and dairy products.
However, Al-Sunaidi said Saudi Arabia was still importing 80 percent of its total food consumption, which is why she believes imported brands will not affect homegrown food production.
Organic food products were noticeably present at the exhibition, proving that Saudis are reconsidering their eating habits. Al-Sunaidi said that Saudi investors and consumers are demanding more organic food products.
Al-Sunaidi said the exhibition, which is seeing European and Asian participation, offers business networking opportunities for industry professionals working in the food and beverage sector. She added that it is also showcasing new food products entering the Saudi market for the first time.
Al-Sunaidi said that leading local, regional and international companies trust the Saudi market. “Saudi Arabia has the largest food market in both the GCC countries and the Middle East. It is also one of the world’s strongest economic and consumer powers,” she said.
“Food and beverage imports are expected to increase up to SR135 billion in 2020 compared to the present rate of SR80 billion. In addition, fast-food market volume exceeds SR5 billion per year and retail sales have surged by 66 percent,” she said.
Meanwhile, general manager of a Kenyan tea company, Naveed Ariff, told Arab News that the Kenyan tea they are promoting at the exhibition is the finest tea in the world. “Unlike any other tea elsewhere, our tea production is always fresh throughout the year, the quality is incomparable and the price is reasonable,” he said.
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) was also present at the exhibition through its booth, which spread its awareness messages to visitors on the latest food security standards aimed at protecting consumers’ health.
The winners of nine awards for food industry innovators will be announced at the exhibition.
Thomas A. Gugler, the president of the World Association of Chefs’ Societies, has announced receiving the nominations for best cold drink, best hot drink, best dairy product, best product in red meat and chicken, best product in the bakery and confectionery sector, best product in the spices and sauces sector, best frozen or cold food product, best organic food product and best healthy food product.
He said the selected candidates were highlighted to visitors, specialists and pioneers of the food industry, and they were assigned a place inside the suite dedicated to the competition at the exhibition.
In contrast, the world’s most famous chefs are competing at the “Salon Culinaire,” held under the auspices of the World Association of Chefs’ Societies and the Saudi Chefs’ Table, during which 200 chefs from the world’s most famous hotels and restaurants compete in 17 categories.