The cafe that is bringing a taste of Saudi Arabia to South Korea

Alaa Mandora launched her cafe, All in a Cup, in 2016 in Seoul to offer customers authentic food and drinks from Saudi Arabia. (AN photo by Deema Al-Khudair)
Updated 12 July 2019

The cafe that is bringing a taste of Saudi Arabia to South Korea

  • It is the first venue in South Korea to offer customers authentic food and drinks from the heart of the Saudi desert, Mandora says

JEDDAH: A Saudi restaurant in South Korea has proved so successful that its owner has been forced to find bigger premises.

Alaa Mandora moved to Seoul seven years ago. The 33-year-old from Saudi Arabia graduated from the city’s Sogang University with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, and worked for an information technology company for a year before launching her cafe, All in a Cup, in 2016.

It is the first venue in South Korea to offer customers authentic food and drinks from the heart of the Saudi desert, according to Mandora.

“All in a Cup embodies the dining culture of Saudi Arabia, where people leisurely enjoy each other’s company around a cup of Arabic coffee, sweets and a meal in the same establishment and in no particular order, which is quite different from the Korean dining culture,” she said. “Our cafe style represents this culture, offering a variety of home-cooked dishes meticulously and lovingly prepared by the Saudi chef and owner. Most of the dishes we offer come from the west side of Saudi Arabia, Hijaz. A few of our popular dishes are Aish Abu Laham, Kabab Mero, Saleeq and Kabsa.”

Mandora had long dreamed of opening a restaurant, even before she traveled to South Korea to study on a scholarship.

“After obtaining my MBA, my dream only got bigger, and I started seeing business opportunities in what had become my second home at this point,” she said. “I had noticed just how little variety and few options Saudis working and studying here had when it came to halal dining options.

BACKGROUND

All in a Cup opened in 2016 as a small coffee shop, with a menu that grew from three dishes to a full weekly menu. Thanks to positive word-of-mouth within the Arab community, the number of customers increased to the point where it became difficult to accommodate them in a small space, so owner Alaa Mandora decided to move to a larger venue.

“I understood their concerns all too well and knew that I could do something about it to make their lives a little easier. I wanted to give them a little taste of something closer to home when homesickness hit, as it often does for expatriates.

“However, I didn’t just want to cater to Arab people, I also wanted to inspire greater curiosity for Arab and Saudi culture among Koreans, starting with something people can always agree on: great soul food.

“We’re proud that we created a place not only where Arab people could relax, socialize and have fun, but we also created a welcoming and open environment where Koreans could also relax and mingle with other cultures, all around something as simple as a cup of coffee.”

Many of the Koreans who had never tried Saudi cuisine, and thought the flavors would not appeal to them, were pleasantly surprised.

“We had a number of Korean customers who were so impressed they became regular customers and would make it their goal to try everything on the menu,” said Mandora. “What really touched us was how curious they were; every time they’d visit, they’d come armed with more questions about Saudi spices, the cooking methods and just Saudi culture in general.”

She added that interacting with Saudis in such a relaxed environment allowed Korean customers not only to build friendships, but also learn about Saudi culture from a local’s perspective.

“It helped foster more understanding about Arabic culture and Islam as well; for example, understanding why we shut off the cafe’s music during prayer times,” said Mandora. “Quite a few customers also showed interested in learning simple Arabic words such as shukran (thank you) or lazeez (tasty), and were quite happy to use them with me.”


‘I pinch myself every moment because I’m living a dream’: YouTube star Liza Koshy

The US actress gave a talk on Thursday at ON.DXB. (AFP)
Updated 22 November 2019

‘I pinch myself every moment because I’m living a dream’: YouTube star Liza Koshy

  • Koshy, now an established star in her field, started her career in 2013 on Vine
  • Now with more than 17.7 million subscribers on YouTube, Koshy has her own YouTube originals show.

DUBAI: From Vine and YouTube to acting and hosting, Liza Koshy admits she has to pinch herself when she considers her rise to fame.

“I’m living a dream that I didn’t even think of dreaming before,” the US actress revealed during a talk on Thursday at ON.DXB — an event in Dubai dedicated to film, gaming, music and video. 

Koshy, now an established star in her field, started her career in 2013 on Vine, a short-form video hosting service on which users shared six-second-long, looping video clips.

Koshy has more than 17.7 million subscribers on YouTube. (AFP)

“Vine came out then I had a career all of a sudden out of nowhere,” she told the audience. “Vine was a giant group chat for me and my friends, so I only had my friends following me. I was creating videos for them. It was like six people at the time and that’s kind of what social media was back then.

“I had a really tiny circle with three friends and now it’s grown to like three something, something, something. It’s been a while, a wild journey. But that’s how it started. I was just making videos in my car, making videos in my bathroom, making videos in my living room; making my home essentially a set,” said the 23-year-old.

“There was a point where I was pursuing this career – I didn’t realize it was a career at the time – (I was) just making videos. My dad actually took away my phone so that I would study for the SATs, little did he know though that I had an iPad underneath my bed, and I continued making those videos every night,” Koshy added.

It was only when people started approaching her to have their pictures taken with her, that her father realized that she might actually be able to make a career out of it, she said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

thank you, neck

A post shared by Liza Koshy (@lizakoshy) on

Now with more than 17.7 million subscribers on YouTube, Koshy has her own YouTube originals show.

“Liza on Demand,” which premiered on June 27, 2018 on YouTube Premium, is an American comedy web television series starring Koshy, “Orange is the New Black” actress Kimiko Glenn, and television actor Travis Coles. The cast follows Koshy who completes odd jobs around Los Angeles via a phone application.

The show’s second season premiered on Sept. 25 this year.

“I pinch myself every moment because I’m living a dream that I didn’t even think of dreaming before,” Koshy added.

“You see actors going up on these childhood TV shows and you don’t imagine ever creating your own really and then to have the ability to do so in the palm of your hands today, your career and literally be at your fingertips and that’s what it was for me.”