Appetite for veganism has added bite among Saudi youth

Meatless burgers now available in most Saudi food stores. (Supplied photo)
Updated 28 July 2019

Appetite for veganism has added bite among Saudi youth

  • The number of shops and restaurants offering a wider range of vegan and vegetarian products is increasing

RIYADH: The Saudi appetite for veganism as a lifestyle choice is taking off among the Kingdom’s youth, fed by prominent advocates of the practice.

Concerns for health, animal rights and the environment are all proving to be key factors in motivating Saudis to change their diets and stop using animal products.

Among the most notable influencers is Khaled bin Al-Waleed, son of billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, who in January last year pledged to open at least 10 vegan restaurants in the Middle East by 2020.

With increasing numbers of shops and restaurants in the Kingdom now offering a wider range of vegan and vegetarian products, the shift from meat is becoming all the more palatable for many young Saudis.

Health is the first of three main drivers, with publicity about the growing problem of obesity in the country encouraging many people to make better food choices.

Cutting out meat and animal products in protest over unethical practices in the livestock trade is another reason for the rise in veganism, along with fears about damage to the environment, with livestock farming seen as contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, water and land degradation.




Saudi shops and restaurants now offer a wider range of vegan products. (Shutterstock)

However, being vegan, or even vegetarian, can still be a difficult move to make for some.

Banan Al-Sultan, an optometrist and yoga enthusiast, has just got back into veganism after an aborted attempt to switch eight years ago.

“I was vegan for six months back in 2011, but I just couldn’t do it any longer than that. There were no options for me at any restaurant I went to except maybe for French fries or a side salad,” she told Arab News.

“Non-dairy milk was more like non-existent milk in any supermarket, and veggie burgers or vegan sausages were things I’d only heard about but never seen, like unicorns or mermaids.”

As the larger supermarket chains in Saudi started stocking vegan and vegetarian items, Al-Sultan began to muster up her old enthusiasm and has now successfully maintained a vegan diet for three months.

Loulwa Almarshad, a 28-year-old translator in Riyadh, told Arab News that being vegan was nowhere near as difficult as people might think.

“It might have been hard at first, but not so much now. There’s a lot more awareness these days, and the number of vegans worldwide is increasing, which creates more demand for vegan products both in restaurants and supermarkets.”

Most Saudi food stores now stock a wide variety of veggie options, including non-dairy milks such as almond, soy, and coconut, vegan butter and cheese, meatless burgers and sausages, and even treats like cookies, gummy candies, and ice cream.

Restaurants in the Kingdom are getting on board too, with burger outlets such as Johnny Rockets and Burgerfuel offering meatless patties, Jeddah superfood chain Boga introducing vegan salads and tofu sandwiches, and famous vegan-friendly places like Urth Caffe opening up branches throughout the Kingdom.

Yet Almarshad and Al-Sultan still believe that many Saudis remain skeptical about veganism.

“As a society, we Saudis love meat, which is understandable as meat has throughout history been a symbol of wealth and shows that someone can feed themselves and their family,” Al-Sultan said. “But times are changing, and if you can’t adopt our lifestyle, you can at least respect it.”

Almarshad said that the most difficult part of being vegan in Saudi Arabia was the attitude of society toward them. “I don’t mind answering people’s questions if they ask nicely, but at the end of the day, we’re just normal people. When the questions get invasive or offensive, it’s only natural that we won’t want to answer them.”


Lebanese concept store Dikkeni gives back through art, fashion

Dikkeni aims to supports the creative industry in Lebanon. (Instagram)
Updated 19 September 2020

Lebanese concept store Dikkeni gives back through art, fashion

DUBAI: Founded in London, online concept store Dikkeni is home to a number of established and up-and-coming Lebanese artists, designers and creative talents who sell their wares through the platform, which in turn ensures all net proceeds made from consumer purchases go directly to artists, brands and local NGOs.

Launched under the Lebanese non-profit organization Impact Lebanon, Dikkeni aims to supports the creative industry in Lebanon.

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New on Dikkéni // @alexandrahakim, hand-crafted sustainable and unique jewellery. #straightfromthestudio - Alexandra Hakim’s collections give a new lease of life to found materials and objects which would otherwise go to waste. Inspirations as varied as tomato stems from Beirut’s bustling markets and spent matchsticks found at home are repurposed into striking, contemporary pieces of jewellery. Spearheading sustainability long before it became a trend, each of Alexandra Hakim’s pieces are meticulously made by hand, completely unique and naturally zero-waste. - Photography: @alexandrahakim #dikkeni #sustainable #conscious #sustainablelifestyle #sustainableliving #sustainabledesign #socialenterprise #craftsmanship #lebanon #madeinlebanon #beirut #alexandrahakim #jewellery #handcrafted

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Launched this summer, co-founder Daniella Chartouni spoke to Arab News about the aims of the website.

“Our primary interest is in supporting the designers and making sure that they can continue to produce. Our secondary interest is offering the relief to Lebanon that it needs” — something that is a key concern after the Aug. 4 explosion that ripped through Beirut.

Dikkeni launched in May after the founders felt the need to support the creative industry in their country.

A lot of designers, small businesses and artists in Lebanon have stopped producing due to inflation, Chartouni explained. “No one is buying in Lebanon so, it’s a very tough situation, and the creative industry is one of Lebanon’s best industries.” 

She also added that the street protests which occurred in Lebanon in 2019 constituted “a big time” for Lebanese artists. “They got very inspired by the change happening in the country. So, it was a great way to launch.”

The online platform recently launched their second collection. They partnered with non-profit organization Lebanon Needs, whose focus is healthcare and providing medication, products which Chartouni believes are very difficult to secure during the current situation.

Dikkeni is currently featuring eight artists and designers, who produce sustainable products in diverse art forms, like jewelry, home decor, photography, fashion and more. 

When speaking to Tina Mouheb, one of the UK-based artists who is currently working with Dikkeni, she said that this project is of great importance to her. 

“Firstly, it is my first ‘public’ art display which allows me – as a humble, uprising, socially conscious artist – to start finding my voice,” the designer and former landscape architect told Arab News. “Another reason is the timing of such initiative in the midst of (the) chaos in Lebanon. The need to help local Lebanese NGOs is imperative.”