As quarantine drags on, Saudis struggle to seek sustenance

As quarantine drags on, Saudis struggle to seek sustenance
A picture taken March 18, 2020 shows a waiter speaking on his mobile phone inside a closed cafe in Riyadh amid measures to contain the novel COVID-19 coronavirus disease in the desert kingdom. (AFP)
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Updated 22 March 2020

As quarantine drags on, Saudis struggle to seek sustenance

As quarantine drags on, Saudis struggle to seek sustenance
  • Opinions are divided on whether food delivery is entirely safe or necessary

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s favorite pastime of going out to eat has become — at least for now — a thing of the past. With the country’s restaurants closed for dine-in customers and only open for delivery and takeout, the country’s food delivery apps have seen an unprecedented surge of customers.

From apps that have been around since the beginning, such as Talabat and HungerStation, to newer ones like Jahez, Carriage, and Lugmety, the appeal of having food delivered right to your door has never been stronger.

However, despite frequent reassurances from both the apps themselves and their partner restaurants, as well as the government clamping down on hygiene and safety practices in all restaurants, opinions are divided on whether food delivery is entirely safe or necessary.

Khawla Mukhtar, a mother of five, told Arab News that she never liked the idea of food delivery apps, and she likes it even less now.

“I was always skeptical of them because I don’t like the idea of so many strangers knowing my name and where I live. Now it’s even less safe, because you don’t know how many people they’ve already been delivering food to, or whom they’ve interacted with on their off time,” she said.

Mukhtar is doing her best to prepare all three of her family’s daily meals at home with ingredients she picks carefully at the supermarket.

“I shop once a week, and I don’t hoard or stockpile food. I just take what I need. I try not to get anything raw or exposed, only things that are sealed or foods I can cook at a high enough temperature to kill any viruses or bacteria, just in case,” she said.

Not everyone has the luxury of cooking at home, though. In some cases, such as that of university student Faisal Al-Rashed, not having a kitchen to begin with can mean that food delivery is the only option.

“I live in a very small apartment without a stove. I only have a microwave and a mini fridge. I’ve basically been eating out every day and going home to Al-Kharj to see my parents every other weekend or so. That’s the only time I get home-cooked food unless someone invites me to their house,” he said.

Al-Rashed told Arab News that he tries to make healthy choices to the best of his ability. If he is able to, he reheats the food in the microwave to be safe, but he called the experience “miserable” and prays that the quarantine ends soon.

“When this is over, I’m getting a hot plate and a toaster oven, and I’m going to see my mom for a month and have her teach me every recipe she knows,” he joked.

There are those who have tried to find a balance in the chaos, such as Amal Al-Dabbagh, who told Arab News that cooking three meals a day on top of homeschooling her kids and juggling work from home is “simply impossible.”

“Sometimes I’ll cave and let them get food from outside the house, but I won’t use a delivery app. I’ll send my own driver to the restaurant and have him pick up the food. I trust him enough to be careful and protect himself,” she said.

PARTICLE: Delivery apps you can make use of during the quarantine

Food:

  • HungerStation
  • Talabat
  • Jahez
  • Carriage
  • Lugmety
  • UberEats
  • Grocery delivery:
  • Nana Direct
  • Misc.:
  • Mrsool

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