‘Om Talal’ gives Saudi students in US a taste of home during coronavirus Ramadan

Based in California, Saudi cook Mona Al-Assiri and her team supply iftar and sahoor meals for Saudi students studying in the area. (Screengrab)
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Updated 05 May 2020

‘Om Talal’ gives Saudi students in US a taste of home during coronavirus Ramadan

  • Based in California, Saudi cook Mona Al-Assiri and her team supply iftar and sahoor
  • But staff have to take extra precautions delivering the Ramadan meals

LOS ANGELES: For the past four years, Mona Al-Assiri has been cooking Arabic food for Saudi students in California. 

She started her business to support her family after the death of her husband and it quickly became popular. 

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, this Ramadan she and her fellow chefs have continued preparing the meals they are famed for.

Al-Assiri, who is known affectionately by her staff and customers as Om Talal, told Arab News how they are adjusting to supplying meals during the COVID-19 lockdown.

“We cook for iftar and sahoor as well,” Al-Assiri said. “The latter dishes differ from the first like mash and grouts, sambousek and soup because the food for iftar is different from that of sahoor, which is mostly rice and chicken or rice and meat.”

Al-Assiri, 50, moved from Saudi Arabia to the US in 2013. Her kitchen is in Anaheim, part of Greater Los Angeles, and she sells the food to Saudi students studying at a number of different schools and colleges in the region.

As the business has grown, Al-Assiri has had her cooking praised by government officials, celebrities and even princes. But while her spirit is still strong, her business is facing a slowdown in orders.




Based in California, Saudi cook Mona Al-Assiri and her team supply iftar and sahoor meals for Saudi students studying in the area. (Screengrab)

“Because of coronavirus this year we are delivering fewer meals - between 35 and 40,” Al-Assiri said. “During Ramadan in years before 2020, we didn’t have enough time to meet all the requests.”

She said her staff were taking extra precautions to avoid the spread of COVID-19 during their deliveries. 

“Of course we need to be cautious fearing for our safety and the safety of the students when we send them our food,” she said. “When we go to the market we always wear gloves and masks and have sanitizers, and stay about a meter and a half away from others.”

Fans of her kitchen have said Al-Assiri’s cooking is a taste of home, a reminder of the dishes their mums used to make. 

With muslims forced to observe Ramadan in isolation, meals like these are a way to remain connected to their community.

“My message to those fasting is that this is a month of worship and fasting and getting closer to God,” said Al-Assiri. “We need to be away from envy and hate without forgetting family kinship. During coronavirus we cannot visit each other, but we can ask about each other through the phone.”


Saudi bridge continues to aid stricken in Lebanon

KSRelief provided urgent food supplies to affected people living in the areas adjacent to the port, covering 500 families. (SPA)
Updated 10 August 2020

Saudi bridge continues to aid stricken in Lebanon

  • So far, 290 tons of aid transported to provide urgent humanitarian needs to people affected by explosion

JEDDAH: Aid continues to flow into the Lebanese capital Beirut, as the fourth Saudi air bridge plane operated by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) arrived on Sunday.
Ninety tons of emergency aid was flown in on the flight, including medical materials and equipment, foodstuff and shelter supplies. Medicines, burn treatments, medical solutions, masks, gloves, sterilizers and other surgical materials will be distributed by special teams on the ground.
The plane also carried food baskets that included flour and dates as well as shelter materials such as tents, blankets, mattresses, and utensils.
So far, 290 tons of aid has been transported from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon as per the directives of King Salman to provide urgent humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people affected by the explosion at the Port of Beirut.
This aid was provided based on an assessment report of the necessary humanitarian needs resulting from the explosion, in coordination with the Saudi Embassy in Beirut, and the KSRelief branch in Lebanon.
This comes as an extension of the efforts made by Saudi Arabia to show solidarity with the Lebanese people and to provide relief to those affected by the disaster.

FASTFACT

So far, 290 tons of aid has been transported from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon as per the directives of King Salman to provide urgent humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people affected by the explosion at the Port of Beirut.

KSRelief provided urgent food supplies to affected people living in the areas adjacent to the port on Sunday, covering 500 families.
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Waleed bin Abdullah Bukhari told Arab News that special committees would oversee and review reports on the Lebanese people’s needs.
“Aid will continue to flow into Lebanon after assessing the required needs of the Lebanese people in cooperation with the relevant authorities in Lebanon,” he said.
Countries around the world have come together to help Lebanon in the wake of the explosion on Aug. 4, which devastated large areas of Beirut, damaging and destroying infrastructure, buildings and homes, including all port facilities and the country’s grain storage silos.