Jewels in the sand: Everything to know about Saudi truffle season

Jewels in the sand: Everything to know about Saudi truffle season
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Desert truffles contain a high amount of plant protein, comparable to that of tofu, making it a favorite among vegans and vegetarians. (AN photo)
Jewels in the sand: Everything to know about Saudi truffle season
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Desert truffles contain a high amount of plant protein, comparable to that of tofu, making it a favorite among vegans and vegetarians. (AN photo)
Jewels in the sand: Everything to know about Saudi truffle season
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Desert truffles contain a high amount of plant protein, comparable to that of tofu, making it a favorite among vegans and vegetarians. (AN photo)
Jewels in the sand: Everything to know about Saudi truffle season
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Desert truffles contain a high amount of plant protein, comparable to that of tofu, making it a favorite among vegans and vegetarians. (AN photo)
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Updated 11 February 2021

Jewels in the sand: Everything to know about Saudi truffle season

Jewels in the sand: Everything to know about Saudi truffle season
  • Saudi truffle experts decode the secrets of the elusive, highly prized ingredient

RIYADH: Almost two weeks into the year’s desert truffle season, successful hunters have started bringing their products to the market, and those looking for a tasty treat can finally get their hands on a fresh crop of earthy, savory goodness.

Known colloquially as the fage (pronounced with a hard, guttural “e”), the Terfeziaceae, or desert truffle, is a delicacy renowned across the Arabian Peninsula and certain parts of North Africa. It is popular in the region for its unique taste, like that of an earthy mushroom, and used in several traditional Arabic dishes.

The truffle also boasts certain health benefits. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) cited truffle water as a cure for certain maladies of the eye. Desert truffles also contain a high amount of plant protein, comparable to that of tofu, making it a favorite among vegans and vegetarians.

The desert truffle is a fungal plant found in the desert after heavy rainfall. True desert truffles only grow in areas close to the raqrooq plant, also known as the sunrose or rock rose. In the Kingdom, the best places to search are located in the deserts of Northern Saudi Arabia, near places such as Arar or Hafr Al-Batin. Outside of it, the truffles are found in the deserts of Iraq, Syria, Algeria, Libya and Mauritania.

According to truffle expert Faisal Al-Hazeini, truffle season begins somewhere around Jan. 25, and ends around March 10, giving truffle hunters a fairly narrow window in which to dig up, sift through and sell the produce.

“These truffles are considered somewhat rare, due to the scarcity of rain in the desert and the difficulty of acquiring a good specimen,” Al-Hazeini told Arab News. “Searching for truffles requires covering long stretches of desert, some of which are protected or restricted, such as border areas and nature preserves. Their growth is also dependent on how much it has rained in the desert each year, so it’s not impossible for a year or two to pass without the sufficient rain required to produce them.”

Though not as expensive as their Italian and European counterparts, their rarity makes them relatively pricey. A kilo of desert truffles can cost anywhere from SR 700 (around $186.6) to SR 1200, depending on their size, quality, color and the fruitfulness of the year’s crop.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Known colloquially as the fage (pronounced with a hard, guttural ‘e’), the Terfeziaceae, or desert truffle, is a delicacy renowned across the Arabian Peninsula and certain parts of North Africa.

• It is popular in the region for its unique taste, like that of an earthy mushroom, and used in several traditional Arabic dishes.

• The truffle also boasts certain health benefits. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) cited truffle water as a cure for certain maladies of the eye.

Desert truffles come in three main varieties: white, known as zubaidi; red; and the uncommon black, known as khulas. Each boasts its own unique flavor profile and price point.

Hamdan Al-Adyni, a vendor of exotic fruits and vegetables, told Arab News that one of the most difficult aspects of truffle hunting was determining the good truffles from the bad, since not every truffle they find in the wild is necessarily an edible one.

“A good truffle should be firm and should have a good smell, color and shape. Bad truffles are distinguished by discoloration, an unpleasant smell and an almost gelatinous texture,” he said. “The quality of the dirt also plays a role. An expert hunter can tell just by examining the dirt whether they are going to find a good crop or not,” he said.

Basheer Al-Ruwaili, another expert, told Arab News that the best places to buy them was at special, seasonal markets that can be found across the Kingdom in the spring.

“At truffle markets, you will encounter experienced dealers who will have fresh and newly extracted specimens. Though you may sometimes find sellers hawking them in trucks on the sides of the road, people should take extreme caution buying from them because they are of unknown sources and may have been exposed to improper storage, imported and therefore not as fresh, or gathered during previous seasons,” he said.

More importantly, once a crop of fresh truffles has been successfully procured, how would one go about preparing them for consumption?

Al-Ruwaili stressed that the truffles need to be properly scrubbed, to ensure that all of the dirt is removed from the crevices, before they are peeled and cooked.

“For me, the best way to cook them is by grilling them, while taking care to extract the water coming out of them to be used for homeopathic purposes,” he said. “Once they are properly cleaned and peeled, they can be roasted on coals with the addition of nothing but salt. Another way is to boil them in water until tender, then add salt and a little bit of ghee or cultured goat butter,” he said.

As for Al-Adyni, he suggests cooking them in broth, or adding them to kabsa, a traditional Saudi rice dish.

“There are many ways of serving and cooking a desert truffle, limited only by a person’s creativity,” he said.

Al-Adyni has a snapchat account, @aladyni2021, where he posts pictures and videos of his seasonal crops, his experiences hunting truffles during their seasons and the locations where they can be purchased.


Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX

Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX
Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX

Saudi Arabian Military Industries signs deals at IDEX
  • SAMI also agreed to be a strategic partner of Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI in next year’s IDEX

Saudi Arabian Military Industries (SAMI) signed several cooperation agreements with international companies and government authorities during the International Defense Exhibition and Conference (IDEX) this week.

SAMI, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), aims to enhance the Kingdom’s defense capabilities and localize its military industry as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

“We are pleased to achieve outstanding success through our participation in IDEX 2021,” Walid bin Abdulmajeed Abu Khaled, CEO of SAMI, said.

“This will lead us to new achievements and make Saudi Arabia one of the leading manufacturers of military systems in the world.”

SAMI signed a joint venture agreement with the US firm Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest military defense company. The venture will develop capabilities in manufacturing software technologies, along with the production, maintenance, and repair of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft.

SAMI also signed a cooperation agreement with Nimr, which is part of the Abu Dhabi-based EDGE Technology Group. The deal will allow both companies to work together on armored military and security vehicles. It also marks the first collaboration in the field of military industries between Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Military Industries (GAMI) also signed an agreement with SAMI to be a strategic partner in next year’s IDEX.

During the five-day exhibition, GAMI Gov. Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Al-Ohali visited the Saudi pavilion along with Saudi Ambassador to the UAE Turki bin Abdullah Al-Dakhil.

The pavilion also welcomed Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed and Lt. Gen. Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the UAE’s deputy prime minister.

 

 

 

 


US not aiming ‘to rupture relationship’ with Kingdom: Politico

King Salman and US President Joe Biden recently discussed strengthening partnership during phone call. (Reuters/File Photo)
King Salman and US President Joe Biden recently discussed strengthening partnership during phone call. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 27 February 2021

US not aiming ‘to rupture relationship’ with Kingdom: Politico

King Salman and US President Joe Biden recently discussed strengthening partnership during phone call. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Saudis show wide support at home for MBS, describe CIA report as speculative

RIYADH: US President Joe Biden and his administration may be seeking a recalibration of its relationship with Saudi Arabia, but is adamant not to rupture the relationship with the Kingdom, a senior US official said.

Speaking to Politico, the official said that there are “important interests” the US shares with Saudi Arabia. The administration views the Kingdom as an important partner in the Middle East, and it has promised to keep supporting the country as it defends itself against attacks blamed on Iran.

The official’s comments came after a classified CIA report was released on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, who was killed by a group of rogue Saudi agents in Istanbul in 2018.

Despite a lot of hype that preceded the release of the report, many observers have described it as too analytical and lacking evidence.

“No smoking gun,” CNN’s International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson said.

Israeli journalist and commentator Barak Ravid wrote on Twitter: “US intelligence report on Khashoggi, which is 100% analysis and 0% information, raises real concerns about the quality of access US intelligence agencies have in Saudi Arabia.”

Meanwhile, in the Kingdom, Saudis took to social media to show support for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who underwent a successful surgical procedure on Wednesday morning to treat appendicitis.

Saudi journalist Abdulrahman Al-Rashed tweeted there was nothing new in the declassified CIA report. He described those who were betting on Biden to damage the relationship with Saudi Arabia as “ignorant of how the world operates.”

Saudi columnist Salman Al-Dossari tweeted that the Biden administration should be praised for publishing the CIA report, saying that the findings support Saudi court rulings.

Last September, Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution announced the final sentences for the eight people convicted of the Khashoggi murder.

Five of them received 20-year jail sentences for their involvement in the killing. Another was sentenced to 10 years while two others received seven years. Commenting on the verdict, the Khashoggi family called the judgment “fair and dissuasive.”


Saudi envoy meets UN Women’s executive in New York

Saudi envoy meets UN Women’s executive in New York
They also discussed ways to enhance cooperation in various fields. (SPA)
Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi envoy meets UN Women’s executive in New York

Saudi envoy meets UN Women’s executive in New York
  • Al-Mouallimi virtually met the newly-appointed permanent representative of Mozambique to the UN, Pedro Comissario Afonso

NEW YORK: Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the UN, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, held a virtual meeting with Asa Regner the assistant secretary-general of the UN and deputy executive director of UN Women.

The two sides reviewed the latest preparations for the upcoming session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65), in which the Kingdom will take part.

They also discussed a number of topics of common interest, and ways to enhance cooperation in various fields.

Al-Mouallimi also virtually met the newly-appointed permanent representative of Mozambique to the UN, Pedro Comissario Afonso.

During the meeting, the two sides discussed topics of common interest and ways to enhance cooperation in various fields.

Both meetings were attended by the director of Al-Mouallimi’s bureau, Faisal Al-Haqbani, and the head of public relations and information of the delegation, Taful Al-Aqbi.

 


Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 
Updated 27 February 2021

Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Who’s Who: Ziyad Al-Shiha, new CEO of Saudi Investment Recycling Co. 

Ziyad Al-Shiha has been appointed CEO of the Saudi Investment Recycling Co. (SIRC).

SIRC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund, the National Waste Management Center and the municipality of the Eastern Province recently signed an agreement to start integrated waste management and waste recycling activities in the province.

Al-Shiha has been a board member of the National Petrochemical Company, a Saudi joint-stock company, since 2019, and was deputy chair of the Business 20 (B20) Trade and Investment Taskforce.

He was president and CEO of the Saudi Electricity Co. (SEC) from 2014 to 2018 and, prior to that, was a SEC board member from 2012 to 2013.

Al-Shiha has a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals, a master’s degree in engineering and control systems from Rice University, and a second master’s in executive business administration from MIT.

He had a number of positions at Saudi Aramco after joining the company in 1984. He was an electrical engineer and vice president of general planning in one of the international joint ventures in the Philippines. He was also a public relations manager at Aramco, the director of facilities planning, and the executive director of power systems.

Al-Shiha has participated in several leadership training programs, including MIT’s Sloan Fellowship Program.


Saudi universities opening coronavirus vaccine centers

Saudi universities opening coronavirus vaccine centers
Universities used human and technical capabilities in university hospitals and health centers to support state institutions. (SPA)
Updated 27 February 2021

Saudi universities opening coronavirus vaccine centers

Saudi universities opening coronavirus vaccine centers
  • The Kingdom is ranked first in the Arab world, 12th among G20 countries, and 14th at the global level in publishing scientific research on coronavirus

RIYADH: Several Saudi universities have begun preparing coronavirus vaccination centers for use by faculty, their families, citizens and residents.

Vaccines will be given to people according to priority and age group, and as per the approved electronic systems.

The move comes as part of the Ministry of Education’s efforts under the guidance of Education Minister Hamad Al-Asheikh to join national efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The launch of vaccination centers in universities emphasizes their role in serving the community. It is is also part of a long series of joint programs between Saudi government bodies.

As per the directives of Al-Asheikh, universities have prepared emergency plans since February last year to fight the pandemic. These include programs, events and community activities that raise awareness of the threat of coronavirus.

Universities also used human and technical capabilities in university hospitals and health centers to support state institutions, and allocated buildings for isolation and quarantine.

Saudi institutions also encouraged faculty members and researchers in universities to present scientific studies, research, and innovations to aid the global fight against the pandemic.

The Kingdom is ranked first in the Arab world, 12th among G20 countries, and 14th at the global level in publishing scientific research on coronavirus.

In addition, Saudi universities have organized conferences, forums, scientific seminars and workshops. The events were part of the success of clinical trials for the production of a Saudi vaccine by the scientific team at Imam Abdulrahman bin Faisal University.

Vaccination centers are being prepared at King Saud University, Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Imam Muhammad bin Saud Islamic University, Majmaah University, Bisha University, Umm Al-Qura University, Taif University, Hail University, Jazan University, the University of Hafr Al-Batin, and others.

Specialized administrative workers will organize medical teams to ensure the smooth flow of vaccines at the new centers.