Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia

Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia
Ramadan is not only a month of prayers, as Muslims make special arrangements to celebrate the holy month by preparing special foods and decorating their surroundings. (Shutterstock/SPA)
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Updated 20 April 2021

Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia

Exploring the traditional flavors of Ramadan in Saudi Arabia
  • Decorations are also becoming an integral part of preparations for the holy month in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Ramadan is a special time for Muslims to get together with family and loved ones. These gatherings in Saudi culture result in a diverse menu of delicious dishes, with many being made exclusively during the holy month.

Muslims worldwide fast from dawn to sunset. Therefore, among all the aspects of local culture, food-related traditions are the most significant, distinguished and diverse. However, there are also shared meals and components of the Saudi iftar table featured in the holy month across the Kingdom.
Dates are an essential dish that Muslims use to break their fasts, following in the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). For Saudis, an assortment of dates is normally consumed, along with Arabic coffee, soup, and fried or baked stuffed pastry (samboosa and other dishes). For sugar-hungry people, the soft drink Vimto is often the go-to liquid to quench thirst.
To top it off, Arabian deserts most commonly found on Saudi tables include kunafa (a sugar-soaked pastry stuffed with cheese or cream) and logaimat (small round balls of fried dough covered in sweet syrup), while qatayef, pancakes filled with cream or nuts, are the cherry on top.
Despite these common foods, each region in the Kingdom favors specific dishes. In the central region, hanini is what many Najdis place on their tables when breaking their fasts. The porridge-like dish is made of dates, wheat flour, ghee and sugar. You will also find jarish, another famous savory dish made from ground wheat, lamb stew and vegetables, with a side of whole-wheat mini pancake-like discs known as matazeez and margoog.
In the western region of the Kingdom, there is the signature dish of foul and tamees, which is a combination of fava bean stew and tamees bread, a soft, tender creation baked in traditional open ovens believed to have originated in Afghanistan. The region’s signature drink is sobia, a thirst-quenching Ramadan brew made from wheat and malt flours.
In the Eastern Province, you will most likely break your fast with a meat and vegetable stew known as saloona. It is served with a side of balaleet, made either sweet or savory from flavored vermicelli noodles and topped with a layer of eggs. The province’s desert of choice is sago, which is made from a form of starch taken from the pith of the sago palm.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Dates are an essential dish that Muslims use to break their fasts.

• Arabian deserts most commonly found on Saudi tables include kunafa and logaimat, while qatayef, pancakes filled with cream or nuts, are the cherry on top.

• Despite these common foods, each region in the Kingdom favors specific dishes.

Though it might seem that food is the focus of Ramadan, many special traditions significant to the holy month are also celebrated across the Kingdom.
“Although we have a very diverse cuisine, I think the components of our Ramadan table are similar, as most popular dishes in this month are rich in carbs, protein, and fat, but they’re also easy to eat with little effort,” traditional food enthusiast Lujain Ahmad told Arab News.
She added: “Our Ramadan table also welcomes new dishes and drinks every year thanks to the influence of social media, which always brings us trends with new meals and dessert recipes, as well as presentation ideas”
Ramadan fashion and decorations are also another way to celebrate the holy month, and are becoming an integral part of preparations for families in Saudi Arabia.
Popular Ramadan lanterns and accessories painted with colorful traditional red-themed patterns also provide an oriental theme to celebrations in the Kingdom.
Ramadan attire is traditionally modest. It is a month in which many women opt for long dresses, such as the jallabiya, which has evolved in recent years through designs inspired by patterns from across the Arab and Muslim worlds.

Old and new traditions are beautiful, and give a special taste to the holy month.

Manal Saleh

The growing popularity of these dresses has created a lucrative market for local fashion designers, markets and social media platforms.
“Although I’m not that old, I can say for sure that these are newly adopted Ramadan traditions, which were not as popular 10 years ago,” Manal Saleh from Jeddah told Arab News.
She added that social media has had a major influence on people’s behaviors and Saudi culture, even in relation to religious events and practices. “New practices adopted through social media trends are increasingly becoming more important and even powerful enough to replace inherited traditions.”
However, she said that both old and new traditions are “beautiful, and give a special taste to the holy month.”
Modern life means that regional differences are in decline, while people increasingly live similar lives and become more interested in following trends and imitating one another.
“We are acting alike, and we like it. There is no problem with that. It gives a beautiful sense of unity on the national and regional level,” Lama Sharif told Arab News.
This year’s Ramadan will not include many popular traditions due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Saudi mosques used to hold daily iftar gatherings for expat workers and the poor, usually paid for by local residents or wealthy donors. The same used to happen at the Two Holy Mosques. But this tradition stopped in 2020 and has not returned this year due to the ongoing pandemic.
Other charitable activities have also been halted. Some Saudis used to prepare small iftar meals and cold water for free distribution around sunset, when people stop at traffic lights and may miss out on breaking their fast on time. These activities were carried out by young men and women, families, or volunteering groups on the main roads of the Kingdom’s cities, but have since stopped.
Saudi families also used to exchange and share dishes with neighbors, a well-known practice across Saudi Arabia. No dishes ever returned empty, but the pandemic has halted this tradition, too.
“As young kids, we used to prepare iftar meals as a family and distribute them among pilgrims in the mosque yards. That was a beautiful experience I’ll always cherish,” said Sharif.
“The pandemic has deprived us of many beautiful social traditions, not to mention prayers and warm gatherings at mosques. I’m glad we are having a real Ramadan this year, but we miss so many things, and I’m afraid they may never come back,” she added.


Workers in Saudi Arabia will need COVID-19 vaccine to return to workplace, HR ministry says

All workers attending a workplace in Saudi Arabia will be required to have received a COVID-19 vaccination, it was announced on Friday. (SPA/File Photo)
All workers attending a workplace in Saudi Arabia will be required to have received a COVID-19 vaccination, it was announced on Friday. (SPA/File Photo)
Updated 07 May 2021

Workers in Saudi Arabia will need COVID-19 vaccine to return to workplace, HR ministry says

All workers attending a workplace in Saudi Arabia will be required to have received a COVID-19 vaccination, it was announced on Friday. (SPA/File Photo)
  • Urged employers to begin preparations to ensure all employees have received a vaccination

RIYADH: All workers attending a workplace in Saudi Arabia will be required to have received a COVID-19 vaccination, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development said on Friday.

“Receiving a coronavirus vaccine will be a mandatory condition for male and female workers to attend workplaces in all sectors (public, private, non-profit),” the ministry said on Twitter.

It also urged employers to begin preparations to ensure all employees have received a vaccination, saying: “The ministry will soon clarify the mechanisms of the decision and its implementation date.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia recorded 13 new COVID-19 related deaths on Friday, which raised the total number of fatalities in the Kingdom to 7,045.

The Ministry of Health confirmed 1,039 new cases of the disease in the country over the past 24 hours, meaning 424,445 people have now contracted the disease since the pandemic began. 

Of the total number of cases, 9,750 remain active and 1,311 in critical condition, a decrease from the day before.

According to the ministry, the highest number of cases were recorded in the capital Riyadh with 386, followed by Makkah with 274 and the Eastern Province with 140, while Asir recorded 46 and Madinah confirmed 45 cases.

The ministry also announced that 1,061 patients had recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 407,650.

 


Saudi Arabia wants to see “verifiable deeds” from talks with Iran, says official

Saudi Arabia wants to see “verifiable deeds” from talks with Iran, says official
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi Arabia wants to see “verifiable deeds” from talks with Iran, says official

Saudi Arabia wants to see “verifiable deeds” from talks with Iran, says official

DUBAI: A Saudi foreign ministry official said on Friday that talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran aim to reduce regional tensions, but added it was too early to judge the outcome and Riyadh wanted to see “verifiable deeds.”
The comments by Ambassador Rayed Krimly, head of policy planning at the ministry, were the first public confirmation from Riyadh that the rivals — who severed ties in 2016 — were holding direct talks.
“As to current Saudi-Iranian talks they aim to explore ways to reduce tensions in the region,” Krimly told Reuters.
“We hope they prove successful, but it is too early, and premature, to reach any definitive conclusions. Our evaluation will be based on verifiable deeds, and not proclamations.”
He declined to provide details on the talks, but regional officials and sources had told Reuters that the discussions were focused on Yemen and the 2015 nuclear deal between global powers and Iran, which Riyadh had opposed.
Iraq’s president said on Wednesday that Baghdad hosted more than one round of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, who have been locked in a rivalry that has played out in proxy conflicts across the region, including Yemen.
Krimly said Saudi policy had been explained “very clearly” by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who last month said that while the Sunni Muslim kingdom has a problem with Tehran’s “negative behavior” it wanted good relations with Shiite Iran.
Yemen war
Tensions between Riyadh and Tehran have festered over the Yemen war, where an Iran-aligned Houthi group has increased attacks on Saudi Arabia. Strains between the two Gulf powerhouses also grew after a 2019 assault on Saudi oil plants that Riyadh blamed on Iran, a charge Tehran denies.
Riyadh supported former US President Donald Trump’s decision in 2018 to quit the nuclear pact for not addressing Tehran’s missiles program and regional behavior. After Trump re-imposed sanctions on Iran, Tehran responded by breaching several nuclear restrictions.
Global powers are trying at talks in Vienna to bring the United States and Iran back into full compliance with the deal. Saudi Arabia has urged them to reach a stronger accord.
Riyadh and Tehran have also backed opposing sides in Lebanon and Syria, where Iran has supported President Bashar Assad.
Gulf states have been alarmed by the rising influence of non-Arab Iran, Russia and Turkey in Syria, especially after Syria’s membership of the Arab League was suspended in 2011 over its crackdown on protesters at the start of the civil war.
Krimly said recent media reports that the head of Saudi intelligence had held talks in Damascus were inaccurate.
He said Saudi policy toward Syria remained based on support for the Syrian people, for a political solution under a United Nations umbrella and in accordance with Security Council resolutions, and for the unity and Arab identity of Syria.


Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Pakistan army chief

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani chief of army staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Friday met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, crown prince, deputy prime minister and minister of defense of Saudi Arabia, and reviewed bilateral relations, Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

Bajwa arrived in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan will also embark on a three-day visit to the Kingdom today.

The media wing of the Pakistani military said “matters of mutual interest, regional security situation including recent developments in Afghan Peace Process, bilateral defense, security, collaboration for regional peace and connectivity were discussed” during Friday’s meeting.

 

 

“COAS said that Pakistan is resolute in its commitment to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of KSA and defense of the two Holy Mosques. The Crown Prince acknowledged Pakistan’s role toward regional peace and stability,” the military said.

“The Crown Prince also said that the relations between KSA & Pakistan are based on bonds of brotherhood & mutual trust and both nations will continue to play their part for peace, stability & betterment of Muslim Ummah.”

SPA reported that the two leaders “reviewed bilateral relations, especially in the military and defense fields, and discussed opportunities for their development, in addition to a number of issues of common concern” during their meeting.

“The meeting was attended by His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Deputy Minister of Defense, His Excellency the Minister of State, Member of the Council of Ministers, National Security Adviser Dr. Musaed bin Muhammad Al-Aiban, His Excellency the Head of General Intelligence, Mr. Khalid bin Ali Al-Humaidan, and the Ambassador of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques to Pakistan Mr. Nawwaf bin Saeed Maliki.”

On the Pakistani side, Pakistani ambassador to the kingdom, Lt. Gen. Bilal Akbar, the secretary to the army chief, Major General Muhammad Irfan, and the Defense Attaché of the Pakistani embassy in Riyadh, Brig. Gen. Harun Ishaq Raja, were present.

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Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia

Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
Updated 07 May 2021

Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia

Pakistan PM Imran Khan embarks on three-day visit to Saudi Arabia
  • Meetings with Saudi leadership to cover areas including economics, trade, investment and job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan will embark on a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia today, Friday, on the invitation of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In meetings with the Saudi leadership, Khan will cover all areas of bilateral cooperation including economics, trade, investment, environment, energy, job opportunities for the Pakistani workforce, and the welfare of the Pakistani diaspora in the kingdom, the foreign office said. 
“The Prime Minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including the Foreign Minister and other members of the Cabinet,” the foreign office said in a statement. 
During Khan’s visit, “the two sides will also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest … A number of bilateral agreements/MoUs are expected to be signed during the visit.”
Khan will also meet the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr. Yousef Al-Othaimeen, the Secretary General of the World Muslim League, Mohammad bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, and the Imams of the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Medina. 
“Prime Minister Imran Khan will also interact with the Pakistani diaspora in Jeddah,” the foreign office said.
“Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have long-standing and historic fraternal relations, rooted deep in common faith, shared history and mutual support. The relationship is marked by close cooperation in all fields and mutual collaboration on regional and international issues, in particular those faced by the Muslim Ummah,” the foreign office said, adding:
“​Saudi Arabia is home to more than two million Pakistanis, contributing toward the progress and prosperity of both countries. Regular high-level bilateral visits continue to play a pivotal role in providing impetus to the fraternal ties and close cooperation between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.”
Pakistani army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa also visited Riyadh this week and on Wednesday discussed defense cooperation with the Saudi military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Fayyad bin Hamed Al-Ruwaili.
During the meeting with Al-Ruwaili, Gen Bajwa “emphasized the need to further enhance military-to-military cooperation between the two-armed forces and said that Pakistan-KSA cooperation will have positive impact on peace and security in the region.”


Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV

Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV
Updated 37 min 45 sec ago

Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV

Vaccination against COVID-19 a must for all workers in Saudi Arabia: State TV

RIYADH: Every worker in the Kingdom will be required to get inoculated against COVID-19 to be able to attend their workplaces, state TV Al Ehbariya said on Friday, quoting the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Development.

In a series of tweets, Al Ekhbariya said the ministry was also calling on all sectors to ensure that their employees are vaccinated.

The mechanism of the forthcoming policy and its date of application will be announced soon, the TV station said.