Secret ingredient is love as Saudi grandmother shares her culinary skills with the world

Saudi grandmother Nijat Abdulmajeed, middle, with her daughter Basmah Omair, right, and granddaughter Shahad Nejaim. The family plans to organize online classes. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Saudi grandmother Nijat Abdulmajeed, middle, with her daughter Basmah Omair, right, and granddaughter Shahad Nejaim. The family plans to organize online classes. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
Secret ingredient is love as Saudi grandmother shares her culinary skills with the world
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Nijat Abdulmajeed and Shahad Nejaim serve homemade food to the Arab News team. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)
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Updated 15 May 2022

Secret ingredient is love as Saudi grandmother shares her culinary skills with the world

Saudi grandmother Nijat Abdulmajeed, middle, with her daughter Basmah Omair, right, and granddaughter Shahad Nejaim.
  • Rather than simply passing on her knowledge of Arab food to her own family, Nijat Abdulmajeed is targeting a global audience through Instagram

JEDDAH: Saudi grandmother Nijat Abdulmajeed from Jeddah is on a mission to pass on the culinary knowledge and skills she has accumulated during a lifetime of preparing authentic Arab food, not only to her own children and grandchildren but to all Saudis and other people around the world.

Her granddaughter, Shahad Nejaim, said that her grandmother’s cooking has always been an important way in which she shows her love for family and friends.

This was confirmed by Abdulmajeed’s daughter and Nejaim's mother, Basmah Omair, who said: “Her cooking means home and love to me … and meals are the way we express love in this house.”

After deciding that it would be a good idea to pass on the wealth of cooking knowledge and experience she has gained over the years, Abdulmajeed decided to share her recipes, tricks and tips for making some of the most delicious and authentic Arab dishes not only with her family but with the whole world on Instagram, where she goes by the name @annati_1.




For Arab News she made fatteh bazinjan, a dish that includes eggplant, ground meat, fried bread and yogurt, and is topped with pine nuts and pomegranate. (AN photos by Huda Bashatah)

"Anna" is something you call a grandmother, the "Ti" at the end of the word shows possession, Nejaim said that as kids, Nejaim and her cousins would argue saying "she is my Anna, no, she is my Anna." When deciding the name for her Instagram they decided to make her everyone's grandmother, hence the name "Annati."

“We wanted to document her cooking for the grandchildren only but my mom thought that we could pass on the knowledge to the whole younger generation,” Omair said.

HIGHLIGHT

‘Anna’ is something you call a grandmother, the ‘Ti’ at the end of the word shows possession, Nejaim said that as kids, Nejaim and her cousins would argue saying ‘she is my Anna, no, she is my Anna.’ When deciding the name for her Instagram they decided to make her everyone’s grandmother, hence the name ‘Annati.’

“She was the force behind the idea of putting videos on Instagram. She told me that it might work or it might not but we have nothing to lose.”

Abdulmajeed and her family invited a team from Arab News into their home to watch her in action in the kitchen and see how food is an integral part of the loving bond she shares with her children and grandchildren.

Immediately, it was obvious that she exudes an aura of warmth and love that envelopes not only her own family but their guests as well. It was also obviously important to her that her visitors were well fed and understood the value she places on family.

For Arab News she made fatteh bazinjan, a dish that includes eggplant, ground meat, fried bread and yogurt, and is topped with pine nuts and pomegranate. One of the key ingredients is pomegranate molasses, which is a favorite of Abdulmajeed. As she prepared the meal, she encouraged her guests to sample the individual ingredients to understand each element before they all came together in the finished dish

Abdulmajeed said that through the years people had often told her that she should write a recipe book or make a cookery show.

“But at that time I was busy with my life and children,” she said. “Only now have I got some time in my life and have begun sharing my recipes on Instagram.”

She said that she most enjoys making savory Arabic dishes but also dabbles in desserts and other cuisines from around the world.

Abdulmajeed revealed that when she moved to the US for the education of her children she was determined to ensure her children remained connected to their roots and culture, including its cuisine.

“So, I started making everything at home, by myself, from scratch,” she added.

Her daughter and granddaughter agreed that many of their most cherished memories of Abdulmajeed revolve around food: The meals their "Anna" cooked for them, or being in the kitchen with her and learning how to cook.

“One of my favorite memories is from when we were living in the US and my father would open our door to anyone who was a student, or was living without their family, to come for futoor (iftar), so it was an open-house invitation,” said Omair.

Nejaim said that she loves Arab cuisine.

“For others, comfort food might be mac and cheese or fries; for me it’s anything with dibs rumman (pomegranate molasses) in it,” she added. “(My grandmother’s) dishes are like when you want to hug someone and you can’t give them a hug, so you go to the kitchen and try and recreate the feeling.”

She said that the experience of learning how to cook from her grandmother involved a process of unlearning what she thought she knew and learning to trust her instincts.

“I was really precise, as I liked to bake, but she just refused to let me use measurements and instead encouraged me go with my gut feeling,” said Nejaim.

“So, it was a learning curve for me. It was a very special experience. It was beyond a culinary experience; I feel like I was getting a piece of her that I will keep with me and hand it down to my own children.”

Abdulmajeed said that Arabic food can take a very long time to cook and many young people don’t like spending that amount of time on preparing food.

“I try to tell them that there are ways in which you can prepare in advance that help cut down the time, and when you come home tired you can make it for yourself,” she said.

Looking to the future, the family plans to organize online classes especially for younger people to teach them how to prepare ingredients in advance and make the cooking process easier.

“I am enjoying sharing (my mother) with the world,” said Omair, her eyes filling with tears. “I think she deserves to be acknowledged for the mother she is and the knowledge she has. When you have the knowledge, you can’t just hold on to it.”

Beyond her cooking tips, Abdulmajeed has some other important advice to pass on to families.

“I gave my whole life to keeping my family close to me and being the best mother and grandmother I could possibly be,” she said. “I became their friend and I have no regrets about devoting my life to my children. I think that family should always be a priority.”

Omair said another important lesson she learned from her mother is that it is never too late to start something new that one is passionate about and that it is important stop being a perfectionist and not be afraid to take risks.

“Being with my mom has allowed me to enjoy what I want to do instead of waiting until I absolutely knew that the outcome would be perfect,” she said.

 


US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
Updated 01 July 2022

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance

US officials led by antisemitism envoy briefed on Saudi efforts to promote tolerance
  • They were visiting the King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue, the leader of which stressed the importance of communication and dialogue in building bridges between cultures

RIYADH: A visiting US delegation led by Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Washington’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, was briefed this week on the work of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz Center for National Dialogue.

After being welcomed to the center by its secretary-general, Abdullah Al-Fawzan, and other senior representatives, the delegates were given a brief presentation about its activities designed to promote and encourage greater tolerance among peoples.

They were also briefed on the results of the first study of its kind in the region on tolerance, carried out by the center to the highest scientific standards, which found that Saudi society is tolerant of other cultures and civilizations.

In greeting the visitors on Tuesday, Al-Fawzan stressed the importance of encouraging communication and dialogue between peoples, to help build bridges of understanding among cultures, as part of the efforts being made by the Kingdom, through its Saudi Vision 2030 development plan, to support tolerance and promote peaceful coexistence based on the principles of moderate Islam.

He said that Saudi society accepts and coexists with people from other societies and cultures, as evidenced by the large number of expatriates who live and work in the Kingdom. This shows that the values of tolerance, peaceful coexistence and unity are not new concepts in the country, he added.

Since its inception, the center has placed great importance in promoting the values of citizenship among among all sections of society, making it a mainstay of its work, Al-Fawzan said.

The members of the US delegation were also given a tour of the center’s Interactive Dialogue Exhibition so that they could learn more about the Kingdom’s efforts to support communications between cultures and civilizations. They also heard about local projects developed by the center to help strengthen the nation’s social fabric, and its regional and global initiatives designed to help build and enhance cultural diversity and human commonalities.


Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference
Updated 30 June 2022

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

Shoura council speaker heads delegation to Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network conference

RIYADH: Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Non-Aligned Movement Parliamentary Network, which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan, with the participation of several parliament speakers from NAM member states.

Al-Sheikh said in a press statement that the council’s participation in the conference is an affirmation of Saudi Arabia’s keenness to achieve security, peace and sustainable development globally.

Speaker of the Saudi Shoura Council Sheikh Dr. Abdullah Al Al-Sheikh is heading the Kingdom’s delegation to the first conference of the Parliamentary Network of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which began on Thursday in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Supplied)

The Kingdom’s participation also highlights its constructive partnership with other countries, the solutions it aims to provide to international crises and the humanitarian work it carries out, Al-Sheikh pointed out.

He stressed that international parliamentary conferences are essential in facing global challenges and achieving cooperation across borders.

The NAM Parliamentary Network was established on the sidelines of the 143rd General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Madrid. It aims to provide a framework for cooperation between the parliaments of NAM member states, with the participation of several other international organizations.


Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
Updated 30 June 2022

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic

Local businesses looking forward to lucrative Hajj season post-pandemic
  • The pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards

MAKKAH: Residents of Makkah benefit financially during the Hajj as millions of people from all over the world converge on the holy city to perform the annual pilgrimage.  

But the pandemic put a halt to the Hajj for two years, leading to huge losses for some families who solely depended on the pilgrimage season to reap its financial rewards.  

Elaf Al-Mashaer, a local five-star hotel, is all set to welcome over 20,000 pilgrims this year, and the team has prepared the place to be as comfortable as possible to ensure a smooth stay for guests.

“We must know the number of guests who will stay in the hotel and their nationalities so that we can provide them with what they need,” hotel owner Abdulaziz Al-Sharbeeni told Arab News.

The 304-room establishment has several restaurants to cater to guests’ palates. “Each nationality has its own culture or a certain way of eating. We have Indian, Pakistani, East Asian, and Arabic restaurants.”

(Supplied)

It has also made modifications and preparations to make the rooms and suites accessible to people with disabilities.

“Some pilgrims come alone, so we give them a room on request, while others come with their families, so we give them a suite,” Al-Sharbeeni said. “There is a target we must achieve during the Hajj season as a facility, and the most important seasons in the year to achieve these financial goals are the Ramadan and Hajj seasons.”

The Hajj season attracts a large and diverse crowd, and everyone who visits Makkah enjoys shopping for gifts. They also use taxis, hospitals, restaurants, and other services and amenities, providing locals with many economic opportunities.

“I sell gold in the local market, and Hajj season is considered our opportunity to reach the target. So I’m more than happy that Hajj is back because we miss the pilgrims and we love interacting with them and welcoming them,” said Ahmed Al-Suliman.

Al-Suliman said there were more opportunities for work during the Hajj as significant manpower was required to serve, manage, and help with the influx of pilgrims.

“The people of Makkah, in particular, want to take advantage of the Hajj season. Young and old are working this season, and even if someone sells a bottle of water for SR1 ($0.27), he will earn a lot of money. You can apply for seasonal field jobs through the website of the Ministry of Hajj and the official platforms.”


Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
Updated 30 June 2022

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj

Program launched to measure pilgrims’ satisfaction during Hajj
  • Guests will be assigned incognito to help evaluate Hajj services according to a pre-studied scientific methodology

JEDDAH: The Saudi Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has launched a performance initiative aimed at measuring pilgrims’ satisfaction at service provision during this year’s Hajj season.

Assistant deputy minister of Hajj and Umrah, Hesham Saeed, signed a joint cooperation agreement with acting secretary-general of the coordination council, Dr. Abdullah Al-Muwaihi, in relation to the program.

Al-Muwaihi said the monitoring scheme would involve measuring quality-of-service performance and beneficiary satisfaction, while also including an incognito guest program, all designed to improve and enrich worshippers’ spiritual experience.

Under the incognito initiative, Saeed said a designated guest would, “serve as a pilgrim under mission, who lives the full experience of Hajj, starting from the country of the pilgrim, passing through the holy sites, and performing the rituals until they return to their country.

“The assigned incognito guest will be living all the details, seeing what contact points they pass through, and will give an evaluation according to a pre-studied scientific methodology regarding the measurement criteria,” he added.

 

 

 


A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
Updated 30 June 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022

A million Muslims from around the world to perform Hajj in 2022
  • Pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure

JEDDAH: A million Muslims from around the world will perform the Hajj this year, in line with the quotas allocated to each country and following recommendations from the Saudi Ministry of Health.

The Hajj was limited to 60,000 vaccinated citizens and residents from the Kingdom in 2021 to contain the spread of COVID-19 and ensure the safety of pilgrims and others.

But, following Saudi Arabia's successful implementation of precautionary measures for Hajj and Umrah seasons during the pandemic, pilgrim capacity has been raised to 1 million.

This year's Hajj is for people aged 65 and under who must comply with the requirement to complete a COVID-19 vaccination program.

The Ministry of Hajj and Umrah tweeted that pilgrims from outside the Kingdom must submit a negative PCR test result within 72 hours of their departure for Saudi Arabia.

It said the shots required for pilgrims in Saudi Arabia included one for meningitis for people who had not been vaccinated in the past five years. They are also required to get the flu vaccine. Local pilgrims must take these vaccinations at least 10 days before going to the Hajj.

Figures from the General Authority of Statistics showed that, during the pandemic's peak in 2020, the number of pilgrims plummeted to just 1,000. The decision to restrict capacity was based on risk assessment and public health and safety concerns.  

There were almost 2.5 million pilgrims at the Hajj in 2019, and 1.9 million were from overseas.

The highest number of local and foreign Hajj pilgrims in the past decade was in 2012 when nearly 3.2 million people performed the annual pilgrimage. The lowest was 1.9 million in 2016.