quotes An Englishman, an Irishman and a Saudi man enter a cafe...

06 June 2022
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Updated 08 June 2022

An Englishman, an Irishman and a Saudi man enter a cafe...

The Saudi Tourism Authority brought Saudi hospitality to the Alps in late May, with the opening of the Saudi Cafe for the duration of the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos.

The cafe offered visitors from around the world the opportunity to try Saudi flavors and delicacies from across the country, such as pumpkin jereesh and rose mamoul, and allowed me to share traditional Saudi coffees with an Englishman named Michael and an Irishman, Caolan.

The cafe was a highlight of the week and a resounding success, welcoming delegates, and locals, with some occasionally returning each day to re-experience the Saudi flavors. I remember an Italian man visited the café on the second day, we spoke for a while, and he told me that he lived and worked in Davos and had been told to visit the cafe during his lunch break.

As he was enjoying the jereesh, I asked him if he had any background knowledge about Saudi Arabia. His response was, “not much, just that my team lost the 2018 Supercoppa Italiana in Jeddah.”

Saudi Arabia is an exciting opportunity and incomparable in its offering, and we continue to push forward as we are on our quest to build the world’s biggest new destination.

Abdullah Aldakhil

I laughed with him, knowing that it was Juventus, my team, that had beaten Milan, the team he supported, in that match, and through that small interaction, a bond had formed thanks to Italian football and the Saudi Cafe.

We also discussed the WEF’s Travel and Tourism Development Index 2021, which had been published earlier that day. The index showed that Saudi Arabia had jumped ten places to 33rd on the Global Tourism Ranking compared to 2019. This advancement was the second-largest jump in rank out of 117 countries assessed in the index — a remarkable feat that demonstrated commitment to the sector and the success and vision of the Saudi leadership.

The next day, the Italian returned to the cafe with his wife and young son, who looked at me and asked his father in Italian: “Is that the man that likes Juventus? I want some Saudi risotto”.

We gave him a bowl of jereesh to enjoy. This is one of many reasons I love what I do — the opportunity to meet and speak with people from around the world. It is an opportunity for me to discuss with them and uncover the mysteries of Saudi Arabia and how the tourism sector is a driving force in our transformation story.

Besides offering the visitors a taste of Saudi dishes, the cafe also highlighted unique Saudi art and design, and presented WEF delegates with a chance to engage with young Saudis, like me, about how the Kingdom is transforming under its Vision 2030 plan.




The Saudi Café at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos was a resounding success. (Supplied)

Food connects people, and while the cafe introduced world leaders to different specialties from Saudi Arabia’s regions —mangoes from Jizan and chilies from Hail — the real significance of the cafe was that it was a beautiful, authentic presentation of the hospitality for which Saudi Arabia is renowned. Through the cafe, not only do we continue to raise awareness of Saudi Arabia as a tourism destination, but we also brought to life Saudi’s unique tourism offering through our biggest asset, our people.

Inspiring people to visit Saudi and to discover for themselves the warm welcome of Saudi hospitality is something the Kingdom has been doing since 2019, when the tourism e-visa was launched. The tourism sector is at the heart of plans to transform the Saudi economy under Vision 2030, and the investment and the changes in the sector have been phenomenal.

Saudi Arabia is an exciting opportunity and incomparable in its offering, and we continue to push forward as we are on our quest to build the world’s biggest new destination.

Meanwhile, now back in Saudi Arabia, I look forward to meeting Michael and Caolan again in Jeddah. My new friends seemed not completely satisfied with their experience with the Saudi dishes in Davos, but they decided to plan a visit to the country in June to experience for themselves the food, culture, hospitality, entertainment, and the excitement of the Jeddah Season 2022. They will be welcomed with open arms, that is for sure.

Abdullah Al-Dakhil is an international communication manager at the Saudi Tourism Authority. He completed his postgraduate studies in London.