Riyadh emerging as an international cuisine hub

Special Riyadh emerging as an international cuisine hub
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Flamingo Room. (Supplied)
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CEO and founder of Tashas Group Natasha Sideris. (Supplied)
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Calamari Mozambique at Flamingo Room. (Supplied)
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Cocktail at Flamingo Room. (Supplied)
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Strawberry Dream at Flamingo Room. (Supplied)
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Panna cotta at Flamingo Room. (Supplied)
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Via Mercato in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Via Mercato in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Spago in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Spago in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Spago in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Spago in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Ferdi in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Ferdi in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Ferdi in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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LPM Restaurant & Cafe in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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LPM Restaurant & Cafe in Riyadh. (Supplied)
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Updated 03 October 2023
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Riyadh emerging as an international cuisine hub

Riyadh emerging as an international cuisine hub
  • “Gastronomic explosion” has accompanied Saudi capital’s transition from administrative capital to vibrant metropolis
  • Experts see immense potential benefits for Riyadh, and the Kingdom as a whole, from global expertise and exposure

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s capital is experiencing what is best described as a “gastronomic explosion.”

International brands have entered the market alongside proliferating homegrown Saudi restaurants and street food, contributing to the growing cultural diversity of Riyadh.

Until recently, Riyadh’s culinary scene was dominated by a few local restaurants offering predominantly Saudi and traditional Najdi cuisine, which hails from the historical region encompassing modern-day Riyadh, Qassim and Hail. This included warm and hearty stews, rich meat dishes, and savory regional specialties that have been a staple in traditional restaurants for decades.

The transformation began with the Saudi Vision 2030 economic and social plan in 2016, which has gained significant momentum since 2021 as the pandemic has waned. Riyadh has seen a surge in international chefs and eateries, accompanied by an increasing influx of tourists and expatriates.

Today, Saudi Arabia boasts a range of restaurants from around the world, catering to diverse tastes and budgets, both in fine dining and street food.

Simultaneously, Riyadh, transitioning from being solely an administrative hub to a vibrant cosmopolitan metropolis, attracts talent from across the globe. This includes restaurants and chefs eager to tap into what could potentially become the Middle East’s largest culinary market.

Vision 2030 aims to boost household spending on cultural and entertainment activities to 6 percent, a significant increase from the initial 2.9 percent when the plan was unveiled in 2016.

Among the latest international arrivals are Spago Riyadh, from the renowned celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, Flamingo Room by Tashas, a concept store and eatery from the celebrated South African chef, and Mr. Chow, the Chinese restaurant specializing in authentic Beijing cuisine, founded by British-Chinese restaurateur Michael Chow, set to open in early October.

Other newcomers include Ferdi Restaurant, famous for its Parisian burgers, and LPM Restaurant & Cafe, offering cuisine from the Cote d’Azur, among others.

Cool Inc, a Saudi lifestyle curator, is behind the launch of Ferdi, Spago, and Cut by Wolfgang Puck, with plans announced in late 2022 for openings such as Scott’s, Sexy Fish, Wagyumafia, Gymkhana, and Madeo.

Natasha Sideris, CEO and founder of Tashas Group, expressed her enthusiasm for the evolving culinary scene in Riyadh, noting the city’s transition from a limited dining market to a flourishing landscape with international brands and innovative local concepts.

Riyadh’s newest addition, Flamingo Room by Tashas, is located in the vibrant Diriyah neighborhood, offering a multi-faceted experience that includes Tashas restaurant, Collective Africa (a retail concept store), the African Lounge, and The Stargaze Garden (a rooftop dining space).

In June of this year, Riyadh introduced Via Mercato, a luxury culinary destination housed in the upscale dining complex, Via Riyadh. It features artisanal and specialty foods from around the world, drawing attention on social media with the appearance of actress Sofia Vergara amid its sleek, architecturally striking design.

Matthew Lawson, general manager for Via Mercato, attributed Riyadh’s emergence as a culinary capital to at least three factors: a surge in tourism; heavy investments in the hospitality and food industries; and an increasingly cosmopolitan and sophisticated local population seeking diverse culinary experiences.

Via Mercato’s luxury market offers a wide range of artisanal and specialty food products, including baked goods, cheeses and Japanese delicacies. Additionally, it features a caviar bar, pizzeria, rotisserie and a cheese shop, all with personalized service and expert guidance from knowledgeable staff.

For those seeking more casual and adventurous fare, Riyadh boasts a growing choice of street cuisine, including both local Saudi dishes and international flavors. Despite the city’s reputation for a car-centric lifestyle, there are vibrant outdoor areas where residents and visitors alike explore new culinary experiences.

Options include Thai Soi, Barbar Riyadh (a Lebanese street food restaurant), and various eateries serving local Saudi and Arabic specialties such as baleela, koshari and manto.

Each month sees the opening of several high-end global restaurants and street food joints in Riyadh, underlining the city’s increasing appeal to food enthusiasts locally, regionally and internationally.

As the culinary landscape expands, there is a growing interest among Riyadh residents in making the most of the “gastronomic explosion.”

The establishment of the Culinary Arts Commission under the Saudi Ministry of Culture reflects this trend. The mission of the body includes rating restaurants, dishes and chefs, establishing culinary arts regulations, and promoting both Saudi and international culinary traditions. It also aims to document recipes and share them to introduce Saudi cuisine globally.

Matthew Lawson emphasized the importance of facilitating culinary exchanges and collaborations with chefs and institutions worldwide, highlighting the potential to bring global expertise and exposure to the Kingdom. This local and international exchange is a pivotal factor in Riyadh’s ascent as an international culinary destination.


Global industry leaders to descend on Riyadh for entertainment, amusement summit, expo

Global industry leaders to descend on Riyadh for entertainment, amusement summit, expo
Updated 11 sec ago
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Global industry leaders to descend on Riyadh for entertainment, amusement summit, expo

Global industry leaders to descend on Riyadh for entertainment, amusement summit, expo
  • The event will showcase innovation and industry trends, bringing together global experts and sector leaders
  • This year’s SEA Expo aims to highlight the Kingdom’s entertainment and leisure plans

RIYADH: The Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Summit and Expo is set to return to Riyadh from May 7 to 9 with exhibitors from around the world showcasing the latest advances in the sector.
Organized by dmg events, SEA 2024 will run alongside the Saudi Light and Sound Expo and will be held at the Riyadh Front Exhibition and Conference Center.
The event will showcase innovation and industry trends, bringing together global experts and sector leaders.
At a recent advisory board meeting in Riyadh, members identified key trends for 2024 that would be used to shape the agenda of the SEA Expo. These included exploring global investment strategies, understanding the next-generation market, empowering the Saudi workforce, embracing green entertainment, and examining crypto tech.
Developing next-generation talent emerged as a priority, recognizing the sector’s potential to contribute more than $23 billion (3 percent) toward the Kingdom’s gross domestic product by 2030 while creating at least 100,000 jobs.
Advisory board member and executive director of attractions at Saudi Entertainment Ventures, Doug Stagner, said: “What’s happening in Saudi Arabia has never been done before in the attractions industry.
“There are ground-breaking attractions and rides that have never been built before, and there are new concepts and ideas that will come out of Saudi Arabia, including discussions at this year’s Expo which will end up in other parts of the world, so what’s happening here has a much larger impact that extends beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia.”
This year’s SEA Expo aims to highlight the Kingdom’s entertainment and leisure plans and create opportunities in the industry to drive the country toward achieving its goals under Vision 2030.
With hundreds of international and local brands from more than 40 countries, SEA Expo will act as a platform to showcase new and innovative products from its 350 exhibitors.
Advisory board officials noted that the SLS Expo 2024 would focus on tourism, curating events that capture Gen Zs, and deep diving into the potential of technology.
The SLS Summit, a focal point of the Expo, will delve into the impact of tourism on the entertainment and events realm, looking at how the influx of global visitors was reshaping the industry and inspiring innovation.
Sarkis Kahwajian, portfolio director at dmg events, said: “We are witnessing exponential growth in the entertainment and live events’ space industry in the Kingdom, and it’s driving a demand for the latest technology coupled with a hunger to understand changing market dynamics in the pro light and sound landscape across the country.
“This year, the SLS Expo will set the stage for innovators, manufacturers, and lighting and sound professionals as they generate leads, forge connections, and usher in a new era in our industry.”


Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day

Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day
Updated 22 February 2024
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Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day

Hail deputy governor joins Zubaida Trail for Founding Day

HAIL: Prince Faisal bin Fahd bin Muqrin, the deputy governor of Hail region, took part in a Zubaida Trail caravan on Thursday to mark Founding Day celebrations.

The caravan, overseen by the Heritage Commission and organized by the Caravans Trails Association, began its journey from the historic city of Fayd to Sumaira’ Province.

Prince Faisal honored the sponsors and partners, and along with hikers, horseback riders, camel riders and cyclists, took part in the caravan journey.

Along the route, the deputy governor spoke to groups taking part in the event, including Saudis and foreigners in the Kingdom.

Prince Faisal praised the government’s support for the heritage sector, and commended the dedication of all parties involved in the caravan program.

Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Obeida, general supervisor of the Zubaida Trail, praised the support given to the initiative by the Saudi leadership, as well as the Hail governor and his deputy.

He said that the scheme aims to revitalize the ancient route, which is one of many in Saudi Arabia dating back over 1,000 years.

Al-Obeida highlighted the importance of community involvement in sustaining and developing the trail route for economic, cultural and tourism purposes.
 


Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve

Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve
Updated 22 February 2024
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Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve

Endangered native animals released in Saudi reserve

AL-ULA: Fourteen Arabian oryxes and 40 Arabian sand gazelles have been released into the Gharameel nature reserve by the the National Center for Wildlife.

The conservation effort at Gharameel, located 60 km north of AlUla, took place with cooperation from the Royal Commission for AlUla.

The reserve features unique biodiversity throughout its rock and sand formations, and hillsides.

Resettlement of endangered native species is a key target of the center, as well as restoring biodiversity and environmental balance as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030.

Animal reintroduction also promotes the RCU’s plan to activate six nature reserves while regenerating AlUla as a leading global destination for cultural and natural heritage.

The formations of rocky pillars in the area were created through wind and rain erosion over thousands of years.

AlUla is also a popular stargazing destination for tourists from around the world.
 


Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost

Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost
Updated 22 February 2024
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Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost

Saudi honeybee program achieves 200% productivity boost

RIYADH: The honeybee breeding program — spearheaded by the Sustainable Agricultural Rural Development Program “Saudi Reef” in partnership with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture — is poised to make a substantial impact on bee populations.

A select group of model beekeepers has achieved an impressive 200 percent increase in productivity by implementing the program.

According to the “Saudi Reef” program, the surge in production is attributed to a strategic focus on expanding queen bee rearing within the breeding and propagation program.

Additionally, the adoption of innovative production techniques and best practices, including hive management and organic beekeeping, has played a key role.

These practices have been documented in a booklet distributed to beekeepers and have yielded significant production boosts in several model farms established by the project.

Expanding on its success, the program plans to roll out projects for “bee queen breeding and nuclei production” across eight centers spanning regions such as Jazan, Najran, Asir, Baha, Makkah, Madinah, Hail and Tabuk.

Each center is expected to produce 5,000 queen bees annually, characterized by purity and high-production specifications.

This will enable beekeepers to expand queen bee breeding and bee colonies while preserving favorable genetic traits for enhanced production and resilience against diseases and environmental factors.

The honeybee development and honey production sector is a key focus of the “Saudi Reef” program. Since its inception, the program has had significant increases in production, enhancing the income and living standards of its beneficiaries.

To increase food security and agricultural self-sufficiency, Saudi Arabia unveiled an ambitious initiative in August last year to produce more than 7,500 tons of honey annually as part of the Saudi Reef.


Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors

Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors
Updated 22 February 2024
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Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors

Makkah expo focuses on next steps for hotel, culinary sectors
  • Saudi employees trained at top schools bringing skills back to the Kingdom

MAKKAH: The Makkah Expo for Hotels and Restaurants, held at the Makkah Chamber of Commerce and Industry Exhibition Center, ended on Wednesday evening.

The exhibition’s fifth edition was inaugurated by Vice Chairman of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce Mustafa Rajab and involved officials, business owners and company representatives.

A large number of companies and institutions representing the hotel and culinary sectors, specialized in serving Hajj and Umrah pilgrims and visitors, attended the three-day exhibition, which was held in collaboration with the Unit for Exhibition Organization.

Abdullah Haneef, the acting secretary-general of the Makkah Chamber of Commerce, told Arab News: “The exhibition provided an opportunity to access the best practices in the hotel and restaurant sectors, as it brought together a select group of people specialized in this field in Makkah, a pioneer in the hotel sector field attracting large numbers of visitors from around the world.”

He added that industry officials exchanged business ideas and showcased modern tools and technology, food products and hotel and restaurant supplies, and took part in several accompanying events.

Haneef added: “The exhibition offers an opportunity for investors, interested parties, specialized companies and experts in the hotel and restaurant sector from inside and outside the Kingdom, to display their products to investors and interested individuals and exchange expertise, as well as engage in commercial deals between exhibitors, participants and individuals interested in the hotel and restaurant sector.”

The exhibition also hosted a salon for culinary arts and live cooking demonstrations.

Khalid Al-Ghamdi, an investor in the hotel sector, said that the Saudi industry has begun a strong post-pandemic recovery, and is fulfilling its role in serving visitors.

He added that intensive training programs Saudi employees are undertaking in top international hotel schools are helping them apply their knowledge back in the Kingdom.

Al-Ghamdi said that the restaurant sector is facing significant challenges but also opportunities, including smart digital solutions.

Makkah is one of the most significant and holiest places worldwide, drawing millions of Muslims for religious rituals such as Hajj and Umrah, he added.

The city should therefore focus on enhancing future innovation plans and smart marketing to make the hospitality sector a top performer, through innovative solutions and major investment, he said.