Ramadan Recipes: Luqaimat

Ramadan Recipes: Luqaimat
Luqaimat is mostly made at home and eaten after iftar and Taraweeh prayer.
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Updated 27 March 2024
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Ramadan Recipes: Luqaimat

Ramadan Recipes: Luqaimat

Luqaimat — meaning “small bites” in Arabic — is a big favorite among Muslims, especially Saudis, when it comes to traditional Ramadan desserts.

This dumpling dish, which consists of fried dough balls sweetened with honey or date syrup and sometimes garnished with sesame or black seeds, is thought to have been developed in Baghdad, where it was originally known as “judge’s bite” because legal adjudicators received the treat as their first payment.

Other theories suggest the sweet treat came from Greece, arriving in Egypt via Greek bakeries in Alexandria before spreading to neighboring countries and the entire Gulf region.

Luqaimat is mostly made at home and eaten after iftar and Taraweeh prayer. People now sweeten the fried dough balls with sugar or maple syrup, or melted chocolate. Lotus, vanilla or pistachio sauce, or any type of jam are also popular sweeteners.

This sweet and simple dish has a simple recipe as well, with readily available ingredients. All you need is 225 grams of all-purpose flour, 15 grams of dry yeast, one cup of milk, chopped pistachios, and one cup of honey in a bowl as the main sweetener.

Mix the flour and dry yeast in a bowl before adding the milk, and knead the dough until firm. Leave it to prove for one hour.

After the dough doubles in size, place in a piping bag, and squeeze out the ball into the hot oil for frying. 

Stir and let the dough fry until it turns a golden color. Remove the luqaimat, add to the honey, mix, then place on the plate.

Garnish with chopped pistachio or any other topping of your choice. 


Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance

Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance
Updated 21 July 2024
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Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance

Variety is the spice of life as Saudi Arabia ushers in dining renaissance
  • Local eateries are nurturing a sense of community, providing valuable job opportunities to Saudis

RIYADH: In the bustling heart of Saudi Arabia, a culinary revolution is unfolding. Restaurant entrepreneurs are launching new coffee shops and fast-food restaurants that are redefining the dining landscape by offering high-quality food and drinks at accessible prices. The cherry on top? They’re hiring local talent, bolstering both the community and the economy.

Imagine walking into a newly opened coffee shop or fast-food joint with modest expectations, only to be pleasantly surprised by the taste and quality of your order. This is the new norm sweeping across the nation. These establishments are quickly earning reputations for delivering great food and drinks without the hefty price tags.

As more restaurant entrepreneurs enter the market, the competition is driving everyone to elevate their game. (Instagram/sawada.ksa)

“Honestly, I always look for a fair price when it comes to my coffee, and this place fits the bill perfectly,” frequent customer Khalil Al-Azwari told Arab News. “This coffee shop is one of my favorites, and they serve the best V60 for only SR10 ($2.67). It’s great value for money.”

A cornerstone of this transformation is the focus on employing local workers. By prioritizing job opportunities for Saudis over expats, these businesses are not only boosting the economy but also fostering a stronger sense of community.

Establishing a new business requires a deep and thorough study of market needs, sound management, and dedication to the business.

Talat Hafiz, Financial analyst

“Working here has been an amazing experience,” said Ahmed Saleh, a barista at a prominent coffee shop in Riyadh. “I get to work with top-notch ingredients and learn new skills. Plus, it’s great to see familiar faces enjoying the coffee and food we prepare.”

The allure of these new dining spots extends beyond just offering great food and drinks. By prioritizing local hires, these businesses are nurturing a sense of community and providing valuable job opportunities. This approach represents a refreshing change in a country where the service industry has traditionally been dominated by foreign workers.

As more restaurant entrepreneurs enter the market, the competition is driving everyone to elevate their game. (Instagram/sawada.ksa)

Local customers are equally thrilled with the shift. “I love that these new places are hiring people from our own cities,” said Bashayer Mohammed, a regular patron. “It makes the experience feel more personal and connected to our community.”

However, not everyone is embracing this wave of new dining options. Some local business owners are feeling the heat as these large restaurant entrepreneurs gain popularity. Many local establishments, which often have higher prices, are struggling to compete.

“It’s tough,” said Saad, who used to own a coffee shop in Alkhobar. “We can’t match the prices of these big traders, and people are noticing. We’re losing customers, and it’s affecting our livelihood."

Saad opened his coffee shop in October 2021 with high hopes for success. “In the first month, the numbers were doing great,” he recalled. However, as the months went by, business began to decline steadily. Despite his efforts to adapt, the situation worsened. “It was surprising because it got way worse each month,” Saad said.

Determined to save his business, Saad tried everything. “We changed the menu, collaborated with coupon companies, and partnered with delivery apps. We even invested in advertising,” he explained. Despite trying every strategy he could think of, nothing seemed to work. “None of it made a difference,” he admitted.

On top of these challenges, Saad faced unexpected financial burdens. “The rent was much higher than I expected, and I didn’t fully account for staff salaries and insurance,” he said. These expenses quickly added up, straining his finances.

The increase in costs has led most merchants to reduce expenses, cut salaries, and lay off employees. “This is a sign of failure,” Saad added. “Successful merchants invest in the human element and intellect to create and innovate solutions for survival. The general public has a consumer mentality, not a problem-solving one.”

Desperate, Saad even tried to sell the coffee shop to investors. “It just didn’t work,” he said. Ultimately, the mounting losses forced him to close the coffee shop in 2023. “It was a huge loss for me,” Saad reflected.

As more restaurant entrepreneurs enter the market, the competition is driving everyone to elevate their game. Local businesses are starting to take notice and are striving to match the quality and affordability that these new players offer, although it remains a challenging transition.

In an interview with Arab News, financial analyst Talat Hafiz emphasized the crucial role that small and medium enterprises play in the Saudi economy: “SMEs in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere around the world are the backbone of the economy and business activities.”

Recognizing this, the Saudi government has been proactive in fostering the growth of these enterprises. It has made significant efforts to facilitate the growth of SMEs and enhance their contribution to the Kingdom’s non-oil gross domestic product from 20 percent to 35 percent by 2030, Hafiz added.

The establishment of the General Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises, also known as Monshaat, in 2016 is a testament to these efforts. “Monshaat was created to regulate, support, and develop the SME sector in the Kingdom,” Hafiz said.

Additionally, the Loan Guarantee Program, established in 2006, aims to overcome financing obstacles for economically viable SMEs lacking the necessary guarantees. Despite these avenues of support, many SMEs still face significant challenges. “There are still some companies that fail to continue their businesses successfully and close their doors within the first year or by the third year of operation,” he said.

Hafiz has identified several reasons behind these failures. “Most complaints from SME owners are due to various fees imposed by the government, especially violation fees,” he said. However, he believes that the primary reasons for failure lie elsewhere.

“The main reasons behind the failure of SMEs, especially startups, include a lack of careful consideration of market needs and different consumer preferences, lack of management experience, technical and professional expertise, and the imitation of adding value to the market,” Hafiz added.  

He also highlighted the importance of management dedication and sufficient financial resources. “Establishing a new business requires a deep and thorough study of market needs, sound management, and dedication to the business. It also requires specific talents that allow the company to respond quickly and effectively to market and economic changes,” he noted.

While the Saudi government has regulated fines to be more transparent, fair, and progressive, Hafiz stresses that the focus should not be limited to government fees. “The focus on business failures should also address the main and real causes of businesses’ failure. The government fines are transparent and progressive, and it is also not permissible to impose them the first time, as there is a warning that precedes the violation.”

 


Where We Are Going Today: ‘Katsu Sando’ Japanese sandwiches in Riyadh

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Updated 21 July 2024
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Where We Are Going Today: ‘Katsu Sando’ Japanese sandwiches in Riyadh

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  • For lunch, Katsu Sando’s bento delight is a great option. It features donburi chicken with rice, crab onigiri, a pumpkin slice, and a Coca-Cola, providing a well-rounded and delicious meal that’s sure to satisfy

Nestled in the bustling heart of Riyadh, Katsu Sando offers an authentic slice of Japan right in the Kingdom’s capital. This cozy eatery, with its minimalist yet elegant decor, beautifully marries traditional Japanese elements with modern touches, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere.

Katsu Sando specializes in Japanese sandwiches, presenting a diverse menu perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant’s commitment to cleanliness is evident in every detail, from the meticulous packaging to the tasteful decoration, ensuring a casual yet refined dining experience.

A standout on the breakfast menu is the tuna onigiri. This delightful dish strikes the perfect balance of flavor and texture, making it an ideal light start to your day. For those with a sweet tooth, the fruit sando is a must-try; it combines fresh fruit with soft, pillowy Japanese bread, offering a refreshing and satisfying treat.

For lunch, Katsu Sando’s bento delight is a great option. It features donburi chicken with rice, crab onigiri, a pumpkin slice, and a Coca-Cola, providing a well-rounded and delicious meal that’s sure to satisfy.

The restaurant’s menu is diverse, catering to various tastes and preferences. Whether you’re in the mood for a light breakfast, a hearty lunch, or a satisfying dinner, Katsu Sando has something to offer. Their creative combinations and high-quality ingredients ensure a unique and memorable dining experience.

Katsu Sando not only offers delicious Japanese sandwiches but also promises a pleasant dining experience that will leave you wanting more.

For more updates and information, visit their Instagram @katsusando_sa.

 


Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events

Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events
Updated 21 July 2024
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Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events

Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events
  • UAE brand opens warehouse able to handle 30,000 orders a day
  • Company was founded in 2016 by Anam Khalid and Wajdan Gul

DUBAI: From starting as a passion project to now serving athletes in over 200 countries, Squatwolf, the gym-wear brand co-founded by Anam Khalid and Wajdan Gul, is expanding in Saudi Arabia.

The founders have opened a  warehouse in the Kingdom.

The Saudi Arabia warehouse can process up to 30,000 orders a day and ensures same-day delivery in Riyadh and next-day delivery to major cities, including Jeddah, Dammam, Alkhobar and Makkah. (Supplied)

“We take pride in being the first gym-wear brand in the Kingdom that is supporting Vision 2030, fueling the power of the gym as a playground of self-improvement to all,” Khalid told Arab News recently.

“Our Saudi warehouse is a demonstration to our commitment as a UAE brand to support the region and go all in.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SQUATWOLF (@squatwolf)

The Saudi Arabia warehouse can process up to 30,000 orders a day and ensures same-day delivery in Riyadh and next-day delivery to major cities, including Jeddah, Dammam, Alkhobar and Makkah, Gul said.

The brand plans to collaborate with retail and gym partners, local ambassadors and organize community events to support their expansion goals.

“We’re here to recognize every gym-goer, regardless of their fitness level,” Khalid said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SQUATWOLF (@squatwolf)

Gul confirmed that The Squatwolf Games, a prominent fitness event in Dubai, is set to make its debut in Saudi Arabia.

“Yes, Squatwolf Games is coming to Saudi and coming in big. We’re constantly evolving the games to something bigger and better.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SQUATWOLF (@squatwolf)

The brand will also participate in the KSA Muscle Show, further engaging with the local fitness community.

The company was founded in 2016 by Khalid and Gul. “It all started when Gul and I realized there wasn’t a gym-wear brand in the region that matched our love for the gym, its community, and the impact it has on all aspects of our life,” Khalid said.

Gul believes the fitness and activewear market in the Kingdom is booming. “With the Saudi 2030 Vision in place, more gyms are opening up every day, fitness is becoming a way of life and staying healthy is on everyone’s radar,” he explained.

“Being the first gym-wear brand in the MENA region, including Saudi Arabia, gives us a competitive advantage to stay one step ahead across insight-driven product performance, local communities and gym-goer demands,” Khalid added.


Better in the long run: how Riyadh’s running clubs beat the heat

Better in the long run: how Riyadh’s running clubs beat the heat
Updated 20 July 2024
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Better in the long run: how Riyadh’s running clubs beat the heat

Better in the long run: how Riyadh’s running clubs beat the heat
  • From new sports projects, physical activity is soaring, and running is no exception

RIYADH: For many, summer in Saudi Arabia is a time to relax on the couch, turn up the air conditioning, and watch other people play sports on TV, with those who dare to challenge this approach often ending up with heatstroke.

Yet, running clubs in the Kingdom are busier than ever, and show no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Seema Ghannam, who regularly takes part in Riyadh Road Runners club sessions, told Arab News: “You can keep active wherever you are. There is no limit to movement anywhere you go because you already have hands, arms, and legs. This is what you are born to do, to keep moving.”

 R7 runs in Wadi Hanifa, where the location offers protection against the heat. (supplied by R7)

Until recent years, physical activity in the Kingdom was almost nonexistent outside of schools and designated football teams. People were discouraged by the lack of facilities, suitable outdoor spaces, and the hot weather. Now, all that is changing. From the growing number of padel courts to the new projects at Sports Boulevard, physical activity is soaring, and running is no exception.

To find out how these runners manage to keep up their routines in the heat, Arab News visited Riyadh Road Runners, established in 1978, at one of the club’s 7:30 p.m. Monday sessions at the Eid Villas Compound. Runners were doing laps, climbing stairs, and completing full-body workouts.

The group, made up of a variety of ages and nationalities, began with a warmup before moving to strength training and then running laps around the court, focusing on proper technique.

FASTFACTS

• Until recent years, physical activity in the Kingdom was almost nonexistent outside of schools and designated football teams.

• Now, all that is changing. From the growing number of padel courts to the new projects at Sports Boulevard, physical activity is soaring.

Coach Amr Hafez has the runners break up their runs occasionally with bodyweight and stair exercises to increase stamina and muscle strength. The session ends with a final lap around the whole compound. At the end of a very sweaty workout, the runners take a dip in the pool to cool down.

Ghannam, who is also a yoga teacher and swimming instructor, added running to her exercise routine two years ago. She said that she enjoys Hafez’s holistic approach to the body, training the abs, hips, glutes, and thighs.

“We focus on trying to learn different kinds of running, how to run, how to place your toes, what shoes you should use.”

Riyadh Road Runners, Eid Villas Compound. (Photo by Mayas Al-Ahmadi)

Ghannam said that she enjoys running outdoors because “you want your skin and your body to get used to the temperature.” But to manage the heat, runners should choose a time that is best for them, whether at night or early in the morning.

Hafez, a national sales manager at a Saudi food company, has coached with Riyadh Road Runners for more than three years. He has three key rules when it comes to running in summer. One is to stay well hydrated, two is to control your breathing, and three — much to our dismay — is high-intensity interval training.

The coach said that when he first started running, he used martial arts moves as part of his training, a fitness trick he learned from his first running coach.

Riyadh Road Runners, Eid Villas Compound. (Photo by Mayas Al-Ahmadi)

“Runners need to build all their muscles to have great ability,” he said. “Combining strength with fitness helps people develop running ability for doing long distance.”

Hafez said that he used to think running served no purpose, and was simply a means of punishment when a school coach thought someone was slacking off. He never imagined he would one day run a marathon or be teaching other people to do the same.

“Most of the team when they first started couldn’t jog even 1k,” he said.

Omar Al-Ansari, a coach with Riyadh club R7, has six marathons under his belt. R7 runs in Wadi Hanifa, where the location offers protection against the heat.

“The trails are naturally shaded by the trees, and the breeze from the lake provides a 3–4-degree difference in temperature from the rest of the city,” he said.

Like Riyadh Road Runners, R7 emphasizes staying hydrated. “Always run with water, take electrolytes to preserve what is being lost through sweating,” Al-Ansari said.

He also advises runners to wear light-colored clothing, to complete their workouts before sunrise or after sunset, and to choose a garden or wadi as a location, or exercise indoors.

“And never forget your sunscreen,” he added.

Many runners told Arab News there is no longer any excuse for being inactive in the Kingdom.

“We are seeing a broader awareness about the importance of having an active lifestyle in the country, and despite our difficult weather in the summer, there are ways to go about it,” Al-Ansari said.

Hafez offered Arab News this simple suggestion: “Start by walking and go from there.”

 


Review: Curva Pilates Studio in Alkhobar

Review: Curva Pilates Studio in Alkhobar
Updated 19 July 2024
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Review: Curva Pilates Studio in Alkhobar

Review: Curva Pilates Studio in Alkhobar

There’s a new way to stay fit in Alkhobar this summer with the recent opening of Curva Pilates earlier this month.

The women-only studio is situated on the second floor of an indiscreet building, marked with the letter A on the outside. It is an ideal place to spend an hour using the reformer Pilates machine, either in a solo session or with a group class. There is limited parking directly outside of the studio space.

Pilates, which is a form of exercise developed by the German Joseph Pilates in the 20th century, helps combat health issues and increases flexibility. It was originally designed to help soldiers gain strength by attaching springs to hospital beds to create resistance. If you have ever done yoga or ballet or gymnastics, you might enjoy this process — but it is its own thing.

You may opt to message their account on Instagram, where you will be asked to provide your name and phone number, after which you will receive a welcome message on WhatsApp, with the class details and some ground rules. “For your safety and to keep up our hygiene standards, you should always make sure to wear Pilates socks when taking a class,” it says.

Once entering the serene space, decorated with fresh flowers and the refreshing scent of lemon detox water, which is free for all customers, you will be given an electronic key to a locker where you can securely place your handbag. You can keep the key with you and return it at the end of your visit. There are hooks to hang your abayas and a shoe cubby.

If you do not have Pilates socks you may use regular ones. And, in case you forget to push your hair back, there are hair clips available in the mirror area to use, and wet wipes at the ready, should you wish to freshen-up before or after your session.

You may take a session with Coach Lubna, who is fair and balanced. For first-timers, she asks whether they have any body ailments they need to be aware of — do they have any existing body aches or injuries, any surgeries or issues with their back, shoulders, arms or legs.

Lubna explains every step briefly, and makes the experience enjoyable. The reformer machine is not hard to use and is ideal for any fitness level.

She makes sure to ask for feedback and listens to all comments and concerns. Lubna believes that consistency is what matters most — no matter what level you are on — and recommends visitors try the reformer three times per week.

Reformer classes at Curva can be purchased either per session for SR175 ($46) each, or in a package for a slightly better rate. Five sessions go for SR850, 10 sessions for SR1,650 and two other package options are available — for 15 sessions and 20.

There is a 10 percent discount for college students and a 10 percent discount for Aramco staff.

While it has become a global trend, this enduring form of exercise that emphasizes core strength, flexibility and overall body awareness is not yet widely practiced in the Eastern Province. Curva is there to change that.

Find them at CurvaPilates.com or on their Instagram, @CurvaPilates.