Posted on 08/19/2022
The Largest Modern Olive Farm in Al Jouf
Al Jouf has been growing olives — a staple in the Saudi culinary scene — since 2007. Today, this area in the northern part of the country is home to the largest modern olive farm in the world, a title awarded by Guinness World Records to the Al Jouf Agricultural Development Company, whose more than 5 million olive trees produce about 15,000 tons of olive oil per year. January traditionally sees the area’s annual two-week Olive Festival, which features cultural, social, recreational and educational events, including art contests and seminars about olive cultivation.
The Traditional Dishes of the Najd Region
Najdi cuisine is influenced by the region’s topography and desert climates—Najd dishes are hearty and wholesome, the food is dominated by rich stews, wheat, and rice dishes paired with fragrant spices. The heirloom recipes differ from family to family and have been passed down the generations. The traditional cooking in the Najd is known for lengthy preparation, however, this labor of love is certainly worth the wait.
- Jareesh: a humble and hearty porridge dish made with coarsely ground wheat, choice of meat, tomatoes (or without depending on one’s choice), cooked together and topped with a heap of caramelized onions.
- Mataziz and Marquq: another savory duo, these pasta-like dishes featuring chunks of meat teamed with a handful of nutritious vegetables and wheat or rye flour dough discs, cooked in smooth tomato sauce. The only difference between the two is that Marquq discs are larger and soupier.
- Kleija: a stuffed biscuit dough shaped like a patterned disk with a special wooden mold. These biscuits hail from the date-rich province of Qassim and are filled with a variety of fillings including a smooth date paste or nut-sugar filling paired perfectly with a hot finjan of gahwa.
Hail (Photo credit: Saudi Tourism Authority)
Inviting Umluj Eats
Publicized as being the Saudi Maldives, Umluj is truly a trending destination for unforgettable getaways. Boat racing with dolphins, tanning, swimming, and chasing sunsets is heaps of fun under the sun. But Umluj is also known for the cultivation of cream-of-the-crop mangos, guava, lemon, figs, and fresh seafood. Its most popular dishes include
- Samak Nashif: In this dish, a Parrotfish is cleaned, split in half, doused in salt, and left to dry for at least a week under the sun. It’s usually served with Ma’dous, rice mixed with yellow lentils.
- Shorbat Habb: This is a dish mostly enjoyed during the holy month of Ramadan. It’s a soup made of wheat grains. The Umluj variant entails that it’s made with sheep milk (white) instead of being tomato-based conventionally (red).
- Aseeda: A wheat flour lump of dough cooked with dates, millet, or oats, and topped off with honey and ghee. Be prepared to dig in with your hands!
Medina on a Plate
Despite growing leaps and bounds from its humble origins, Medina still retains its historic character as an oasis town. Medina's cuisine is all about locally grown produce, be it the dates, herbs, or even the famed mint leaves. The city's cuisine uses these ingredients in different recipes, in one way or another. Must-try local flavors include:
- Medini Rice: The rice has a slightly sweet tang due to the massive amounts of raisins and carrots used in its preparation. It is often served with rotisserie chicken on top with a side of duggus (tomato salsa).
- Turomba: Turomba is a dessert usually eaten after a large meal, like Mandi or Kabsa. It's light and doughy from the inside yet has a crunchy texture from the outside. The dessert also pairs perfectly with hot tea.
- Red Tea With Mint: Red tea with mint may seem like a staple found anywhere else, but the specialty here lies in the mint used in it. Madinah's mint is well-known for its intense aroma. Visitors to the city can often carry bundles back with them. Twigs of locally grown mint are added to red tea giving it a strong minty flavor, which is believed to aid in digestion.
Kabza (Photo credit: Saudi Tourism Authority)
Sharqiya's Fresh Basket
The Eastern Province is the largest in the country, and one of the best ways to explore its diversity is through the local fare. The vast province shares its border with many countries. Their culinary influences can be traced to almost every traditional dish found here. Here are some of the region’s most popular dishes:
- Hassawi Rice: One of the most expensive rice varieties, Hassawi Rice, grows in the vast oasis of Al Ahsa. The rice is known for its reddish-brown color and for only growing in unusually high temperatures. It's highly nutritious, too, and that's why the locals don't mind shedding the extra buck for it. Grilled or fried fish best compliment a plate of steamed Hassawi rice.
- Balaleet: Balaleet is a traditional dish consisting of vermicelli. It is eaten either with sweet condiments like sugar and cardamom and rose water or savory with sautéed onions potatoes topped with fried onion.
- Afousa: The kingdom is known to produce a few of the world's best dates, Afousa is a dessert made by mashing soft dates to form a paste. The easiest way to describe it is a combination of pudding and jam-packed with the sweetness of dates.
About Saudi Tourism Authority Saudi Tourism Authority (STA), launched in June 2020, markets Saudi Arabia’s tourism destinations worldwide and develops the Kingdom’s offering through programs, packages and business support. Its mandate includes developing the country’s unique assets and destinations, hosting and participating in industry events, and promoting Saudi Arabia’s tourism brand locally and overseas.