Traditional Way of Eating
Most of the Saudi's still eat the traditional way,meaning they prepare and served the food on a big plate wherein all the family members will eat. Usually Lamb,camel meat or chicken are being used with mixed vegetables and rice. They also serve side dishes like salads, macaroni, chili etc.
They served the food on the floor and usually they dont used spoon and fork but rather used their right hand for eating.
For dinner by invitation..(e.g. meeting your in laws) part of their eating tradition is that, men eat first then the women.
Tea or Arabic coffee are being serve before and after meal.
Ramadan is the Holy Month for our Muslim brothers and sisters.It falls on the 9th month of the Hijrah Calendar or Lunar (moon)Calendar. The date and month may not be fixed if it would be based on Gregorian Calendar.
The holy month of Ramadan is considered as one of the higights of the year , and during this time our Muslim brothers and sisters fast from dawn to dusk. The celebration culminates with the Eid-Al-Fitr holiday, in which it is customary to buy presents and clothes for children and visit friends and relatives.
The Arab calendar is a lunar calendar. The 12 months are:
Muharram (30 days)
Safar (29 days)
Rabi'a al-Awal (30 days)
Rabi'a ath-Thani (29 days)
Jumada al-Ula (30 days)
Jamada Ath-Thaniya (29 days)
Rajab (30 days)
Sha'aban (29 days)
Ramadan (30 days)
Shawwal (29 days)
Dhul Qa'dah (30 days)
Dhul Hijjah (29 days: 30 days in a leap year)
Muslim men on having 4 wives
Its is stated in the Holy Quran (the Holy Book Of Muslims)that men are allowed to marry upto 4 times at the same time provided that they give just and fair treatment to their wives.
Today, life has changed alot in terms of marrying more than 1 wife. Men having 4 wives rarely exist nowadays.
Though fixed marriage still exists..the value of family and family ties still hold a very important role in the society.
Saudi Head Dress
Saudi Men's Head dress are commonly red and white (checkered) while the plain white is the least common to used.
In the past, Arabs used to wear head dress called SHOMAGH to protect their faces from sand storms and tie it with a robe called (UKAL).
And as the time past by, it became a distinct mark of Arab men around the globe.
The White straight dress that they wear is called THOBE. They wear a white thobe during summer while they wear darker colors during winter.
Simplest Expression Of Hospitality - COFFEE
Arab traditions also play an important role in Saudi life. These age-old traditions have evolved over the past years and are highly regarded. They include generosity and hospitality, which every Saudi family offers to strangers, friends, and family. The simplest expression of hospitality is coffee – its preparation alone is an intricate cultural tradition, and it is often served in small cups along with dates and sweets.
Arabic Coffee or Gahwa is a special mixture of Arabic Coffee and Cardamom. Cardamon is always added to Saudi coffee, either crushed or whole pods, giving it a distinctive flavour, and aiding digestion. A pinch of saffron may be added on special occasions, or by the wealthy.
The coffee is poured from a long-spouted pot called a dallah. The greeny-yellow coffee is drunk without milk or sugar from small handleless cups, which are only half filled.
Guests should accept no more than three cups unless with close friends. It is courteous to accept one cup, although not essential to drink it. Always hold the cup in your right hand.
To signal that no more coffee is required, wobble the cup from side to side (or in some areas cover it with the palm of the hand).
Oud (Incense / Oil)
Another gesture of Saudi hospitality is the burning of incense (oud) to welcome guests. It has a very distinct Arab smell.
Oud came from a bark of a 100year old tree either from Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.
A gram or kilo of this will make a hole in your pocket. From 100USD up per kilo.
Segregation of Sexes
It is part of the Saudi culture that men and women are not seated together during functions unless they are related to each other (brother and sister, nephew and nieces, mother and children )
So if ever you are invited to a Saudi family expect that women will go to the women sitting room while men go to the male sitting room.
It is a tradition being carried for many years and still being practice upto this time.
Iftar in Ramadan
IFTAR is an Arabic word which means to break fast. Muslims break their fast at sunset with few Dates and Arabic coffee coupled usually with fresh breakfast cream or Tahina (made of sesame)
The reason why they eat dates when breaking their fast is because dates contain high sugar content to balance the sugar level in the body after refraining from drink and food for the whole day.
Main course inlcudes: Soup, sambusa, baked macaroni and rice with chicken or meat.
Sweets or desserts are usually served as well like dumplings or creme caramel.
UMRAH means visiting the Holy Mosque in Mecca at any time of the year.
It inlcudes 7 complete turns around the Kaaba (House of God) as well as 7 laps between Mt. Safa and Mt. Merwah. One lap is approximately 500m.
Performing Umrah can last for a short period of time (approximately 1 hr for a fit person).
a. There is no age limit when performing Umrah
b. Special white cloth has to be worn with no undergarments for men
c. Women must uncover their faces and wear an ordinary dress.
Ladies in Black
All ladies both foreign and locals who will visit or work in Saudi Arabia are required to wear an ABAYA (a black dress incl of the veil) when going to public places like malls, souk (market), grocery stores etc.
Although expats are allowed not to cover their faces like the local Saudi's do...wearing the veil is a must. In some public areas you can find Muttawa's (Religious Police) who will ask you to cover (put on your veil) if your not wearing such.
It is part of the Arab's traditions,culture and beliefs particularly Saudi's that a woman's beauty is exclusive to their husband's or husband's to be so they have to be covered and not be seen by any other men.
For first timers in Saudi...abaya is not compulsary to wear the first time they arrive but expected to get one for themselves the following day.
Many souk's (market) are selling Abaya's...prices differs on the material and designs of the abaya.
Generally, abaya's are in color black but as per my hubby :-) abaya can be in different colors too..
A. Most Saudi women choose to cover their faces in public and even in private in the presence of males who are not members of their family, but this is not because of their religion. It is simply local custom.
B. Before, in a harsh desert environment, a thin veil provides protection from constant exposure to the sun, which can damage the skin and eyes. Today, a veil is also a sign of modesty and virtue.
They call it Shahi while others call it TEA
Arab countries particularly Saudi's are very much into drinking Shahi / Tea . They drink shahi anytime time of the day.before or after meal...by the time they arrive from work...while watching TV...while talking etc....
It is like theri substitute for water....A usual arabic tea consists of special arabic dried leaves boiled into water with sugar and fresh mint leaves..though halib (milk) is optional.
No Lady Drivers
Culture,tradition or Religion? whatever is the reason, ladies here in Saudi are not allowed to drive both expats or local. Its either they have a family driver to take them around or their husbands.
While other ladies take taxi's or Limo's as they call it.
Salah or Prayer Time
Muslims here in Saudi Arabia have their prayer time called Salah . They pray 5 times a day- before dawn (530 am), noon (12noon), afternoon (330 & 530pm) and evening (730pm).
NO other religion can be practice in the Kingdom.
Its usually 10 minutes before the actual prayer, a prayer call is being done. All establishments will be close for about 20-30 minutes to give way to our muslim brothers/sisters enough time to pray.
Though most of the shops open from 9 and closed before the noon prayer. They open again at 4 in the afternoon.
Family Area V.S. Single Area
Most of the restaurants have family area and single area. This means, any male with his wife with him or any lady family member, they can only eat and dine at the family area. While married male without his wife or lady family member with him...he can only eat and dine at single's area.
Family area are more of a cubicle type of room/space which can usually accomodate maximum 6 persons. The Picture shown is a sample of a family area cubicle.It is usually made of frost or non clear glasses.
Days Of the Week
While most of the people in the world start their week on a Monday...Saudi's in particular do start their week on a Saturday and ends up on Wednesday.
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