Offbeat, Ramadan, Spirituality

Touring Jeddah’s Largest Mosque

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It stands in the middle of Jeddah’s downtown with skyscrapers around it. The architecture of the mosque makes it look a bit out of place, almost as if it wasn’t made considering its surroundings.


Whitewashed like celebrated Egyptian architect El-Wakil’s other mosques, this mosque by him actually looks as if it were a time-honored mosque from Cairo that was magically transported to modern Jeddah._dsc0586-nef

As we reached the mosque we noticed that the mosque’s parking lot is being used by the employees working in one of the fancy tall buildings on Madinah Road, which is the road on which King Saud Mosque occupies a prime spot._dsc0551-nef

Walking on the portico, we made our way to the main entrance of the mosque. The lofty minaret carries a striking resemblance to the Mosque of Sultan Hassan from El-Wakil’s hometown of Cairo.1m

There standing beneath its compelling iwan, the vaulted portal that opens into the mosque, we realized that how different this mosque is compared to the other mosques in the country. Yes, there are El-Wakil’s other mosques like the Quba Mosque or the Qiblatain Mosque in Madinah that are made on a large scale but there is something about this mosque that is different. Almost as if El-Wakil was given the opportunity to build something from scratch rather than work on something that came with deep historical and cultural values and somehow limited him._dsc0595-nef

We then strode through the deliberately orchestrated paths that worshippers have to pass before reaching the courtyard. This was most likely done as the plan of the building has been designed so that it aligns with the streets around it and also faces the qiblah. _dsc0602-nef

The courtyard is covered with beautiful panels that provide shade to the worshippers. Further ahead is the main prayer hall that has a low hanging chandelier standing from its large dome. The dome is said to have been made with little or no use of cement. For a dome with a diameter of almost 20 meters, we were left perplexed on how the feat was achieved._dsc0611-nef

The mosque, in fact, relies on traditional construction techniques and materials heavily and has kept the use of cement to a bare minimum. The mimbar, prayer niche, is rather simple and so are the interiors in general, perhaps so as to not distract the worshipper from his main purpose of visiting the mosque, which is to worship. The lighting in the mosque is also ideal for a mosque environment, being soothing to the eyes, with a combination of natural sunlight and dim light bulbs._dsc0616-nef

Though it is Jeddah’s biggest mosque covering an area of 9700 sqm, one may not see it be that large, as there are a few other mosques in the city that occupy almost an area similar to that of the King Saud Mosque._dsc0618-nef

While walking out past the same complex corridors that we came in from, it’s the simplicity that this ‘grand’ mosque evokes that takes center stage.untitled-1

Personally speaking, I would love to see guided tours of the mosque and a bit more information about it in the mosque itself. The King Saud Mosque felt as if it assists in amplifying the overall spiritual experience rather than bombarding worshippers with complex calligraphic scripts, bright lighting or variegated carpets. And, if you happen to be an architecture lover then you’ll almost certainly have a new favorite amongst Jeddah’s mosques.

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Offbeat, Ramadan

Saudi Arabia’s Most Prized Dates – Ajwa

Photo Credit: ahlesunnatuljamaat.com

They are one of the priciest in the market, but they are the most beneficial too.


Cultivated in the city of Madinah, the Ajwa date is a soft variety. Small in size, dark in color the Ajwa dates can be spotted easily. Even amongst the Ajwa of Madinah, the prized variety is the one that is cultivated in the Aaliyat al-Madinah area.

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)‘s Sayings On Ajwa Dates

The Ajwa dates have been mentioned in many hadiths of the Prophet (PBUH), here are two of them that highlight its benefits.

  • Narrated by Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas, the Prophet (PBUH) said: “Whoever eats seven ‘Ajwa dates in the morning, will not be harmed by any poison or witchcraft that day.” [Al-Bukhaari (5445) and Muslim (2047)]
  • Aisha (RA) reported Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) as saying, “The Ajwa dates of al-‘Aliya contain healing and they are an antidote (when taken as) first thing in the morning.” [Muslim (3815)]

Medically Proven Benefits Of The Ajwa

A research carried out by the King Saud University has shown that the fruit has anti-inflammatory properties similar to commercially available drugs like aspirin. It has also found that antioxidants in Ajwa dates are equal to existing commercial antioxidant products available in the market.

Apart from the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, the sugar in Ajwa dates consists only of monosaccharides, making the date beneficial for people who suffer from Type 2 diabetes.

The Recommended Way To Eat Dates

The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to eat fresh dates with cucumbers.

Abdullah bin Ja’far (RA) reported: I saw Allah’s Messenger (PBUH) eating cucumber with fresh dates. [Muslim, Book 36, Hadith 204]

In another narration Aishah (RA) has said: “My mother was trying to fatten me up when she wanted to send me to the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) (when she got married), but nothing worked until I ate cucumbers with dates; then I grew plump like the best kind of plump.” [Sunan Ibn Majah, Book 29, Hadith 3324]

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Offbeat, Spirituality

The Egyptian Architect Who Has Designed Saudi Arabia’s Most Famous Mosques

Photo Credit: courtesy driehaus prize

Defining and redefining contemporary Islamic architecture.


Abdel Wahed El Wakil has designed over fifteen mosques in Saudi Arabia, including the Quba Mosque, the Qiblatain Mosque and the King Saud Mosque. He is one of the rare distinguished present-time architects that the Islamic World has produced. This is his story.

Photo Credit: beautifulmosque.com - The Qubbah Mosque, Medina

Photo Credit: beautifulmosque.com – The Qubbah Mosque, Medina

 

Early Years

El Wakil was born in Cairo in 1943. Early 1960’s, he joined the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University. It was while pursuing his degree that El Wakil came across Ruskin’s writings –the latter’s writings were to have a profound effect on El Wakil.

After graduating from college, he was appointed a lecturer in the Architecture Department. At one of his lectures, he met renowned architect Hassan Fathy. Shortly thereafter, Fathy became Abdel Wahed’s mentor. As a result, the promising student left his job as a lecturer to begin working with his instructor.

Following his mentor’s example, Abdel Wahed started using indigenous materials and architectural techniques. This was at a time when modern building materials had become scarce, due to an economic crunch Egypt was going through.

Photo Credit: archidatum.com - Halawa House

Photo Credit: archidatum.com – Halawa House

He designed noticeable works, including the Halawa House, Hamdy House and Chourbagy House, all of which used local design elements and construction techniques.

Oil Boom In Saudi Arabia

The year of 1973 left a big, positive mark is Saudi Arabian history, as the country witnessed a huge economic boom. Seizing the opportunity, El Wakil moved to the prospering Kingdom. His early projects in Saudi Arabia involved the construction of grand mansions.

His overall layout of the mansions was a stark difference to the regular villa type layouts that were the norm. He placed a number of internalized spaces in his designs in the forms of patios, courtyards and atriums. The grand mansions upheld an indigenous feel to their luxurious interiors.

The Suleiman Palace, Jeddah.

The Suleiman Palace, Jeddah.

Among the mansions he designed is the Suleiman palace. It was nominated in the AIA Journal as one of the best designs accomplished in Saudi Arabian architecture. Its main feature is the traditional Arab design concept applied to contemporary architecture.

His constructions caught the attention of the mayor of Jeddah, Sheikh Said Farsi, who appointed him as an architectural advisor.

Designing Saudi Arabia’s Mosques

El Wakil conceived a program for introducing traditional architecture into the skylines of Saudi Arabia. The proposal got the nod from the Ministry of Pilgrimage and Endowment and El Wakil began working on an ambitious project that has given Saudi Arabia some of its most iconic mosques.

He was the sole designer of the mosques, which allowed him to display his full prowess. What was special in his constructions was his ability to make a good portion of them without using concrete, even for mosques of monumental sizes. From vaulted domes to towering minarets, El Wakil pushed the bar with each of his works.

The Egyptian architect built a total of fifteen mosques, nine of which are in Jeddah, including the King Saudi Mosque, which is the largest of them all and the pinnacle of his work. It stands as an architectural masterpiece in the city’s heart.

Photo Credit: omaniyat.com - King Saud Mosque.

Photo Credit: omaniyat.com – King Saud Mosque.

El Wakil also redesigned and designed a number of mosques in Madinah, including the Qiblatain Mosque, where believers first changed the direction of their prayers from Jerusalem towards Makkah. He also redesigned the Quba Mosque, which is historically very significant as it was the first mosque in Islam. The old mosque at the site was brought down and El Wakil initiated the construction from scratch.

Observing his designs, one can notice traces of his inspiration. El Wakil relies on several traditions across the Islamic World. The Qiblatain Mosque in Madinah has traces of Yemen’s Ashrafiyya Mosque and the Binladin Mosque in Makkah has similar design elements to that of Turkey’s Sokullu Mehmet Mosque.

Photo Credit: 9dmd.com - Miqaat Al-Medina mosque, Medina

Photo Credit: 9dmd.com – Miqaat Al-Medina mosque, Medina

Recognition

El Wakil received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture twice, first for the Agamy beach house in 1980 and then in 1989 for Jeddah’s Corniche Mosque.

Photo Credit: sdmimproje.com - The Corniche Mosque.

Photo Credit: sdmimproje.com – The Corniche Mosque.

On a national scale, he was honored the King Fahd Award for Research in Islamic Architecture in 1985. He was also given the first prize at the International Congress for Mosque Architecture that was held in Riyadh for the Design of Contemporary Mosque Architecture.

At age 73, El Wakil still continues to work. He divides his time between Middle Eastern capitals, working on major projects in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon and his home country, Egypt.

Sources:

“The Mosques of Abdel Wahed El Wakil” by Mohammed Assad (1992)
Muslim Heritage
Archnet
Al-‘Udhaibat, building on the past at Saudi Aramco World, July/August 1999, p32-45

William Facey, Back to Earth: Adobe Building in Saudi Arabia, 1997, ISBN 1-900404-13-3

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Offbeat, Shop In Jeddah

Good News Jeddahwis – Oasis Mall Is Back

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Bollywood music blares through its speakers, magic performances are being held on its stage, the place is chock-full with crowds, and cars fight for parking spots outside – the Oasis Mall is back.


A landmark in misery is the first thought that comes to mind when one thinks of Oasis Mall, however, that’s about to change as the mall has reopened to huge crowds.p_20170609_001706

It has been almost 8 years since I’ve last visited the place, it was in its dying stages back then. Only a few shops were open and there were hardly any customers in the mall.  This is stark opposite to what the mall is like today with crowds in such numbers that the mall felt small to accommodate us all. We even had to park our car almost half a kilometer away as the parking lot was nearing its full capacity.p_20170609_002330

As we made our way towards the entrance we couldn’t help but notice how beautiful the blue tiles and black glass work looks. Inside, we were greeted by what is one of the most beautiful courtyards I’ve seen in Jeddah. I realized that despite being constructed almost 17 years ago, hardly any mall in the city can match the aesthetic beauty of this mall.

But it isn’t like the other malls that you have in the city, the Oasis Mall has relaunched as a wholesale mall. There was hardly any well-known store inside, most of the shops were of local brands. Even the food court, which has not fully opened is sans international food chains.p_20170609_003010

So basically what the shops were offering were the same things that you get in a regular mall but at what appears to be in lower prices, which is presumably due to the wholesale factor. Purchasing in bulk didn’t seem mandatory, as we personally observed that the shops were willing to sell even single pieces to customers.

There was even an event being held when we visited the place, the children seemed to enjoy it the most. The grand attraction of the event was a magic show that had the crowd’s full attention.p_20170609_004241

Overall, it was a great experience reliving those memories and being visually treated to what is one of the most beautiful malls.

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Offbeat, TECH

8 Tech Brands You’ve Been Pronouncing Wrong

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With multinational tech brands springing up from all corners of the globe, the actual way they are meant to be pronounced often gets lost in the process. They usually differ vastly from the colloquial pronunciation that we are used to.


So if you are a tech geek, you’d probably want to update your pronunciations to add more credibility to your ‘tech image’.

mcafee_tag_h_rgb_454x1261. McAfee

Wrong: Mick-aah-fee
Right: Mac-uh-fee

asus2. Asus

Wrong: Ahh-sus
Right: Ay-soos

td5ea9rp3. Xiaomi

Wrong: Ziao-me
Right: Shao-me

color-of-the-nikon-logo

4. Nikon

Wrong: Nay-kon
Right: Nee-kon

fdgdf5. Imgur

Wrong: Imm-gur
Right: Image-er

adobe-logo6. Adobe

Wrong: Ah-dohb
Right: Ah-doh-be

quora-logo-eps-vector-image7. Quora

Wrong: Cue-oh-rah
Right: Koo-ra

4b89c12f0fdbcee670598141a862f4ee_huawei-logo-png-huawei-logo_1001-9438. Huawei

Wrong: Hyu-ah-way
Right: Wah-way

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Food, Food News, Offbeat

Jeddah Now Has A 5000 Riyal Burger

Photo Credit: annabellebreakey.com

The price tag has baffled Saudi Twitter users.


A well-cooked charcoaled burger with a sizeable side of fries is a foodie’s dream, but apparently, it is not enough for some.

News about the SR 5000 burger broke out when well-known Saudi journalist Abdul Mohsen Al Tamimi tweeted about the burger being served at Ritz-Carlton Jeddah. We couldn’t believe it ourselves so we called the hotel to confirm and much to our surprise the reports are true.

The ‘Royal Burger’ is probably one of the most, if not the most, expensive dish in Jeddah. It is being served in the Reyhana restaurant in the Ritz-Carlton.

The burger is made with high-end ingredients such as black truffle, wild mushrooms, Foie gras, Kobe beef, gruyere cheese, caviar and flaked gold leaf. Yes, there is actual gold in that burger.

Twitter has had some interesting reactions to the burger. A user tweeted “I wonder how this person will feel in a few hours after the SR5000 is digested,”

“People, please stop these stupid comments, these royal foods are available all over the globe!” another person chipped in.

So if you have 5000 riyals to blow and want an ice-breaking story that you can intrigue everyone around you with, then you know just where to go.

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Offbeat, worth sharing

King Salman Is The World’s Most Retweeted Leader

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The 2017 Twiplomacy study has shown that King Salman garners the most numbers of retweets per tweet when compared to all world leaders.


The annual report that studies the activity of popular world leaders on major social media platforms was published by the US-based international communications firm Burson-Marsteller.

In last year’s report, King Salman was ranked number 2 on the same measure with an average of 12,000 retweets per tweet. President Obama was ranked 1.

But this year the average number of retweets that King Salman tweets get rose to a whopping 147,456, which is more than 10 times the average number of retweets that President Trump’s tweets get.sd

King Salman posted only 10 times during the period covered by the study from April 2016 until May 20th, 2017. “He [King Salman] posts exclusively in Arabic and without any visuals,” the report stated. “But every tweet is a digital home run.”

The report goes on to state “Since the number of retweets is the measure of effectiveness, Saudi Arabia’s @KingSalman is the most effective world leader on social media.”

The report has also shown that King Salman is also one of the most followed Arab leaders on Twitter.

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Explore KSA, Historic Saudi, Online Magazine

The Man Who Shot King Abdulaziz’s First Photograph William Shakespear

Ibn Saud’s (Abd al-Aziz Ibn Saud’s) army on the march near Habl.

Not the poet.


He has his name inevitably etched with Saudi Arabia’s formation years. He played a key role not only by taking one of the first photographs of many places in inland Arabia but also for trying to get Britain to recognize the growing power of Ibn Saud.

Born in Bombay, Shakespear served in many posts in British India before finally making his way to the interiors of Arabia. Fluent in multiple languages including Arabic and working as a British Political Agent in Kuwait, William Shakespear went on many expeditions to the Arabian heartland.

Captain William Henry Irvine Shakespear (1878-1915).

Captain William Henry Irvine Shakespear (1878-1915).

His most famous journey is one wherein he traveled from Kuwait to the Red Sea, mapping and documenting many areas that were unexplored by Europeans. Prior to this, he even made an overland journey to England traveling through Persia, Turkey and Europe on his Rover motorcar. It was this very car that he used for many of his travels in the Arabian desert.

During these expeditions, he became acquainted with King Abdulaziz, who was at that time the Emir of Najd. He mapped and studied the region in great detail and also managed to convince the future King to allow him to shoot his first photograph. This was taken by his plate camera.

Shakespear’s camping gear and Arab figure by rock face and cave, probably in mountains in vicinity of Wadi Iram/Yatun Aqabah.

Shakespear’s camping gear and Arab figure by rock face and cave, probably in mountains in vicinity of Wadi Iram/Yatun Aqabah.

Shakespear seemed fond of Ibn Saud, who he described as “a fair, handsome man… of genial and very courteous manner.” The companionship and camaraderie between the two men laid the groundwork for the relationship that was to develop between Saudi Arabia and Britain.

Shakespear died in the Battle of Jarrab, he was only 37. Shortly after his death, a treaty drafted by him was signed between Britain and Ibn Saud that gave the Saudi rule in Arabia its first international recognition.

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Online Magazine, Ramadan, Spirituality

Our Favorite Mosques for Taraweeh

aisha-june-2017-aram

They are our spiritual checkpoints in Ramadan.


Whether you frequent your neighborhood mosques or drive to a special one, mosques are our spiritual rocks during Ramadan. They are retreats where we pray, reflect and recite Qur’an alongside our Muslim brothers and sisters from all over Jeddah.

anani-june-2017-aram-01Anany Mosque
Imam: Shaykh Hani Al Refai

Also known as the ‘Golden Mosque’, after its large golden-colored dome, the mosque is popular for taraweeh largely because of its imam, Hani Al Refai. It is one of the city’s largest mosques and can accommodate a large number of worshippers. Because of its close proximity to Corniche, families with children can be seen sitting outside listening to the recitation.


fahad-june-2017-aramKing Fahd Mosque
Imam: Shaykh Zahrani

Carrying a striking resemblance to the grandiose mosques of Morocco, the King Fahd mosque with its typical Moroccan architecture is unlike other mosques in Jeddah.  Immense yet graceful, the tile-work and open-air courtyard make for a visual treat. The mosque has sufficient space in the male and female praying areas. Shaykh Zahrani’s supplication at the end of the witr prayer deserves a special mention.


yamani-june-2017-aramBin Yamani Mosque
Imam: Shaykh Khateeb

Especially during the last 10 days of Ramadan, getting a spot to pray inside the mosque is tough if one does not reach before Isha, as the mosque is extremely popular for its taraweeh prayers. There is a spacious open ground next to the mosque, so car parking is not much of a hassle. The mosque is well maintained and the caretakers prepare good arrangements for worshippers.

aisha-june-2017-aramBaghlaf Mosque
Imam: Shaykh Darwesh

The mosque is dimly lit on the outside, however, on the inside, it is so brightly lit that it kind of catches the first-time visitors off-guard.  The mosque rarely sees large crowds, so this mosque is ideal for those looking for a tranquil and peaceful praying space.

alkhair-june-2017-aramUmm Al-Khair Mosque
Imam: Shaykh Adil Rayyan

Standing next to the now defunct Watani Superstores, parking is a bit of a hassle as the mosque witnesses a large number of worshippers during taraweeh prayers. Shaykh Adil Rayyan who leads taraweeh prayers here is renowned for his recitation all across the Kingdom and abroad.


shoaiby-june-2017-aramShoeby Mosque
Imam: Shaykh Basafer

Shaykh Basafer’s recitation has brought in a lot of worshippers to this mosque over the years. The colored tiles and elegant mimbar inside the mosque add to the splendor that the mosque misses out on architecturally from the outside. Despite being large in size, the prayer area does get a bit crammed, so it’s better to be early to the prayers here.  And, if the weather is good then you can always pray on its courtyard outside.


rahma-june-2017-aramTaqwa Mosque
Imam: Shaykh Nabil Refai

Famous reciter Nabil Al Refai leads the taraweeh prayer in this mosque that stands nestled in one of the lanes of Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Street.  From the soulful recitation to the moving supplication, they all add up to make this one of the best places to pray taraweeh prayers in Jeddah.

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Food, Foodie Corner

9 Out Of The Ordinary Cuisines To Try In Jeddah

Photo Credit: benihana.com

The food scene is brewing across the Kingdom.


Less familiar cuisines are becoming more and more exciting and less daunting for Jeddah’s metropolitan residents. The multiculturalism of Jeddah is engrained in its social fabric mainly due to the variety of communities living in it. However, many communities including those with decent numbers do not have a restaurant serving their cuisine.

But that’s changing gradually, one cuisine at a time. And, luckily for us Jeddawis, we are getting to try umpteen cuisines, which we contrarily wouldn’t have unless say we would have traveled to that specific country, and it’s possible the ‘halal’ factor would have been an issue.

Anyway without wasting any more time, here are cuisines that you definitely have to try if you already haven’t.

Peruvian – Peruvi

peruviThe local restaurant chain serving food from the magical country of Peru has become a surprising success. While the grilled items taste similar to what other restaurants have to offer, it is the spicy sauces that they come with that really augment the overall taste. Peruvi has multiple branches in Jeddah and is moderately priced, so you have no reason to escape this one.

Brazilian – Brasa De Brazil

Photo Credit: jeddahfood.com

Photo Credit: jeddahfood.com

Brazilians love the grill, so expect all things grilled here. Apart from the regular grilled meats such chicken and beef, a must-try here is the grilled deer/gazelle meat, which is a rarity to find anywhere across the Kingdom. They have an ‘all you can eat type’ dinner and lunch offering, so you’ll probably want to starve yourself before experiencing what can be called one of the best grills that Jeddah has to offer.

Sri Lankan – Arab Lanka

Photo Credit: Mohamed Faseel

Photo Credit: Mohamed Faseel

The island nation has a variety of influences that can be seen in its food; South Indian, Malaysian and some indigenous flavors, all blending in to bring about delicious concoctions of delicacies. More than the dining fare, it’s the snacks like foods that are big draws in this restaurant, mainly the kothu paratha and spring rolls.

Thai – Asia / Thai Thai

Photo Credit: Doypidz

Photo Credit: Doypidz

Thai cuisine is extremely popular worldwide, but it somehow has been slow on the taste buds of Jeddawis. There are two prominent Thai restaurants, Asia and Thai Thai, both have been around for quite some time and come loaded with dishes that the tropical escapade is famous for. Brace yourselves to experience foods with a spicy edge and strong aroma.

Argentinian – Pampas

Photo Credit: Abdullah_BM

Photo Credit: Abdullah_BM

Sitting in the Assila Rocco Forte Hotel on Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz Street, the Argentinian restaurant is a delight for grill lovers. As it is a fine dining restaurant, all the comforts and indulgence that one expects on a special evening meal are bound to be served. The meats being grilled right in front of diners on the Argentian asado grill are worthy of a special mention.

Malaysian – Chapter

chapterTucked away in the food court of the Mall of Arabia, Chapter serves some of Malaysia’s favorites. With Malaysia being a melting pot of various cultures, it’s food is a mishmash of many Asian gastronomies. Popular amongst the offerings at Chapter include satay and nasi lemak.

Japanese – Benihana

Photo Credit: benihana.com

Photo Credit: benihana.com

Benihana has defined Japanese food for Jeddawis – that’s how long it has been around for.  There are sushi bars around town that serve Japan’s famed sushi, but they do not have a wide variety of Japanese offerings like Benihana does. The tempura sauce based dishes are a must-try here. Also, the live cooking experience where the chef comes and cooks right at your table is laudable and probably a reason why one will want to visit the restaurant again and again. Prior reservations are recommended as the place is quite popular.

Spanish – Rico

Photo Credit: jeddahfood.com

Photo Credit: jeddahfood.com

Rico literally translates as ‘richness’ and that is what diners can expect in terms of flavor from Spanish cuisine. The variety of appetizers called tapas that the restaurant offers will make you probably want to rethink your main course, as they are not only good to eat but delightful to look at as well. Just a disclaimer, you may find your wallet a little lighter after a hearty dinner as the restaurant is slightly on the higher side.

Korean – Sura

215From Korean favorites like kimchi and Korean pancakes to gujeolpan, which is an assortment of nine different delicacies, Sura is a place that is fast growing popular amongst far-east food lovers. The chabudai tables on which dinner is served adds to the overall ‘Korean’ ambiance that the restaurant tries to embody.

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