CULINARY

The best farm-to-table dining experiences in Saudi

From oasis dining under the starlit sky, to zero-waste fine dining and experiencing authentic home-cooking that champions locally grown produce, here are eight places to try...

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In Saudi culture food and hospitality have been linked for centuries and the opportunity to feed a traveller or inviting a guest for a meal is a source of pride and honour.

The largest country in the Middle East, Saudi’s cuisine is incredibly diverse, reflecting the culture and ingredients found across its 13 provinces. From around the capital, to the desert in the northwest and down to the port town of Jeddah, a new generation of restaurants have begun to highlight the nation’s regional cuisine. They’re also embracing the farm-to-table philosophy using either Saudi sourced ingredients, or produce grown from local farms.

1

Tawlat Fayza, AlUla

Located in AlUla’s Old Town, eating at Tawlat Fayza is about as close as you’ll get to eating in a Saudi home. Upon entering you’ll immediately experience the essence of Saudi hospitality: qahwa (traditional Saudi coffee) and a date. After exploring the Old Town or walking along the oasis, Tawlat Fayza is the perfect place to taste authentic Saudi home cooking with many of the recipes being passed down from the co-owners’ grandmother. Their rooftop is an ideal spot to dine at sunset with views of AlUla’s oasis and rock formations. On nights when the sky is clear enough you can stargaze while enjoying your meal.

2

Indulge Thyself, Jeddah

Based in the picturesque port city of Jeddah, Indulge Thyself offers unique fine dining. The all-female team pride themselves on offering the first zero-waste fine dining experience not only in Saudi, but the Middle East. Using up to 95% of locally grown ingredients including herbs, flowers and vegetables from their own garden, their elegant and seasonal fusion menu incorporates international flavours from Japan to Ethiopia and of course, Saudi. When in season, you can even sample Saudi’s prized desert truffle. With several dinner experiences ranging between 5 to 8 courses, there’s a culinary experience for every taste.

3

Maiz, Diriyah

Located in the stunning dining quarter of Riyadh’s UNESCO World Heritage site, At-Turaif in Diriyah, at Maiz you can sample a modern and opulent take on Saudi cuisine. Enjoy a combination of flavours from across the Kingdom’s regions with fresh produce from local farms, as well as across the country. Get a true taste of Saudi grown lamb and beef, caviar direct from the country’s eastern province in Dammam, camel steak and fish from the Red Sea. For art and design lovers, you’ll appreciate the interior’s fusion of traditional with the contemporary, as well as the collection of works by local artisans.

4

Marble, Riyadh

Dining at Marble in the Kingdom’s capital is recommended for meat lovers. The focus of this modern dining space is its open kitchen where you can watch your meat of choice being cooked over an open flame. Still relatively unknown to tourists, Marble is a favourite with locals for their US-influenced meat cooking techniques, including meat smoking. The restaurant is currently working towards being 100% farm-to-table by 2025 with all of their produce being either grown direct from their own farms or supplied through local producers. Open for lunch and dinner, Marble will soon be adding vegetarian and vegan dishes to their menu.

5

Heart of the Oasis, AlUla

Electricity-free, this candlelit restaurant is named for its location in the heart of the AlUla Oasis and is one of the most unique dining experiences in the area. Situated right near some of AlUla’s own farms, the alfresco space which is built around a refurbished mud-brick house will captivate you with only palms, mountain and sky views in sight. Open for lunch and dinner, Heart of the Oasis sources 100% of their ingredients, including meat, from the farms in AlUla.

6

Takya, Diriyah

Experience a modern twist on traditional and regional Saudi cuisine in the heart of Diryah’s dining terrace at Takya. This fusion restaurant is a sophisticated but peaceful spot to dine before or after you explore the nearby attractions. In true Saudi tradition, all the dishes are designed to share. An impressive 80% of the produce they use is organic and made with ingredients sourced from local producers including camel milk, olives, dates and rice. It is worth trying their oven-roasted camel bone marrow and their interpretation of saleeg, a traditional Saudi rice and meat dish.

7

Aseeb, Riyadh

For an incredibly grand and celebratory Saudi dining experience, Aseeb in Riyadh is the place to go. This unique restaurant is a favourite amongst local government officials and ambassadors for its authentic representation of the traditional and hearty tastes of the Najd, a region in the heart of the country. Here you’ll experience true Najd hospitality with coffee and dates, as well as the burning of incense (bakhoor) before your meal. If you want to try their most popular dishes, order the jareesh, marquq and qursan. Naseeb’s meat and vegetables are all sourced from their own farm.

8

Harrat at Banyan Tree, AlUla

The dramatic views of the canyon in AlUla’s Ashar Valley, as well as the spectacular Maraya (the largest mirrored building in the world), all make for an unforgettable backdrop when dining at Harrat. Open for all-day dining, the restaurant sources many of their ingredients from the nearby AlUla farms including fresh fruit, vegetables and some meat. Be sure to try dishes using the prized locally harvested citrus, as well as their signature dish, homemade hummus with Wagyu beef and truffle. In the Harrat Lounge you can enjoy Shisha with small bites, as well as afternoon tea.

Practical Information

Visas

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It’s surprisingly simple and easy to get an e-Visa for Saudi and the process is very similar to applying for an ESTA for the USA. Over 50 nationalities are eligible to apply for an e-Visa, including people from the UK and USA, with it costing (at the time of writing) 535 Saudi riyals (about £115 or US$143). Applications are swift and nearly all applicants will receive a response within three working days – most within 24 hours. To apply for your Saudi e-Visa, visit the official Saudi Tourism Authority website. If you're from the USA, UK or the Schengen Area, you can also apply for a visa on arrival into Saudi. It's slightly cheaper than an e-Visa, too, at SAR480 (about £102 or US$128).

Getting there & around

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With plenty of direct flight links from the UK to Saudi, it’s really easy to get to the country. Saudi’s national airline SAUDIA flies to Riyadh three times daily from London Heathrow, while British Airways also offers a regular service from Heathrow with daily flights to the capital. SAUDIA also operates twice daily flights to Jeddah from London Heathrow and daily flights from London Gatwick. If you're travelling from the US, SAUDIA offers direct flights to Riyadh from both New York City and Washington, D.C., as well as direct flights to Jeddah from New York City, Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.

Local customs

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To really embrace Saudi life and pay respect towards its traditions, there are a few local customs you should abide when travelling around the country. Both men and women should wear clothing that covers their elbows and below their knees when out in public. If you’re heading to the coast, it’s still expected you dress modestly. For more information on what to wear when in Saudi, see our full guide here. When meeting and greeting locals, whether it’s a market stallholder or a private guide, say hello with ‘salam alaykum’, which means ‘peace be upon you’, as well as offering a handshake.

Weather

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You might think it’s hot all year round in Saudi but it’s a little more nuanced than that. The best time to visit Riyadh is between October and March, when temperatures can dip as low as 20°C during the daytime and rarely exceed 30°C. Summer months in Riyadh can get extremely hot, with temperatures often above 40°C between June and September.

FAQ

Is English spoken in Saudi?

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Arabic is the official national language but English is widely spoken.

What’s the currency of Saudi?

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The currency of Saudi is the riyal, with the current rate (at the time of writing), around SAR4.76 to the UK£. You’ll need to pre-order money before you travel, as in the UK it’s not usually stocked in currency exchange booths.

What’s it like travelling in Saudi as a female?

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We think you’d be surprised! To find out more, read our first-hand account on what it’s like to travel in Saudi.

What’s the time difference in Saudi?

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Saudi follows Arabia Standard Time (GMT +3) all year round.

Want to see more of Saudi?

We've given you a taster of what Saudi is really like, now it's time for you discover the country in greater detail and plan your own Arabian adventure there...