Comedy Night in Riyadh

It is often said that in Riyadh people either pray or shop, and other than that not much is going on here. Tomorrow, however, will be an exception: Smile Productions are presenting a night of live stand up comedy performance, featuring Steve Gribbin and Kiven Bridges from the Comedy Story in London. The show will also feature 3 local talents for the first time on stage, so this should be interesting too. If you need more information, please contact Peter: phowarthlees@mac.com or call him: 0594370662.

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Qaym

Qaym LogoQaym is a website for user-generated restaurant reviews based on social rating. The idea behind it may sound simple, but the execution is excellent and the result is great. My friend and fellow blogger Jihad al-Ammar began working on this project last year, and I was one of the lucky beta testers who had to use it during the past 9 months. This week Jihad is opening the website to the public. If you can read Arabic, give it a look and I think you will be impressed.

I have 5 invites to give away. If you are interested, just leave your email in the comments and you shall receive one shortly.

I’ve run out of invites. If you would like one let me know, I will ask Jihad if I can get more.

UPDATE: I didn’t even need to ask! Jihad has given me 10 more invites to give away. Leave a comment here if you want one of those.

Riyadh International Book Fair: Could Be Better

After my past experiences at Riyadh International Book Fair, and considering that I have recently visited Beirut and Cairo, you can expect that I’m not so enthusiastic about our annual cultural bonanza this year.

The truth is, organizing this event for the first time in 2006 was a bold move by the Ministry of Information (MOI) and was groundbreaking on some levels: temporary amnesty on banned books, interesting speakers and heated debates about pressing issues at the other activities accompanying the fair.

Unfortunately, it did not last long. MOI have been obviously intimidated by the aggressive reaction of the conservatives and decided to opt for the path of least resistance: to avoid provoking the anger of conservatives (who are easily provoked by many, many things, btw) they chose to organize an ordinary book fair with conformist speakers discussing noncontroversial topics. Actually, I have read that some people this year were cruising the fair collecting books they don’t like in trolleys!

I am disappointed to see MOI intimidated this way because I thought they were up to something really good. But my lack of enthusiasm should not stop you from paying a visit to the big show. I think it is still a good chance for Saudis to get exposed to this wide spectrum of ideas offered by thousands of books at one place.

Although I wasn’t planning to buy any books, I ended up with a few good ones. As usual, Lebanese publishing houses have many interesting titles to offer, and you may also want to stop at the booth of the National Society for Human Rights and grab a copy of their excellent first report on the state of human rights in the Kingdom.

The Riyadh International Book Fair is open until Friday, March 14, at the Riyadh International Exhibition Center in Morouj Dist. up north the city. Parking spaces of the Center are reserved for VIP’s so I recommend you use the HyperPanda/Azizia Mall parking lot next to the Center. Consult this schedule to before going: the fair is open at different times for professionals and general audience men and families, and believe me you don’t to go at the wrong time.

For the Love of Pasta

italyflagThis should go well with the King’s visit to Italy today, but I swear it’s just a coincidence :-) but first I need to ask: is there that many Italian restaurants in Riyadh? I don’t know but I don’t think that I have seen many of them. But if you were craving pasta there are certainly a few places to be recommended.

There is Pizza Roma in Sulaymania. Now I have never been there because they don’t allow single men in the evening (don’t you just love how crazy the segregation in this city can get?) but whenever I ask about a good Italian place it is the first answer I usually get. So, Pizza Roma has a big reputation but since I’ve never tried it I don’t know how good it is. I trust the high taste of some of those who recommend it but I advice you to try it yourself, or if you have already eaten there you are welcome to share your views in the comments.

Another nice Italian place is the Roma Restaurant. It is one of Riyadh’s hidden treasures, located on a small dark back street near the intersection of Olaya and Mousa bin Nussair. A friend of mine who’s been to both Pizza Roma and Roma Restaurant says they have very similar menus. I recently visited the place and tried their mushroom cream soup as a starter and later the cannelloni with four kinds of cheese and béchamel. Both were delicious and the prices are not very expensive.

The place is small and if you have the misfortune to find a noisy crowd when go there then you might have a problem listening to your friend on the other side of the table. Even worse, some people don’t seem to have a problem smoking heavily in such a small closed area. Unfortunately, instead of banning this disgusting habit, the restaurant seem to encourage it by providing ashtrays on every table. A reservation is needed, especially on weekends, but during midweek you should be able to get a table without one if you were willing to wait for a few minutes.

On Tahlia St. you can find Pizza Amore, which offers a very good selection of speciality pizza that you can’t find anywhere else in town. I have been there a couple of times with foreign guests and my experience has always been more than nice. The families’ section is not very spacious so you may need to check before going there with a big mixed group. I recommend the anchovies pizza, if you were into that kind of thing, of course, as it seems that many people are afraid to try anchovies. I used to be like that, btw, but after trying this pizza I found that my fear was unfounded. They also make some seriously delicious raviolis.

Although I enjoy the experience of going to restaurants and slowly eating my meal under the dim lighting, sometimes I wish if there was a place where I can find a good instant pasta on-the-go that I can grab on my way home. I really wish that Mrs. Vanellis, which I like to go to in Khobar and Bahrain, would open here. If you happen to know something like that in town please let me know. Other than the restaurants I mentioned here I expect there might be a few more good Italian places in the city, so don’t hesitate to share your finds in the comments. What’s your favourite Italian restaurant in Riyadh?

Donuts and Pretzels

It was Dotsson who first reported that Krispy Kreme has finally arrived to Saudi Arabia, and now Mochness has the first review after getting a chance to try their donuts before the grand opening which is expected on the first day of Eid al Fitr. I had my first Krispy Kreme donut on my last night in Washington DC. We were like: “we ain’t leave DC without eating them!” But the thing that I really wanted to try while I was in the States was pretzels. Sara Dickerman in Slate says she is surprised by how little respect pretzels get in the snack-food world. I had a chance to try pretzels in New York and I have a picture to prove it! Now I need to know if there is a place in Riyadh that makes good pretzels.

eating pretzels

Saudi Favourites

British expat Margrave is starting a series of posts called Riyadh Favourites (RF). The aim is to help you find places to go and things to do in the capital. I think this is a very nice idea. If we started to post reviews like that and tag them with tags like Riyadh Favourites, Jeddah Favourites, etc. we might end up with a good collective Saudi tourism directory. I have already tagged some of my old posts about restaurants and other stuff in Riyadh which you can find here. On a related note, check out the Jeddah Food blog.

Saudis Guys Don’t Enjoy Art?

I can explain: too many exams, too little time. But I’m not dead, I just don’t have time for blogging, or anything else for that matter. You have no idea what kind of an overwhelming stress and pressure pharmacy students have to go through.

I wanted to go to Hewar Gallery after reading about it on MagicKingdom‘s blog, and thank God I had the chance to do it last night on its last day. But I have to say I was quite uncomfortable with the way we were received over there. Apparently one of the organizers could not believe that two young men were actually interested in art, and not in chasing girls who might be there at the same time. He had to escort us to the 52nd floor and keep an eye on us while we were watching the paintings at the gallery. When we were leaving, he apologetically said he had to do it due to the strict instructions of security at the Kingdom Tower. Whatever. I also wanted to go to The Legacy of King Saud exhibit at the National Museum but could not do it. Maybe when I get back from Eid break.

Anyways, more blogging later this week. I will be leaving Riyadh on Monday, heading to Dhahran where I’m invited to a Christmas party, and then going home to Al-Ahssa to see my family and friends and spend Eid with them. Happy holidays everyone.