MAKKAH: Hajj and Umrah government officials have alerted pilgrims around the world about an important update and name change to a key services and permits app for the Two Holy Mosques.
Launching the newly named Nusuk app, an update on the Eatmarna platform, Minister of Hajj and Umrah Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah said visitors and worshippers would be able to access a range of e-services including applying for a visa and booking hotels and flights.
Hajj and Umrah services adviser, Ahmed Saleh Halabi, told Arab News: “During the past few years, the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah has been keen to switch to the e-government system to add ease to the experience of pilgrims and visitors. As such, their experience will be forever remembered as an enriched religious journey.”
He pointed out that the portal allowed users to select from a list of service packages.
“The program will provide the pilgrims with a cultural and religious journey, while reflecting the bright and civilized side of the Kingdom in the Two Holy Mosques,” he added.
The platform has been designed to provide services and information to help worshippers perform rituals with ease and is part of the Saudi Vision 2030 objectives to improve service offerings and the quality of religious experience.
Ahmed Bajaiffer, an investor in Umrah companies, said: “Nusuk is the representation of the strong will of the Kingdom’s leaders and their loyalty toward Muslims, citizens, and residents.”
Nusuk has been launched in cooperation with the Saudi Tourism Authority and is linked to the services provided by the Kingdom’s official tourism website, Visit Saudi Arabia.
Head of the World Hajj and Umrah Convention, Mohsin Tutla, told Arab News: “What Nusuk has developed resonates with the World Hajj and Umrah Care Foundation’s vision toward enhancing the pilgrim’s experience.
“When traveling to a foreign country, visitors may often feel anxiety or even fear; for many, Arabic is not their first language, and trying to make sense of the cultural practices of a new country at times can be difficult.”
Via the nusuk.sa platform, Hajj and Umrah performers can receive visit or Umrah visas with the option to buy a service package and pay electronically.
“The launch of this service sends a strong message with it: We are listening, we are caring, and we will provide the solutions to continually enrich your experience, and we do it with passion, as the Kingdom sees serving pilgrims as a privilege and obligation,” Tutla added.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, more than 21.5 million Umrah and Hajj performers had registered with the Eatmarna app since its launch, and it has issued 6.4 million permits to visit and pray at Al-Rawdah Al-Sharifah at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
RIYADH: Minister of Culture Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan met with his Mexican counterpart Alejandra Frausto Guerrero during the UNESCO World Conference on Cultural Policies and Sustainable Development, or Mondiacult, in Mexico City, the Saudi Press Agency reported.
The meeting was also attended by the Saudi ambassador to Mexico, Haytham bin Hassan Al-Malki, the General Supervisor of Cultural Affairs and International Relations Rakan bin Ibrahim Al-Touq, and the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture for International Cultural Relations Fahd bin Abdulrahman Al-Kanaan.
During the meeting, Prince Badr thanked Guerrero for hosting the conference.
The meeting saw the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Saudi and Mexican ministries of culture to strengthen cooperation in a variety of cultural fields, including heritage, museums, visual arts, libraries, performing arts, theater, books and publishing, translation, fashion, and culinary arts.
The MoU also included the exchange of participation in festivals and cultural events, visits between official delegations and experts in various cultural fields, and artistic residency programs between government and private institutions in the two countries, as well as facilitating the process of communication between their respective cultural authorities and intellectuals.
The memorandum included the exchange of participation in festivals and cultural events, visits between official delegations and experts, and artistic residency programs between government and private institutions in the two countries.
The two states will also work together to implement training programs, work sessions, capacity development, and seminars for specialists, intellectuals, and artists.
In addition to exchanging experiences on cultural systems, regulations, and policies, the pair will collaborate on joint strategic projects in a variety of cultural fields.
Looking forwards, Prince Badr and Guerrero discussed areas of cultural cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Mexico, as well as capacity-building in the field of heritage preservation and learning from Mexico’s experiences in this regard.
RIYADH: Roasted cardamom, cloves and saffron brewed together with lightly roasted coffee, served in a dallah (traditional coffee pot) and poured into finjals (small round cups). That is the coffee table setting of many families, bringing together generations throughout the Kingdom.
From the near-intoxicating aroma of the spices to the traditional serveware, Saudi coffee goes beyond a drink — it is a celebration of the Kingdom’s culture and heritage.
“Saudi coffee is not just a drink; it’s a part of our family traditions and values,” Noura bin Mohammed told Arab News.
“A family gathering is not a true gathering without two things: Saudi coffee and dates.”
Bin Mohammed, 22, is studying in the US, and says that, being away from home, the beverage is even more special.
“When I make Saudi coffee, the entire room smells like home, like my mom’s kitchen — the feeling is not the same with tea or espresso,” she said.
“It’s a part of our family memories.”
Every Friday, her family would gather to share coffee, sweets and laughter — a ritual she misses while she is away from home.
Bin Mohammed is not alone, however, with several other Saudi students at her university yearning for the same familiar comfort.
So she established a weekly gathering with her fellow Saudi students who share a cup — or dallah — of Saudi coffee and sweets.
“I invite some of the girls over and we make coffee; everyone brings a sweet, and we just laugh and talk about the week we have had,” she said.
“It’s a nice feeling knowing I’m in Houston and my family is in Riyadh, but every Friday we’re both drinking Saudi coffee, and talking and laughing.”
Would the feeling be different if the group gathered over tea or American coffee? The gathering simply would not be complete without Saudi coffee, bin Mohammed said.
“If the ladies sat down to find American coffee in front of them, they would have jokingly asked me if I had run out of saffron or cardamom for the coffee,” she said.
A small cup of coffee carries decades of history laced with love, hospitality and generosity, uniting and comforting family and friends in times of celebration and grief.
Renad Khashoggi who lives in Jeddah with her family, has Saudi coffee whenever she visits a friend’s home “because it is a traditional way of hospitality in Saudi Arabia.”
Although the drink is customary at weddings and family gatherings, it is also served at funerals, Khashoggi said.
Unlike regular tea or coffee, Saudi coffee is tied to family rituals that represent the cultural identity of the Kingdom. It is common in Saudi culture for families and friends to visit each other’s homes frequently and spend time chatting.
Over time, these gatherings have been characterized by the presence of Saudi coffee, which itself has become symbolic of the hospitality and generosity synonymous with Saudi culture.
However, while Saudi coffee’s presence is pervasive across the Kingdom, its taste is not.
“What makes it a unique experience is when we have various types of Saudi coffee from different regions,” said Jeddah resident Momena Alamoudi.
Variations in beans and brewing methods have allowed Alamoudi and her friends to explore different methods and flavors.
“Actually, I’m not a coffeeholic or addicted to drinking coffee,” said Alamoudi, who only has Saudi coffee during weekend gatherings with friends and family.
That shows the drink’s purpose is not simply to deliver a “caffeine hit,” but rather allow the drinker to savor the taste, sip by sip, while spending time with their loved ones.
As Alamoudi puts it: “Saudi coffee must be there on all occasions and parties.”
The sentiment also rings true for Jeddah resident Noor Alnahdi, who associates iftars in Ramadan with the heady aroma and taste of Saudi coffee.
“We must have Saudi coffee with dates to break our fast,” she said.
Unlike any other kind of coffee or beverage, Saudi coffee comes with a sense of heritage.
LONDON: Arab News launched its latest deep dive, “A cup of Gahwa: The taste and traditions of Saudi coffee,” celebrating the Year of Saudi Coffee ahead of International Coffee Day this Saturday.
The long-form, interactive feature delves into the culture and heritage of Saudi coffee as it explores the home of Jazan’s green gold — the Khawlani bean.
Arab News partnered with Jabaliyah, the first coffee brand to originate exclusively in the Kingdom, on the deep dive and a limited edition coffee box.
“As Arab News celebrates the Year of Saudi Coffee, it’s our pleasure to partner with Jabaliyah, a speciality Saudi coffee company. Always supporting talented local business, Jabaliyah has produced delightful smooth Saudi coffee, which we are proud to partner with,” Arab News Assistant Editor-in-Chief Noor Nugali said.
Reporters traveled to Jabaliyah’s headquarters in Jazan to speak to the company’s co-founder and learn how the Khawlani bean goes from the tree to the brew.
“Arab News has been a key supporter of local authentic innovation and local startups from the get-go. We have been privileged at Jabaliyah to have had this support from them since the early days of our launch three years ago, and they continue to celebrate our endeavor as a true local content venture,” Ali Al-Sheneamer, co-founder of Jabaliyah, said.
For centuries, coffee has played a central role in the social life of Saudis. It is nothing less than a national symbol of identity, hospitality and generosity, and the focus of gatherings formal and informal, from the tents of the Bedouin of old in the deserts of Najd, to the stylish new cafes in the Kingdom’s cities.
But what some might not appreciate, even as 2022 is celebrated in the Kingdom as the Year of Saudi Coffee, is that when it comes to the planet’s most popular drink, the whole world owes a debt of gratitude to Saudi Arabia — the Khawlani bean.
Today, coffee is most closely associated with countries such as Brazil and Colombia.
But the potential of the coffee tree, which grows wild only in Ethiopia, was first recognized and developed by Arabs, as far back as the 14th century.
As William Ukers, editor of the Tea and Coffee Trade Journal in New York, wrote in “All About Coffee,” his exhaustive 1922 study: “The Arabians must be given the credit for discovering and promoting the use of the beverage, and also for promoting the propagation of the plant, even if they found it in Abyssinia (Ethiopia).”
Hundreds of years ago, discovering that the plant Coffea arabica thrived in the climate of the lush mountains of the land that would become Saudi Arabia, they brought it across the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula.
There, they successfully cultivated it on terraces cut into the flanks of the Sarawat Mountains, perfecting the art of roasting and brewing the seeds of its fruit to make the drink the world would come to know and love.
Not for nothing is the Khawlani coffee bean known in Saudi Arabia as “the green gold of Jazan.”
The bean, and the knowledge and practices related to cultivating it, occupies such a central role in the heritage and traditional social rituals of Saudi Arabia that it is now being considered for inclusion on UNESCO’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
According to the document submitted to UNESCO by the Ministry of Culture, the Khawlani bean is named for Khawlan bin Amir, a common ancestor of the coffee-growing tribes that live in the mountains of Jazan province
“During the harvest season,” the document says, “farmers break the monotony of the work by singing poem verses. One person sings and the group repeats after to create a harmonic rhythm as they pick coffee beans.
“Men and women both roast then grind the beans used to prepare coffee.”
Importantly, the skills are handed down from generation to generation: “Families encourage youngsters to work in the lands, starting with minor tasks, until they develop the skills and know-how needed to cultivate coffee trees and the processing of the coffee beans.”
Coffee, adds the UNESCO document, “is a symbol of generosity in Saudi Arabia,” and the tribes of Khawlani personify this “through their dedication and their passion for this practice.”
RIYADH: Arabic coffee has been officially changed to Saudi coffee in the Kingdom’s restaurants, cafes, stores and roasteries early this year.
The statement by ministry spokesman Abdulrahman Al-Hussein was made in conjunction with a Culture Ministry initiative naming 2022 as the Year of Saudi Coffee, part of moves to strengthen the Kingdom’s identity and culture.
Since the move, the number of young baristas in the Kingdom has increased, with many focusing on creative adaptations and ways of serving the traditional beverage.
Ridhwan Al-Momen wanted to work while studying, so joined the international cafe franchise the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.
“I had humble beginnings, but when I learned about specialty coffee, I took a deep dive into this world and I can’t get out of it,” he told Arab News.
“This is how many baristas of my generation feel.”
A UNESCO article stated that “serving Arabic coffee is an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies and considered a ceremonial act of generosity,”.
This is especially true in Saudi Arabia, where coffee plays a central role in an age-old tradition of hospitality. As the Kingdom attracts more tourists, Saudi coffee has become one of its most intriguing attractions.
“Saudi coffee is an important part of our lives. We grew up around it and we still serve it to guests,” said Al-Momen.
“I think it’s a nice thing that there is a growing interest in Saudi coffee.”
The Kingdom’s large youth population means that in the year of Saudi coffee, tradition is meeting innovation.
“They (the younger generation) took things from the older generation and gave it a modern touch with new additions,” said Abdullah Al-Shareef, who works at the Wide Awake cafe in Jeddah.
Al-Momen now works as a barista at local cafe Azha. Located in Jeddah’s House Hotel, the cafe serves a variety of teas, coffees and iced beverages, as well as croissants and desserts. Its Saudi coffee is served in a dallah, a traditional Arabic coffee pot, with dates.
“The Saudi coffee we offer is a specialty coffee that comes from expensively harvested beans, and we present it in a unique way,” he said.
Whole-roasted beans are ground and the entire recipe created from scratch, he added.
Typically, cardamom is the star of Saudi coffee, but recipes vary, with some adding cloves and saffron. Spices, beans and roasting method can vary, which means each outlet has its own coffee flavor.
At the Dubai Expo 2020, Sard Cafe offered guests a novel insight into the various types of Saudi coffee. Coffee blends from across 13 regions in the Kingdom were presented along with information cards explaining the characteristics of each.
“Coffee has become a culture,” Al-Shareef said, which means work as a barista can be highly lucrative for men and women in the Kingdom.
As the coffee industry grows in the Kingdom, government and private organizations are investing in a range of initiatives to support and expand the sector.
In July, the Saudi Culinary Arts Commission signed a cooperation agreement with the Saudi Coffee Co. on several initiatives to preserve the heritage of Saudi coffee.
Initiatives include a program to develop a media library and local culinary arts stories, as well as the designing and marketing of tourism routes to promote coffee plantations.
The partnership will support Saudi coffee events and festivals, issue licenses to coffee experts, encourage local production, promote the company’s products in digital shops specializing in Saudi culinary arts, and set standards for processing of coffee beans.
Through partnerships with authorities associated with Saudi coffee, the endeavor aims to develop the sector, improve the quality of coffee products, empower those working and investing in coffee, and share the Kingdom’s coffee heritage with the world.
JEDDAH: Coffee, the ubiquitous beverage, is as varied as the beans from which it is made.
Almost every country has its unique coffee recipe offering foreigners an insight into the culture.
The espresso originated in Italy, while drip coffee was developed in the US. And in an interesting confluence of cultures, the Americano first appeared in Italy thanks to American soldiers stationed there during the Second World War who found the espresso too strong for their taste.
There are variations in the type of coffee even within the same country. Cafe bombon and the cortado both originated in different parts of Spain. In India, South Indian filter coffee is known around the country for its milky-sweet blend of coffee and chicory.
Coffee connoisseurs analyze the origin of the beans, the freshness of the roast, the grind size and so on. But in certain parts of the world, particularly the Middle East, coffee goes beyond the bean.
Arabic coffee, or “qahwa,” differs from one country to another, with variations in the bean, roast, brew time and spices.
Saudi coffee is no exception and is distinguished by the addition of cardamom. In some regions, spices such as cloves and saffron are added to further enhance the flavor.
The drink is not suited to takeaway mugs and drinking “on the go,” but is an experience to be savored with every sip. In line with the Kingdom’s traditional hospitality, it is often served to guests paired with dates, dried fruits, nuts or chocolate.
However, the unique spiced coffee is not for everyone. American Micha J., 45, described it as an acquired taste. He found the flavors “different” from those he was used to, but has since grown to like it.
Rommel Gregore, 57, from the Philippines, said that the flavors “did not register well at first” — possibly because he was used to drinking instant coffee.
Saudi coffee is often served to guests at home, but is just as commonplace in the office.
Gregore was first introduced to it at work during a break, while Micha tasted it for the first time at a friend’s house, where it was served along with dates.
The distinctive taste of Saudi coffee has been transported across continents, with one Toronto cafe, Hailed (Arabic for “cardamom”), serving it to customers along with dates and a tahini dip.
Much like the Kingdom itself, Saudi coffee is increasingly gaining recognition around the region and the world.
Yerin, 27, from South Korea, told Arab News: “Some countries, such as Ethiopia, are well known for their tasty coffee beans, and some, like Italy, have specialty coffee.”
Still, they all taste the same to her. “But Arabic coffee is unique and totally different from others,” she said.