Dubai Post 23: A Traditional Saudi Business Dinner

The Najd Village is a must when in Riyadh.  It has seen
the likes of many celebrities such as IMF head, Christine Lagarde.
I had the pleasure of being able to experience a traditional Saudi Arabian business dinner my first night in Riyadh.  Andre (my sales rep) and I were invited to go out with a client that we recently signed a deal with.  Our main contact at the client dinner, Ali, took us to a traditional Saudi Arabian restaurant which is renowned in Riyadh.  Not only did I get to experience an authentic Saudi meal but I also had the pleasure to learn about the culture and country from Ali.

The restaurant, Najd Village, had a traditional Arabic feel as the walls were covered with mud and straw.  Since we were in Saudi Arabia, there were three different areas for patrons to sit in: the men area, women area and a family area.  The male sitting area was in the back of the restaurant in an al fresco style setting.  Surrounding the courtyard were blankets and pillows for customers to sit on while dining.  This eating arrangement is a little different than your expected table and chair. 

Passing the Kingdom Tower at night on the way to eat. 
The view of our sitting area after coffee and dates. 
Prior to sitting on the blanket, I had to take off my shoes which is customary at most arrangements in the Arab region.  You then can relax as the waiters bring pounds and pounds of food for everyone to share.  I do not know the exact dishes that I ate but it included kasba (meat with rice), naan (fluffy style pita bread), a few chicken dishes and a creamy yogurt milk.  As with any Saudi meal, we finished it off with dates which tasted like they were dipped in sugar and coffee which tasted like a sweet tea.  In order to stop being served coffee, you must shake you cup or else they keep pouring.  The last thing to know about a traditional meal is that you will most likely eat with your hands.  Make sure you only use your right as using the left can be viewed as offensive.

One of my favorite parts of the meal was the homemade
naan which is made in this small little room using the big black stones.
The food was delicious but it was actually talking with Ali which I enjoyed most.  He is an extremely intelligent individual and shared his thoughts and opinions on Saudi Arabia, business, history etc... It was an insightful experience and it really opened my eyes to the Saudi culture and Saudi nationals.  The most shocking aspect of our conversations was how open Ali was with us. He mentioned that this is a reoccurring theme amongst Saudi youth.
I not only had the privilege to speak with Ali over dinner but after as well.  It is very traditional in Saudi Arabia to stay out late into the night which is exactly what we did.  Usually Saudi Arabians nap after work and therefore eat a late dinner and might go for a shisha smoke after dinner (this explains the heavy traffic at 11PM).  We headed to one of the local Shisha spots and enjoyed some more coffee and good conversation.

The courtyard in the male seating area. 
It is not something I could do every night in Saudi Arabia as the food was very filling and I did not arrive back to the hotel until 2AM. However , it was an incredibly enjoyable experience and a night I will never forget.  

Two pounds heavier after a delicious meal. 


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