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Saudi Arabia - Food and Drink
There are numerous American franchises operating in the various cities, including McDonalds, Burger King, Little Caesars, Cinnabon, Pizza Hut, Subway, and Dunkin' Donuts. In addition to chains well-known in Europe and North America, there are some local businesses such as:
Al-Baik - fried chicken- in Jeddah, Mecca and Madinat-ul-Munawwarah, but not Riyadh
BAAK - Pizza (thin crust and quite good), fried chicken, lasagna, sandwiches
KUDU - Saudi sandwich chain
Herfy Burger - biggest fast food chain in the country, 100% Saudi owned
House of Donuts - "The Finest American Pastries" - a chain begun by Saudi students who studied in America
Villa d'Este Cafe - ( Luxury & small coffee shop ) with outdoor garden. Very special place. Al Kahayyat center 2-Tahlyah Street
Your local Saudi or expatriate host may be able to show you some places.
In the evenings, very affordable shawarma is available throughout medium to large cities.
For fine dining, most of the best restaurants are to be found in the larger international hotel chains.
Don't miss the chance to taste the Saudi version of felafel, also the Hummus. Both are wonderful snacks/foods.
Mirra (coffee made in bedouin style) is great, particularly drunk with fresh dates.
It's fair to say nobody comes to Saudi Arabia for the nightlife.
Alcoholic beverages are strictly forbidden throughout the country, although the police generally turn a blind eye to goings-on inside compounds for foreign expats, not a few of which have full-size English pubs serving up homebrew beer and wine on Wednesday nights. However, if they catch people involved in smuggling or distilling booze in quantity, then expat or not, Saudi law applies. A foreigner may not get the sentence a local would, but can expect a few days or weeks jail, public flogging, and deportation.
Do not drink and drive! is good advice anywhere, but especially in Saudi Arabia. If you have an accident, or otherwise attract police attention, the consequences might be serious indeed.
The locally-brewed white lightning called siddiqi (Arabic for "my friend") or just sid. In addition to being illegal, it's also extremely potent (anything up to 90-odd percent alcohol), remarkably unpalatable and may contain dangerous impurities.
As elsewhere in the Gulf, Saudis are big fans of various fruit juices, ranging from the ordinary (apple, orange) to the downright bizarre (banana-lemon-milk-walnut, anyone?).
Non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic drinks are popular. Two of the most common are Saudi champagne, basically apple juice and Sprite or soda water, and malt beverages, ie. non-alcoholic beer, always sweet and often strongly flavored with mango, strawberry, apple, lemon etc essences. You can even get apple-flavored Budweiser!
Tap water in the major cities is considered safe, although it's not always particularly tasty, and in the summer can be very hot. Bottled water is readily available and cheap at SR2 or less for a 1.5L bottle.
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