What was the most impressive element upon my arrival in Riyadh? No need to say it, it was the temperature. I arrived on Sept. 3, 2015 and had the unpleasant feeling that I could no longer breathe. I had been previously warned by my husband but the stand-alone experience itself was a real shock. Still, this phenomenon is not a unique one and the sensation also appears in other places in the world, doesn’t it?
So what next, perhaps the traffic due to the number of cars, the workers from the Metro and the undisciplined drivers? Again, this cannot be a truly specific characteristic of any country around the world, but what surprised me the most is that drivers here even push their luck further by constantly checking their Facebook while driving; or even worse, watching a movie while driving! Of course, not when they are parked waiting for their passengers, no, only when they conveniently overtake your car from the right side because after all why not?!
I am not one for shopping and chit-chat, so I started meeting various business men and quickly gathered that all of them are highly educated, amazingly experienced and of great open-mindedness. What truly holds the greatest importance for me is meeting different people from all walks of life and allowing me to experience their different brains and characters. Of course that includes expatriates living in Riyadh and locals who I had the pleasure of meeting and just as easily, exceed my expectations.
What an amazing place to live!!
There is, of course, a hidden face to the moon.
Mostly, what disappointed me was that I cannot enjoy all the beautiful clothes I have in my wardrobe. Why? Simply because it would be a joke to dress up while I am staying in my compound, and when I am running my errands I am in my abaya so it is pointless. How ironic for a girl who once upon a time worked for designers many, many years ago!!
The opportunity to dress up arises during coffee mornings; when a bunch of ladies go up and organise coffee mornings to show off their beautiful new dresses or coats, shirts and new pair of jeans, jumpers or sweaters. There is no need here to focus on an attire you could have worn in a previous life. You may nevertheless find yourself wearing long dresses and cocktail gowns that you could have never imagined before. At the Princesses Souk you will find as many dresses as the eye can see. KSA is definitely a country with top-notch market opportunities in terms of fashion designers and apparel.
As you can see; positive attitude is essential and detrimental to finding ways to make out the best of everything.
All I can say is welcome to Riyadh, and don’t be afraid to explore what you have never faced before.
Don’t miss “My Second Impression” of Riyadh in the May WSB Newsletter!
When I heard a friend recommend The Acoustic Tea Lounge, the name alone arose my curiosity and I decided to put it on my “to do list”.
I went for Saturday lunch with a friend. Located right next to Fauchon on Tahlia, it’s quite easy to find. Open from 9:30am to 12pm every day, it offers an extensive breakfast, lunch and dinner menu. Friday brunch is also available. The Lounge presents a different artist every month, typically showcasing Saudi and foreign painters and photographers. Currently the photos of Khalid Al Sudairy (a Saudi photographer) are on display.
While I was waiting for my friend, I got the chance to meet the owner, Samer Alhashim, who very graciously answered my questions and gave me some background information.
My first question was about the name…why Acoustic?
“Because I love the guitar and I hope one day to have a live guitar player,” she replied.
When I came in, some songs by the famous Lebanese singer Fayrouz were playing in the background. There was music throughout our lunch.
The atmosphere was relaxed and welcoming. The lounge is open and bright. There are no partitions, not even on request. When I asked Samer about the separation between Singles Section and Family Section, she replied, “If somebody wants a partition, we say sorry, we don’t have any.” The décor is modern, tasty and cozy.
Samer explained that she first opened a similar lounge in Al Khobar in 2007 and then in Riyadh in 2014. “There is no way I could have opened a place without partitions and with music in Riyadh back in 2007,” she explained. Listening to her comments, I thought it was proof again that Riyadh is changing.
Samer recommended the Rose Latte and offered the croissants (plain and pistachio, the Isphana with saffron was not available unfortunately) on the house. The Rose Latte (coffee latte with rose water and a rose bud on top) was so good that we each had two. They were served with a delicious fine biscotto.
The croissants were deliciously fresh and crisp yet not too sweet. We then decided to try the Ottoman Morning (Shashooka poached eggs in tomato salsa with warm pita breads), very good too. A small dish of exquisite ground cumin was served along and gave a very nice enhanced flavor to the dish.
Finally we opted for the beetroot tartare (yogurt, walnuts and mint), served with warm bread and breadsticks. The portions are quite generous so we decided to stop there but will definitely go back.
The menu is quite extensive, offering healthy breakfast options (granola parfait, white omelette), Arabian pancakes, nice coffee and tea selection, sandwiches and freshly baked pastries.
The lunch and dinner menu offers salads, pasta and risotto, pizza, chicken quesadilla, avocado and beetroot tartare and much more. The desert menu is very appealing too, with 4 kinds of cheesecake, chocolate fondue, brownies, mille feuille etc
It was a very pleasant experience, the staff was efficient and friendly, and Samer told us the Greek chef will soon offer a new menu with low calorie dishes.
Check out www.acoustic-tealounge.com and acoustictealounge on Instagram.
Mrs. Jenny Canar is a very highly motivated person. Every morning I see her at school, walking with confidence, smiling big to everyone, beaming with positivity and energy. It was a sunny Monday morning, when I was interviewing her, listening to her saying that “There is ALWAYS a way.” My hope here is that we all learn to be “fearless optimistics.”
Jenny Canar is Elementary School Principal at the American International School of Riyadh.
Jenny, could you please tell us a bit about yourself.
I grew up in a very small town in Chicago. I was always a very studious student and I ALWAYS wanted to work with kids. I started at the University of Iowa, and then I transferred to Illinois State University, graduated from there and did my student teaching in England in Brighton University.
I taught in the States for three years. My first international experience as a teacher was in Berlin, Germany, for two years. Then I had another two years of teaching experience in the International school of Indonesia.
I started my Masters through a college in New Jersey which had a satellite program in Majorca, Spain and I completed my Masters there, while I was working at Shanghai International American School. It was there that I met Dr. Brain Matthews, who is currently our superintendent. It was meeting him and having him as a professor for a class on supervision, when I started thinking about moving to Riyadh. I’ve been here now for six years. I started as the assistant principal, and have been the principal for the past five years. I love everything we do here. So I think I’ll be here for a while.
What have been your challenges as a principal?
As a principal, one of the initial challenges that I faced was definitely building relationships. When I became the principal, my first mission was to keep the trust built by the principal prior to me, intact. Our school had already established itself as a wonderful learning community and I wanted to ensure that the reputation continued.
I met with parents because I wanted them to understand that here is a person who is very serious about her job and very serious about wanting an environment for children to learn and to grow and be happy.
When you’re working with adults with different cultures and working with children who carry those same cultural differences you must have TOLERANCE and you must be accepting. Here, I’ve learned some knowledge of PATIENCE, so what WAS a challenge in the beginning, ended up making me become a better person.
What do you consider to be your strengths?
I have this attitude that there is always a way. There is always a way to solve a problem and there is always a way to make something better.
And I am NOT afraid of challenges. In order to really have an organization grow, you need to be constantly prepared to make changes. And sometimes those changes create some hardships. I want to make sure that everyone is armed with what they need in order to be successful, and when we have a little roadblock, I want that roadblock to be dealt with swiftly and painlessly.
I consider myself to be very enthusiastic. I’d say that my most unique quality is my very high level of ENERGY, which always motivates me. I don’t tire easily and this quality helps me a lot in leading the elementary school forward.
What does success mean for you, Jenny?
There is a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson which I tend to repeat to myself and it’s the definition of success also for me:
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”
As an expatriate in Riyadh it can be challenging to discover all the opportunities that this city has to offer, including employment and volunteer opportunities.
That said, WSB is constantly impressed with how resourceful the expatriate community is and their desire to promote and advertise their services and products.
The WSB FIND & BE FOUND 2016 on April 19th is the perfect chance to come and find the opportunities Riyadh has to offer and be found by showcasing your services, products and potential employment or volunteer opportunities.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to have a table at Find & Be Found.
TUESDAY, 19 APRIL 2016
9:00 AM – 11:30 AM
COST: 50 SAR
Advanced registration is required. Please register here. Location map will be provided upon registration. For further inquiries, please contact us at email@example.com.
Have you ever wondered about the sugar content or hidden sugar in your favorite snacks and drinks? Take the Starbucks Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha for example. It contains 660 calories, which is equivalent to 8 scoops of creamy coffee ice cream. Would you still order it now for you? Would you let your kids order it?
Some people think it’s not the same, since it’s liquid. A drink can’t have the same sugar content nor calorie count. It doesn’t make you fill full (except briefly after the sugar high you’re likely to experience).
How many of us pay attention to the ingredients of the food and drinks we order or buy? Give it a try though, you’ll be surprised. Most information is available on the internet. Sure, a vanilla latte once in a while won’t create that much damage…but one every day, added to other sources of sugar? Think about it.
The Dangers to your Health and Waistline
Sugar is highly addictive. It is loaded and hidden in almost all processed food (from cheese spread to cookies, from pretzels to soft drinks…) and contributes to obesity, cardiovascular diseases, kidney disease, diabetes, high blood pressure… not to mention extra kilos or obesity.
A few tips to guide you:
- Labels list ingredients by weight. If sugar is among the first 3 ingredients on the label, skip it.
- Avoid HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup), used in highly processed food (including bread and other staples) to sweeten it and added to other types of sugar.
- Sugar comes under different names (dextrose, glucose etc).
Here is an example:
Sugar is listed as the second ingredient (so this product should be avoided anyway), but on top of it, there are HFCS, mono and diglycerides, all different types of sugar. Add a coffee drink (with cream or ice cream) to one or two wafers; can you imagine how much sugar is dumped in your system?
- Avoid low fat products as the loss of flavor is often compensated by a sugar boost. This does not apply to plain dairy products though.
As a conclusion, we all need sugar, but in moderation and under its natural form if possible: honey, dark chocolate, fruit and fruit juice. Limit your sugar intake and if need be, have it in the morning (it gives your body more time to process it then later in the afternoon or evening). Combine sugar and fibers (an apple is perfect) as it slows down the sugar release in your body.
As Oscar Wilde said, and I could not agree more, “Everything in Moderation including Moderation.”
Today I made my first miso soup from scratch at home. Miso soup is a Japanese dish made of dried seaweed, green onions, tofu, soy sauce and miso paste.
I realized with surprise and pleasure that all these ingredients were not available in supermarkets here seven years ago when I arrived in Saudi. Now they are available. True, I often have to go to different supermarkets as I don’t find all ingredients in one place, but even that is rapidly changing.
You see, I’ve always been specific about my eating. I became a vegetarian when I was a teenager and over the years have explored being vegan, pescatarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, organic, plant based, low carbs, high protein…but always with the same goal of eating clean and healthy and finding what works best for me.
Coming from Hong Kong where I lived before and where all types of foods and cuisines were available (we had delicious and fresh cheap sushi from the supermarket at least once a week), arriving in Riyadh was a challenge. No meat, no processed food for me, limited carbs…I struggled. I’d go to Carrefour for specific French products, Tamimi for American ones, Danube or Lulu for gluten free and organic items.
Today most big supermarkets have a “health food” or “gluten-free/organic” section. It’s expensive and not always worth it, but the options are much wider and allow people with specific diets to find what they need.
I recently had friends over for dinner and two of them are allergic to gluten. I was happy to find kale and chia chips for them (served with hummus), buckwheat crackers to replace bread (with cheese) and they were so happy.
It’s the same with restaurants. Seven years ago we rarely went out to eat. The lack of atmosphere, average food and service and partitions that made us feel like we were eating in a box, all these things were big turn-offs.
Today the foodie scene in Riyadh is booming and improving. There are more options, new restaurants with ambience, great food and service, lovely décor and atmosphere. Some even play music! There are partitions, on request, but not compulsory. The menus have options for people like me and customer service has improved tremendously. It’s not on the menu? Ask! In most cases the waiters/chef will try to accommodate your requests.
Recently, we were out working late and felt like eating at home but I didn’t feel like cooking. We stopped at a recently opened shopping arcade near Mecca Road, ordered pizza from one place, salad bowls and soup from another then quickly popped in the supermarket to do our grocery shopping . Ten minutes later the food was ready and we were home watching a movie with delicious fresh food. It felt so good and it was delicious! We spent SR100 for two.
Social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Foursquare etc. also help find information, get reviews, compare options and share with friends.
So go about town and explore!
Miso Soup Recipe can be found here!
Nestled among the long expanse of Takhassussi’s burger joints and confectionary shops, but just before the looming Financial District is a new fitness gem in town. In its fifth week, FitZone offers women another gym alternative among the growing fitness mindset in Riyadh for women.
FitZone is on the first floor of the Learning Zone – a hard-to-miss colorful building that offers various activities for toddlers and adolescents including art, science, sports and coming soon a nursery for even the tiniest fitness enthusiast. After you enter the building, walk past the front desk to the right and head toward the stairs (there is an elevator as well). My initial impression was like that of anyone who receives a brand new phone, TV or designer bag – awe and hesitation to touch anything, but eager to try everything!
Gym Manager, Agne, gave me a tour of the new facility pointing out its fluidity with glass enclosed studios with carefully placed frosted waves, all in a calculated design effort to convey a sense of openness, tranquility and relaxation.
In addition to the studios, women have an area on the second floor that is reminiscent of an outdoor cafe. With a light and airy atmosphere, the room offers various seating options including an outdoor space that will hopefully be a regular home to some open-air yoga sessions. This common area has a coffee bar and barista available for a pre- or post-workout healthy snack.
It’s a very intimate setting, but that’s what differentiates FitZone. Rather than the en masse fitness corporate mindset, FitZone has a philosophy of keeping classes small so everyone receives necessary attention, which is key to any successful fitness regime – form over everything else!
FitZone has seven instructors including three Saudi women offering a diverse and dynamic environment. Classes vary including the mainstays of Zumba, Step and Pilates to the more contemporary UGI, Suspension Training, HIIT and soon Air Yoga. Agne confided that there are more surprises waiting for those eager to participate in the latest fitness trends! In addition to their group exercises, FitZone has state-of-the-art machines – one of the first women’s facilities I’ve seen with actual, legitimate Stairmill – including elliptical, treadmills, as well as other standard equipment.
As someone who appreciates the outdoors and doesn’t live on a compound, FitZone certainly alleviates the sense of claustrophobia that is sometimes present in women-only facilities. The rooms are cozy, the largest studio is meant to accommodate 20-25 participants maximum. Others like the suspension training studio are meant to have 8-10 students.
Working women who would like a reprieve from sitting all day or staring at a computer screen and get a vigorous workout in the middle of the day have no fear! Showers are readily available accompanied by beauty tools to ensure you can return fresh and fit!
In collaboration with the Learning Zone, FitZone offers women and their children a facility that accommodates the busiest of schedules.
As such, I’m sure classes will start to fill up once this gem is uncovered, so take advantage of this opportunity while you can! FitZone continually offers promotions on classes and membership, so be sure to follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!
Opened: January 2016
Location: First Floor, The Learning Zone
The Women’s Skills Bureau is excited to host the first Survive and Thrive workshop for 2016! Survive and Thrive workshops are designed to give you support and guidance on how to live a fulfilling expat life in Riyadh. Even if you are not new to Saudi, join other expats to learn how to get the most out of life here. Expats from various backgrounds, skill levels and expertise can offer some new information and different insight to even the most veteran of residents!
Come and talk with some of Riyadh’s specialists on expat life and Riyadh orientation. Get advice and hear experiences from those who have thrived. This is an opportunity to ask questions and get answers!
This event will be:
Wednesday, 10 February 2016
7:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Cost: 100 SAR
Advanced registration is required. Due to the location’s restrictions, regretfully Saudi nationals are not permitted.
Please register here. For further inquiries, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Name: Zenah Kazim
Business Created: 2010
Can you tell us a little about Scrumptious?
I founded Scrumptious in 2013, it is a home based organic dessert bakery which caters to everyone wanting to indulge their senses in our yummy yet organic and healthy desserts. I also bake desserts that are gluten and sugar free which are in high demand.
How did you all arrive at the decision to set up Scrumptious?
Coming from a multi cultural family background whereby I grew up in the United States then moved to Dubai to do my bachelors in marketing. I then moved to Riyadh after getting married and decided that the active person I am had to do something with my time. Something I enjoyed doing (my other outlet was Tango dancing, a hobby I picked up while living in Dubai) And I found myself spending long hours in the kitchen baking …and that is when the idea came up with friends and family motivating me as well. I am also proud to say Scrumptious also participated in charity events like Qudra volunteers, Kore studios charity events and a charity event for Syrian refugees.
What challenges have you faced in building and running your business?
The biggest challenge was when I became pregnant; I had to stop baking because standing on my feet for long hours was causing me major back aches so I took a year off from Scrumptious. And to be honest I was scared that my customers will forget or find a replacement for their cravings!
After delivering my baby and settling in I decided to give it a shot and bring Scrumptious back to life, receiving all these amazing messages from my loyal customers helped me get back on my feet and restart scrumptious that of course made me more than happy.
I realized there will be a risk in every business but the challenge is to keep it alive and spiced up. I do have weekly specials that keep my customers interested but they certainly say “your cookies and churros are the best in town.”
How do you normally reach people with advertising or information?
I normally depend on Instagram and word of mouth; I have participated in different events like Luthan, and Ama Art Venue which was a big exposure for Scrumptious come-back.
Share with us your business plans and goals for the future?
My dream was to have an ice cream truck that sells Scrumptious desserts instead of ice cream however I do not think it is legal in Riyadh…maybe someday. For now, I am happy working from home. It is convenient for me, especially since I can be with my son.
If you’re hungry for more, visit Zenah and Scrumptious on Instagram!