The cafe that is bringing a taste of Saudi Arabia to South Korea

Alaa Mandora launched her cafe, All in a Cup, in 2016 in Seoul to offer customers authentic food and drinks from Saudi Arabia. (AN photo by Deema Al-Khudair)
Updated 12 July 2019

The cafe that is bringing a taste of Saudi Arabia to South Korea

  • It is the first venue in South Korea to offer customers authentic food and drinks from the heart of the Saudi desert, Mandora says

JEDDAH: A Saudi restaurant in South Korea has proved so successful that its owner has been forced to find bigger premises.

Alaa Mandora moved to Seoul seven years ago. The 33-year-old from Saudi Arabia graduated from the city’s Sogang University with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, and worked for an information technology company for a year before launching her cafe, All in a Cup, in 2016.

It is the first venue in South Korea to offer customers authentic food and drinks from the heart of the Saudi desert, according to Mandora.

“All in a Cup embodies the dining culture of Saudi Arabia, where people leisurely enjoy each other’s company around a cup of Arabic coffee, sweets and a meal in the same establishment and in no particular order, which is quite different from the Korean dining culture,” she said. “Our cafe style represents this culture, offering a variety of home-cooked dishes meticulously and lovingly prepared by the Saudi chef and owner. Most of the dishes we offer come from the west side of Saudi Arabia, Hijaz. A few of our popular dishes are Aish Abu Laham, Kabab Mero, Saleeq and Kabsa.”

Mandora had long dreamed of opening a restaurant, even before she traveled to South Korea to study on a scholarship.

“After obtaining my MBA, my dream only got bigger, and I started seeing business opportunities in what had become my second home at this point,” she said. “I had noticed just how little variety and few options Saudis working and studying here had when it came to halal dining options.

BACKGROUND

All in a Cup opened in 2016 as a small coffee shop, with a menu that grew from three dishes to a full weekly menu. Thanks to positive word-of-mouth within the Arab community, the number of customers increased to the point where it became difficult to accommodate them in a small space, so owner Alaa Mandora decided to move to a larger venue.

“I understood their concerns all too well and knew that I could do something about it to make their lives a little easier. I wanted to give them a little taste of something closer to home when homesickness hit, as it often does for expatriates.

“However, I didn’t just want to cater to Arab people, I also wanted to inspire greater curiosity for Arab and Saudi culture among Koreans, starting with something people can always agree on: great soul food.

“We’re proud that we created a place not only where Arab people could relax, socialize and have fun, but we also created a welcoming and open environment where Koreans could also relax and mingle with other cultures, all around something as simple as a cup of coffee.”

Many of the Koreans who had never tried Saudi cuisine, and thought the flavors would not appeal to them, were pleasantly surprised.

“We had a number of Korean customers who were so impressed they became regular customers and would make it their goal to try everything on the menu,” said Mandora. “What really touched us was how curious they were; every time they’d visit, they’d come armed with more questions about Saudi spices, the cooking methods and just Saudi culture in general.”

She added that interacting with Saudis in such a relaxed environment allowed Korean customers not only to build friendships, but also learn about Saudi culture from a local’s perspective.

“It helped foster more understanding about Arabic culture and Islam as well; for example, understanding why we shut off the cafe’s music during prayer times,” said Mandora. “Quite a few customers also showed interested in learning simple Arabic words such as shukran (thank you) or lazeez (tasty), and were quite happy to use them with me.”


Disney tops earnings estimates ahead of streaming launch

Updated 10 November 2019

Disney tops earnings estimates ahead of streaming launch

  • Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s studio operation
  • Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox
SAN FRANCISCO: Walt Disney on Thursday reported better-than-expected quarterly results, fueled by the release of blockbuster films “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” as it prepared for its new streaming television service.
Disney profit in the recently ended quarter was $1.05 billion, down from $2.3 billion a year ago, on revenue that grew 34 percent to $19.1 billion.
The slump in profits came as Disney absorbed key film and television operations of 21st Century Fox and geared up for its launch of the streaming service Disney+ that aims to compete globally against Netflix and others.
“We’ve spent the last few years completely transforming The Walt Disney Company to focus the resources and immense creativity across the entire company on delivering an extraordinary direct-to-consumer experience,” said Disney chief executive Robert Iger.
“We’re excited for the launch of Disney+ on November 12.”
Iger said the company reached a deal for the service to be on Amazon’s Fire TV platform, the latest distribution agreement for Disney+.
Disney shares were up more than five percent in after-market trading following release of the earnings figures.
Revenues in the past quarter were boosted by a 52 percent rise in Disney’s studio operations with box office hits “The Lion King,” “Toy Story 4” and “Aladdin” fueling gains.
The entertainment giant expects revenue in the current quarter to be boosted by the forthcoming release of a sequel to “Frozen” and the final installment of the “Star Wars” film saga.
It will thereafter take a “hiatus” from “Star Wars” box office films but has an array of spin-off shows planned exclusively for its streaming service.
Disney has become the biggest Hollywood player with the acquisition of studio and TV assets from Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.
However, integrating Fox into Disney has cost more than expected and the newly added studios have brought in less money than hoped.
Disney saw smaller revenue gains in its cable and broadcasting operations as well as its theme park division.
Iger would not disclose details of pre-sales of Disney+ subscriptions, but said the price — $6.99 monthly — has met with “great enthusiasm” by consumers.
The Disney+ online streaming service will debut in the United States, Canada and the Netherlands before gradually expanding internationally in Europe then rolling out worldwide.
Its films and TV shows will be available, along with the library it acquired from 21st Century Fox. That includes the “Star Wars” and Marvel superhero franchises and ABC television content.
Disney+ will also combine offerings from powerhouse brands including Pixar, with content from Hulu and sports network ESPN.
Apple last week launched a streaming television service that features a budding library of original shows starring big-name celebrities, aimed at winning over its gadget lovers at home and on the go.
The Apple TV+ on-demand streaming service launched in more than 100 countries at $4.99 per month.
Original Apple TV+ shows have so far been met with lukewarm early reviews, but the low subscription price and an offer of year-long memberships free with purchase of the company’s devices was expected to encourage viewers to tune in.
Netflix, meanwhile, has budgeted $15 billion this year for original shows, on top of the billions it has devoted to exclusive productions in recent years.
Amazon, which has deep pockets thanks to its e-commerce and cloud services, has also poured cash into original shows for its Prime Video service.
This sets up a potential spending war among the major streaming players, according to analysts.
Even more competition looms on the horizon, with AT&T’s Warner Media to launch its “HBO Max” in early 2020 after reclaiming the rights from Netflix to stream its popular television comedy “Friends.”
NBCUniversal’s Peacock service is also launching next year.