TheFace: Mezna Al-Marzooqi, assistant professor at King Saud University

Mezna Al-Marzooqi (right) and her mother. (AN photo by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 18 October 2019

TheFace: Mezna Al-Marzooqi, assistant professor at King Saud University

I am from a middle-class family; my father was a businessman and my mother taught illiterate adults how to read and write.

I am also a middle child, the third among three sisters and two brothers. My oldest brother died in 2007, and my father passed away a year after that. My mother is the resilient one in the family and she managed to hold us all together. I learned a lot about life and love from my Mama.

She showered us in unconditional love, letting me pursue my education and giving me the freedom to travel.

She is also very enthusiastic about helping others through volunteer work and she expects nothing in return.

One incident that really had a big impact on me was when she supported my uncle with the running of his date factory and brought in low-income families to help them find jobs.

Her passion to help others has inspired me to keep on giving. She is my biggest source of inspiration and I hope one day I can be like her.

My family moved around a lot as I was growing up. I was born in Alkhobar, but we moved to Buqayq and lived on a farm, something my father encouraged as he was very outdoorsy.

When I was in elementary school, I remember regularly walking to my aunt’s house in Alkhobar. She worked for Saudi Aramco, and there were a lot of communities and sports clubs that I joined in with. I have fond memories of attending karate classes with my cousins and getting my yellow belt during my sixth grade.

During high school, we moved to Al-Ahsa, and I later applied to King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh, where I studied medical science and health education.

I then traveled to the US to pursue a master’s degree in public health. I was fortunate enough to be accepted for a six-month training program with the World Health Organization (WHO). Working with a big, multicultural team, I learned a lot, especially from my supervisor.

After gaining my master’s degree, I returned to Saudi Arabia where I was recruited by KSU. I had signed my contract with the university while in America through its program of attracting outstanding professors and researchers.

After teaching for one year at KSU, I went to Australia for four years to do my Ph.D.

I now live in Riyadh working full time as an assistant professor teaching public health in the community health science department at KSU’s applied medical science college.

My research is currently focused on physical activity, especially for female school students and those at college level. One of my projects is aimed at increasing physical activity awareness among small female students and physical literacy, another area I am trying to add to my research. The Kingdom has few women in this field, so I would love to help as many Saudi female researchers as I can.

My family, mother, sisters, brother, niece and nephew remain my top priorities. I believe that life is short so live moments to the full, enjoy life and do all things possible to bring peace to my community.

I am passionate about having harmony with the people around me. Community members may have different attitudes or views, but they all have the same human feelings.

My favorite quote is by Jiddu Krishnamurti (Indian philosopher) who said: “Self-knowledge has no end — you don’t come to an achievement; you don’t come to a conclusion. It is an endless river.”

I have never regretted the career path I’ve taken. I love what I’m doing and am glad to spend my free time engaged in community work and helping others, as my mother has always done. 


LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

Updated 15 December 2019

LA Italian eatery Madeo delights the palate in Riyadh Season pop-up

  • Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one

RIYADH: Renowned Italian restaurant Madeo has opened up in Al-Murabba for Riyadh Season. 

The pop-up has started brightly, and head chef Gianni Vietina invited Arab News to sample the menu and chat about his experience.

Vietina, in Saudi Arabia for the first time, said that he loved the location he had set up in, and was very happy to be opening up in the Kingdom. 

“The location is gorgeous. At night, with all the lights on, the music going, it’s very nice.”

Despite minor setbacks he faced while setting up, Vietina considers the experience to be a positive one and that the response was even better than he had expected. 

“Like anything new, you have quests, you have problems. Up to now, we’re doing pretty good. We are up and running. We’re comfortable now, which is a shame as we’re leaving pretty soon,” he said.

He added that he would repeat the experience in a heartbeat if he could: “They were nice enough to ask me to stay in Saudi a little longer, but I can’t. I need to go back home. But I would love to come back.”

He said that while he was not planning to open up a permanent restaurant in Saudi Arabia, he would not rule it out completely.  “I’ve been offered options, and friends have offered to show me locations while I’m here, but I can’t do it right now, I just opened a new restaurant two months ago,” he said.

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like.”

Gianni Vietina, Head chef of Madeo

The pop-up’s menu contains most of what the original restaurant offers, including his ever-popular penne madeo and spaghetti bolognese, with the chefs using a combination of imported and locally sourced ingredients. 

“I chose the dishes that I know that most of the Saudis that visit my restaurant in Los Angeles like,” he told Arab News.

For the pop-up, Vietina has stuck to using halal and alcohol-free ingredients. 

“It was challenging at the beginning. But the bolognese at Madeo doesn’t contain pork, and I realized after we tried cooking without wine that almost nothing changed. I actually prefer it,” he said.

Madeo is a favorite of Saudis visiting Los Angeles, with Vietina going so far as to describe the restaurant as a “Little Riyadh” on most evenings between July and September. 

He even recognizes some of the customers who have come into the Riyadh pop-up, and always stops over to greet them.

Upon sampling the menu, it’s easy to see why the food at Madeo has remained popular all these years. 

The eggplant parmigiana is a perfect blend of crusty cheese and silky smooth eggplant, with hints of basil and rosemary. 

The bolognese is rich, meaty and decadent, without being too heavy and greasy. And the penne madeo, which Vietina has been eating since his childhood, is a timeless classic of crushed tomato, basil, finished off with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano for a creamy, rich flavor.