Review: Sleep app Loóna will give you a restful night

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Updated 12 August 2022

Review: Sleep app Loóna will give you a restful night

Having good, uninterrupted, and peaceful sleep is essential for proper health because that is when the body is in recovery mode, a good sleep, or lack of it, directly affects the immune system.

A lack of good sleep has become a common problem with the overuse of mobile phones and poor lifestyle choices.

I found an app that improved my quality of sleep so much. Loóna introduces calming activities to keep and hold your focus long enough to slow down your racing thoughts. It takes you to sleepscape visuals with the theme of your choice: Oriental garden, fairytale castle, legendary temple, serene glade, a secluded harbor at night, or tranquil suburbs.

The sleepscape sounds are divided into five categories: Nature (campfire, rustling leaves, nighttime), water (rain, waves, river), wildlife (chirps, cicadas, whales), urban (coffee shop, humming downtown), and ASMR (vinyl crackle, cat purring, raindrops). You can choose your narrative style: Realistic, fairytale, sentimental, mysterious, nostalgic, and adventure.

After choosing the preferred themes and sounds for the customized sleepscape, you set your sleep schedule, your bedtime, and when you wake up. It counts your sleep duration and starts powering down for bed around your desired bedtime.  

So, if you choose to have your bedtime at 10:30 p.m. Loóna will gradually relax your mind around 9:30 p.m. through a wind-down zone. At 10:30 p.m., you leave your phone, stay away from bright lights, and fall asleep to the sleepscape stories. When you wake up at 8:00 a.m., you gently transition from being asleep to being awake. I enjoyed the interactive and calming activity the first time I used it. It was a 15-minute dive into Chinese myths and legends where I focused on coloring paper lanterns, origami birds, the shrine, and the dragon. It quietened my mind.

I played a calming story afterward and dozed off to sleep.


Where We Are Going Today: Shurekie bakery in Jeddah

Updated 18 November 2022

Where We Are Going Today: Shurekie bakery in Jeddah

Saudi cuisine offers a wide array of bread and pastries, which vary according to the Kingdom’s many regions, including samoli, gursan, fatoot, tamees, tannouri, and shurek, to name a few.

Shurekie is a newly opened Saudi bakery in the Al-Rawdah district of Jeddah that offers shurek, a traditional Hijazi bread made in Madinah, with a modern twist.

The bread is coated with sesame seeds, which gives it its distinctive taste.

The demand for this type of bread increases during Ramadan as it is served with yogurt as a daily ritual for breakfast in the Prophet’s Mosque of Madinah.

Maintaining the texture of the original recipe, Shurekie adjusted the traditional shape to resemble a bagel, which it offers with delicious fillings such as halloumi, turkey, roast beef and tuna.

Shurekie also offers fatoot and suhaira, which is another type of shurek made with milk and chickpeas, as well as different kinds of flavored biscuits, cakes and cheesecakes.

To complement the traditional experience, Shurekie offers a combination box featuring six different Hijazi-inspired dips and condiments of your choice including cheeses, olives, pickles and jams.

The bakery also offers hot and cold drinks, including coffee, tea and kombucha.

For more details and information, visit the Instagram page


What We Are Eating Today: Get the vacation vibes at Brekkie in Riyadh

Updated 26 October 2022

What We Are Eating Today: Get the vacation vibes at Brekkie in Riyadh

While summer is officially over, one of Riyadh’s newest breakfast spots recreates those crisp vacation morning vibes complete with delicious dishes that will get you out of bed easily for just a taste.

Reminiscent of laid-back eateries straight from Bali, Brekkie All Day Brunch and Cafe carries a tropical feel with its bamboo ceiling, woven-back chairs, and accent greenery wall. The modest restaurant makes you feel as if you’re sitting down for an experience rather than a meal.

The joint offers a wide variety of plates, including Western and Eastern takes on various dishes. For an indulgent meal, they recommend the scrambled mess, a combination of avocado, sweet potatoes, and eggs, nuanced by hints of sweet paprika, or the farmer’s breakfast, a similar concept dish with fried eggs and hash browns, drizzled with date syrup.

The double-layered Brekkie tostada is a fine take on the traditional Mexican breakfast: A crunchy toasted tortilla topped with a sunny-side-up egg, mashed avocado, beans and sour cream, garnished with some fresh coriander. It’s the perfect selection for someone looking for a light but filling meal.

For those born with a morning sweet tooth, their caramelized banana or sticky toffee French toast are the perfect starters to your day, made with sweet and thick brioche bread. The two dishes are perfect for the autumn season, garnished with candied nuts and smooth maple syrup.

Their offerings also include a variety of Middle Eastern-style dishes, like roasted pepper moutabel and foul moudames mezzes as well as types of shakshuka dishes.

Their mid-range prices make it the perfect place to have a weekend brunch with a big group. Whether you need an ambient place to get some solo work done or gather a few friends for some quality time, Brekkie will not disappoint.

While their coffee offerings are not the best in town and the waiting period is quite long on weekends, Brekkie makes up for it with flavorful, exciting and fresh meals and a summer vacation ambience.

Their branch on Abu Bakr Al-Siddiq Road, currently the only one in Riyadh, welcomes diners from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit their Instagram

In southern Philippines, special ‘black stew’ offers taste of local Muslim culture

Updated 22 October 2022

In southern Philippines, special ‘black stew’ offers taste of local Muslim culture

  • Tiyula itum takes dark color from charred coconut powder
  • Dish is often served during festivities, including holy fasting month of Ramadan

ZAMBOANGA CITY: As she tosses charred coconut powder into a bowl of marinated beef, Yolanda Adrias prepares a special dish that is not only a famous southwestern Philippine delicacy, but also a gateway to the cultural identity of one of the region’s largest Muslim ethnic groups.

The dish, tiyula itum, means black stew in the language of the Tausug people, who live primarily in the southwestern parts of the Mindanao island group — in Sulu and Zamboanga.

Though not a native member of the Tausug community, 28-year-old Adrias, a gourmet cook of Philippine cuisines, has mastered tiyula itum to perfection, gaining some fame in Zamboanga where she works.

“Our Tausug neighbors here would request me to cook it for them,” she told Arab News as she began to saute onion, garlic and lemongrass to intensify the flavor of the dish.

She then adds beef and brings it to a boil, mixing in chili to produce the spicy kick that many people love about the stew.

Left to simmer for a while until the meat becomes soft, the ingredients soon take on color from the charred coconut, turning black in the process.

Sometimes known as “royal beef stew” and historically linked to the dining rooms of the Sultanate of Sulu, which existed until the early 20th century, tiyula itum is nowadays served on special occasions such as weddings or religious festivals closely linked with Tausug traditions.

“It’s our identity,” Jainab Abdulmajid, who used to work as provincial tourism officer in Sulu, told Arab News. “If you want to know the Tausug culture, you have to embrace our delicacy.”

For the family of Gamaria Abubakar Bawasanta, a former civil servant in Sulu, tiyula itum is a staple dish during the fasting month.

“Most Tausug families serve that dish during Ramadan,” the 59-year-old said. “It’s part of our culture.”

To some, it is also the ultimate comfort food, and one that brings a sense of belonging.

Ismael Bantilano, a taxi driver in Zamboanga, would always make a stop at Kim-Rise, a restaurant famous for tiyula itum, to feel better whenever he is feeling low or under the weather.

“If someone from the family has a cough or cold, the soup is a good remedy,” he said, recounting how during his childhood, the stew would bring him relief during illness.

But Bantilano’s strongest memory of the distinct flavor of tiyula itum is related to his late mother, who would await his return from school to serve the dish.

“It’s my comfort food,” he said. “I can’t live without having it whenever I am craving.”


What We Are Reading Today: ‘A Spoonful of Home’ by Rania Moualla

Updated 22 October 2022

What We Are Reading Today: ‘A Spoonful of Home’ by Rania Moualla

Rania Moualla, the founder of Saudi culinary academy ZaDK, is happiest in the kitchen.

At her home in Alkhobar, she loves to prepare meals for her family and guests.

She said the main ingredient of her creations was always love but she also sprinkled a few fun innovative twists into her favorite Middle Eastern dishes.

She has collected recipes that her Syrian mother prepared for her as a child and compiled an updated version of them for her “A Spoonful of Home” cookbook, with accurate measures and cooking times.

Her love of Saudi Arabia is evident in the book with dishes such as date rocca salad, maamoul, and tuna kabsa.

Moualla tries to minimize food waste, for example, saving scraps of bread to toast for fattet hummus, and freezing prepared meat to save time and reduce overall waste.

Her cookbook is a love letter in book form to her mother, who equipped her with her culinary skills. 

Photographic illustrations for the book were taken by Moualla’s friend Bushra al-Hindi, and all the dishes were cooked, prepared, plated, and shot in Moualla’s kitchen, using her own tableware.

With categories such as appetizers, and salad as main dishes including seafood, chicken, and meat, there is also a section dedicated to desserts and jams, and another just offering cooking tips.

All proceeds from book sales go to ZaDK’s food for change initiative. Priced at SR250 ($66), “A Spoonful of Home” can be purchased from the ZaDK website.

What We Are Doing Today: Making the most of Starbucks Rewards 

Updated 21 October 2022

What We Are Doing Today: Making the most of Starbucks Rewards 

Visitors to Starbucks in Saudi Arabia can now justify their caffeine addiction with a sweeter deal.

When ordering pumpkin spice latte, iced cold brew, or any other fancy customized drink, customers are now able to collect points or stars via a free app introduced to the Kingdom.

As in other countries, customers obtain stars according to how much they spend. Every SR10 ($2.66) spent will be worth four stars, and once 250 have been collected a free drink of choice can be claimed.

A total of 750 stars, which is the gold level, affords a free drink on the birthday of the customer plus access to exclusive offers and benefits.

People can download the app, add their name and then scan the QR code at the store after making their order.

As yet, the system is not as efficient as in the US where one of the perks of using the Starbucks app allows orders to be placed in advance and drinks to be customized. Users can also choose their nearest store, size of drink, add or remove any syrups or additions, and even request a sandwich to be warmed.

The order can then be collected, conveniently packed with the customer's name attached. Credit card details can be inputted to give the option of direct payment.

The Saudi version does not currently offer either of those options. It is simply an app to collect or redeem stars, and people cannot order on the app or pay directly using it.

However, improvements to the app are expected soon.