RIYADH: The Food Culture Festival in Riyadh is giving visitors a taste of cuisine and culture from more than 35 countries around the world.
The five-day event, organized by the Culinary Arts Commission at Grassy Park in the Diplomatic Quarter, celebrates food and culture, offering an educational experience to visitors.
Countries taking part include China, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, France, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, Nepal and Armenia.
The carnival-inspired culinary festival includes street food, an exhibition area with booths featuring restaurants from various countries and 10 stores selling international food products.
“You need to come here hungry; there are too many options to choose from; I liked the momos from the Nepal booth, which are steamed dumplings filled with vegetables and meat,” said Sara Thomas, a visitor from the UK.
She added: “It is nice to see how different dumplings are made in other countries, with the different flavors and sauces used to distinguish them.”
Visitors with a sweet tooth can enjoy a range of chocolate and pastries. In the Belgium booth, crowds wait for waffles stuffed with chocolate, which pair well with the coffee served at the nearby Austrian booth.
Sweets can also be found in other booths, including the Switzerland section, which offers freshly made crepes with a range of toppings. There are also Turkish delights from Istanbul in the Turkish booth.
For meat lovers, the festival has a mixture of flavors, culinary creativity and ambiance with its live grilling stations. Visitors can learn meat-cooking techniques from countries including Brazil, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lebanon and Egypt.
The most popular booths include Peru, China, Spain and Palestine. The first is a favorite of children, who have taken a liking to the large stuffed animal alpaca and handmade dolls made from cruelty-free alpaca fur.
The Chinese booth offers ramen, soups and dumplings. The most popular dumpling is filled with pumpkin, meat and a vegetable filling.
The Spanish booth sells a popular seafood paella, providing visitors with a taste of authentic Spanish cuisine.
The Pakistani booths are also proving to be some of the most popular food hotspots at the festival by celebrating the diversity and richness of culinary traditions in the South Asian country.
Pakistani Ambassador to the Kingdom Ahmed Farooq attended the first day of the festival and inaugurated his country’s booths.
“I think it is a wonderful initiative by the Culinary Arts Commission and by the Ministry of Culture of Saudi Arabia to organize this food festival,” said Farooq.
He added: “I think food is the best way to bring people together, and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia share a lot of things, so food is one of those items that we thought we would introduce here to the Saudi public and others as well.”
On Nov. 11, the Pakistani booths will host live cooking demonstrations featuring renowned chefs including Naureen Ansari.
There are also interactive workshops and a display of home-cooked delights, Pakistani products and organic Pakistani-sourced items, including Sidr honey, which is produced from trees in the mountainous regions of Pakistan.
Other organic sourced items include pure Pakistani ghee, which offers a unique nutty flavor.
Other South Asian countries have also left a strong impression on visitors.
The Sri Lankan booth hosted a stunning live dance performance, which drew large crowds to the performance stage.
The country’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Pakeer Mohideen Amza, inaugurated his country’s booth and wished good luck to the young dancers.
“It is a privilege to be part of this Food Culture Festival. We are so happy to be part of it because it is an opportunity for us to show our food culture, and Sri Lankan food culture,” said Amza.
He added: “We will also be taking part in the demonstration of the Sri Lankan food items starting from today, with tea. As you know, Sri Lanka is the best place for finding tea in the world.”
The dance performance was one of many scheduled for the festival, with a range of countries showcasing their history of performance and traditional attire.
Animated performances are held every hour in alleys around the festival site.
The Riyadh event includes a designated area for children with games, competitions, cooking workshops, a playground, a cupcake coloring and decoration booth and face painting, among other activities.
The festival is organized in collaboration with the Royal Commission of Riyadh City and is supported by the Quality of Life Program, part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
Tickets for the festival, which opens from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. until Nov. 12, can be purchased at dc.moc.gov.sa.
A portion of the proceeds from food sales will be donated to the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center to assist people in Gaza.