Saudi Arabia’s citron season returns with its own culinary heritage

Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)
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Updated 23 February 2024
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Saudi Arabia’s citron season returns with its own culinary heritage

  • Mubarak Al-Khanajer, a farmer in Wadi Al-Dawasir, told Arab News: “The citron fruit belongs to the citrus family, and it is usually harvested in January and February, making it a winter fruit that the locals are accustomed to in this season”

JEDDAH: In winter, citron, known as etrinj, returns to Saudi homes from the Kingdom’s farms, bringing with it myriad health benefits and a distinct flavor that in some regions has crafted a culinary tradition of its own.

The fruit is farmed in Jouf in the north, Wadi Al-Dawasir in Najr, and Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province.

Part of the larger citrus family, citron particularly thrives in Jouf due to its favorable climate, water availability, and fertile land, making it one of the region’s most prevalent trees alongside olives and palms. Citron also stands out as a key agricultural crop in Al-Ahsa farms.




Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)

Mubarak Al-Khanajer, a farmer in Wadi Al-Dawasir, told Arab News: “The citron fruit belongs to the citrus family, and it is usually harvested in January and February, making it a winter fruit that the locals are accustomed to in this season.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Citron is farmed in Jouf in the north, Wadi Al-Dawasir in Najr, and Al-Ahsa in the Eastern Province.

• Farmers sell it with prices ranging from SR15 ($4) to SR20 for a basket of 10 to 12 fruits.

• In Jouf, locals enjoy citron tea during winter, prepared by peeling, extracting pulp, and infusing it in hot water with sugar, saffron, or without additives.

He noted that the success of citron farming in the region was due to climatic factors including temperature, relative humidity, light, and wind, adding that temperature was one of the most important factors determining the success of citron farming, in addition to the type of land, whether loamy yellow or heavy clay free from harmful salts.

Agricultural technician Abdulrahman Al-Sweis told Arab News that it was important for the crop to receive good agricultural care and be in a sunny area well-protected from the wind and planted in a spacious field.




Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)

He pointed out that the citron fruit was popular for its qualities and was part of the Saudi cultural heritage, adding that there was more awareness about it now through social media.

He said: “Many have started using it as a treatment to face winter diseases due to its richness in vitamins that increase the body’s immunity.”

Gifting the fruit to relatives, friends, and neighbors during harvesting season has been a cultural tradition in the Kingdom. However, the practice has diminished as some opt to sell their harvest, driven by its increasing popularity owing to its significant health benefits.




Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)

Coming in yellow, green, and occasionally orange hues, citron’s larger size, mild acidity, and delicious taste make it akin to a lemon. Packed with antioxidants, vitamins, fibers, calcium, zinc, selenium, manganese, and potassium, it boasts numerous nutritional and health benefits.

The versatile fruit has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. In Jouf and Al-Ahsa, residents relish preparing marisah, a mix of citron squares with chili, turmeric, mint, and optional additions of salt, dates, or sugar. Some enjoy it sliced or as a jam.

Mohammed Al-Masn, a farmer, said that some locals eat it or make a juice or jam from it. On the diversity of dishes that incorporate the fruit, he added: “The residents of the province do not make citron marisah as in some areas in the north of the Kingdom … they make Al-Wadma which is unique to Al-Ahsa.”




Citron is a versatile fruit that has found its way into many Saudi traditional dishes, juices, and drinks. (SPA)

Al-Wadma is a traditional Hassawi dish, made of dried small fish and citron juice, accompanied by radish, green onions, and lettuce. The fish is either ground or crushed before being combined with citron juice and pieces of citron. After letting it sit for some time, it is eaten with radish leaves.

In Jouf, locals enjoy citron tea during winter, prepared by peeling, extracting pulp, and infusing it in hot water with sugar, saffron, or without additives. Citron juices, featuring various flavors such as turmeric, ginger, and mint, are also popular.

While citron was traditionally not commercialized, recent years have seen some farmers sell it, with prices ranging from SR15 ($4) to SR20 for a basket of 10 to 12 fruits.

Al-Masn pointed out that the citron plant was also suitable for indoor cultivation.

He said: “Ensure the pot is positioned near a window receiving ample sunlight to maintain a temperature above 18 degrees Celsius. When spring concludes, the pot can be moved outdoors permanently and then returned indoors during autumn. This plant can also be seamlessly integrated into home garden settings.”

 


Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Updated 23 May 2024
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Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

  • Procedure meant to keep the cover, Kiswa, free from getting soiled and tampered
  • 36 specialized technical personnel carried out procedure with aid of 10 cranes

RIYADH: In keeping with the annual tradition, officials raised the lower part of the kiswa — the elaborately designed black cloth covering the Kaaba — in Makkah on Wednesday ahead of this year’s Hajj pilgrimage.
As approved by the General Authority for the Care of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the exposed part was covered with a white cotton fabric, two-and-a-half meters wide and 54 meters long on all four sides, according to the Saudi Press Agency.
Carrying out the procedure were 36 specialized technical personnel with the aid of 10 cranes.

In this handout photograph, taken and released by Saudi Press Agency, specialized technicians are seen at work at the Kaaba in Makkah on May 23, 2024, raising the special cover to keep it from being soiled and damaged ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (SPA)

As described in the SPA report, the kiswa is lifted in several stages: It starts with unscrewing the bottom of the cover from all sides, separating the corners, then untying the bottom rope and removing it from the fixing rings, after which the cloth is rolled upward. The lanterns are then dismantled and the white cloth are put in place, after which the lanterns are reinstalled over the white cloth until the final stage.
The procedure is repeated every year to protect the kiswa from getting soiled and damaged as pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba.

In this handout photograph, taken and released by Saudi Press Agency, specialized technicians are seen at work at the Kaaba in Makkah on May 23, 2024, raising the special cover to keep it from being soiled and damaged ahead of the annual Hajj pilgrimage. (SPA)

The annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia is considered the world’s largest human gathering, with year 2012 marking the biggest number of participants at 3.16 million.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi authorities allowed only a symbolic observance of Hajj with just a thousand pilgrims. The numbers were gradually raised as the health crisis was placed under control worldwide. Last year, almost 1.84 million pilgrims performed the “once in a lifetime” journey and the figure is expected to go higher this year.
Every year, on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dul Hijjah, the black silk cloth is removed and a new kiswa is draped in its place.


Saudi Arabia welcomes move by Norway, Ireland and Spain to formally recognize Palestinian state

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia welcomes move by Norway, Ireland and Spain to formally recognize Palestinian state

  • Palestinian Authority and its rival group Hamas both welcomed the recognition
  • Israel recalls envoys to Spain, Ireland and Norway for consultations

RIYADH/COPENHAGEN: Saudi Arabia said Wednesday it welcomed the “positive” decision taken by Norway, Spain, and Ireland to recognize a Palestinian state. 
The Kingdom said it appreciated this decision “which confirms the international consensus on the inherent right of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” in a foreign ministry statement. 

The kingdom also called on more countries to swiftly take the same stance, “which would contribute to finding a reliable and irreversible path to achieve a just and lasting peace that fulfills the rights of the Palestinian people.”

Leaders of Norway, Spain and Ireland said on Wednesday they were formally going to recognize Palestine as a state.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said: “There cannot be peace in the Middle East if there is no recognition.”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez also announced that the country’s council of ministers would recognize an independent Palestinian state on Tuesday May 28.

“Next Tuesday, May 28, Spain’s cabinet will approve the recognition of the Palestinian state,” he said, adding that his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu was putting the two state solution in “danger” with his policy of “pain and destruction” in the Gaza Strip.

Irish Prime Minister Simon Harris said it was a move coordinated with Spain and Norway, marking “an historic and important day for Ireland and for Palestine.”

The Palestinian Authority and its rival group Hamas both welcomed the recognition of a Palestinian state by Ireland, Spain and Norway.

The Palestinian Authority exercises limited self-rule in the West Bank territory while Hamas runs Gaza.

Jordan hailed the coordinated move as an “important and essential step towards Palestinian statehood.”

“We value this decision and consider it an important and essential step towards a two-state solution that embodies an independent, sovereign Palestinian state along the July 1967 borders,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi told a press conference.

Qatar’s foreign ministry welcomed the announcement as an “important step in support of a two-state solution,” expressing hope that other countries would follow suit.

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council also spoke out in support of the European countries’ move, with secretary general Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi saying it represented “a pivotal and strategic step towards achieving the two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a statement said.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, similarly welcomed the move as an “important historic step”.

Several European Union countries have in the past weeks indicated that they plan to make the recognition, arguing a two-state solution is essential for lasting peace in the region.

Israel recalled envoys to Spain, Ireland and Norway over their moves to recognize a Palestinian state.

“Today, I am sending a sharp message to Ireland and Norway: Israel will not go over this in silence. I have just ordered the return of the Israeli ambassadors from Dublin and Oslo to Israel for further consultations in Jerusalem,” Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement.

Sanchez said in March that Spain and Ireland, along with Slovenia and Malta, had agreed to take their first steps toward Palestinian recognition, seeing a two-state solution as essential for lasting peace.

The efforts come as a mounting death toll in Gaza from Israel’s offensive to rout Hamas prompts calls globally for a ceasefire and lasting solution for peace in the region.

Norway, which is not a member of the European Union but mirror its moves, has been an ardent supporter of a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians.

“The terror has been committed by Hamas and militant groups who are not supporters of a two-state solution and the state of Israel,” the Norwegian government leader said.

“Palestine has a fundamental right to an independent state,” Gahr Store told a press conference.

The move comes as Israeli forces have led assaults on the northern and southern edges of the Gaza Strip in May, causing a new exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, and sharply restricted the flow of aid, raising the risk of famine.

The Scandinavian country “will therefore regard Palestine as an independent state with all the rights and obligations that entails,” Gahr Store said.

Norway’s recognition of a Palestine state comes more than 30 years after the first Oslo agreement was signed in 1993.

Since then, “the Palestinians have taken important steps toward a two-state solution,” the Norwegian government said.

It said that the World Bank determined that Palestine had met key criteria to function as a state in 2011, that national institutions have been built up to provide the population with important services.

“The war in Gaza and the constant expansion of illegal settlements in the West Bank still mean that the situation in Palestine is more difficult than it has been in decades,” the Norwegian government said.


Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

Updated 23 May 2024
Follow

Black cloth covering Kaaba in Makkah raised ahead of Hajj

  • The procedure is meant to keep the cover, known as kiswa, free from getting soiled and tampered with as pilgrims performing Hajj circumabulate the Kaaba

RIYADH: In keeping with the annual tradition, officials raised the lower part of the kiswa — the elaborately designed black cloth covering the Kaaba — in Makkah on Wednesday ahead of this year's Hajj pilgrimage.

As approved by the General Authority for the Care of the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, the exposed part was covered with a white cotton fabric, two-and-a-half meters wide and 54 meters long on all four sides, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Carrying out the procedure were 36 specialized technical personnel with the aid of 10 cranes.

As described in the SPA report, the kiswa is lifted in several stages: It starts with unscrewing the bottom of the cover from all sides, separating the corners, then untying the bottom rope and removing it from the fixing rings, after which the cloth is rolled upward. The lanterns are then dismantled and the white cloth are put in place, after which the lanterns are reinstalled over the white cloth until the final stage.

The procedure is repeated every year to protect the kiswa from getting soiled and damaged as pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba.

The annual Hajj in Saudi Arabia is considered the world's largest human gathering, with year 2012 marking the biggest number of participants at 3.16 million.

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Saudi authorities allowed only a symbolic observance of Hajj with just a thousand pilgrims. The numbers were gradually raised as the health crisis was placed under control worldwide. Last year, almost 1.84 million pilgrims performed the "once in a lifetime" journey and the figure is expected to go higher this year.

Every year, on the ninth day of the Islamic month of Dul Hijjah, the black silk cloth is removed and a new kiswa is draped in its place.


Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi authorities limit entry to Makkah to Hajj visa holders

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Interior announced that visit visa holders are not allowed to enter or stay in Makkah during May 23-June 21 as access to the city will be limited to Hajj visa holders.

The ministry stressed that all types of visit visa are not a permit to perform Hajj, adding that violators will be subject to penalties according to Saudi laws and regulations.


Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi FM in Tehran conveys king, crown prince condolences for Iran president death

RIYADH: Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, conveyed the condolences of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to top Iranian officials in Tehran on Wednesday on the death of President Ebrahim Raisi and his companions.

Prince Mansour bin Muteb bin Abdulaziz, Adviser to King Salman and Minister of State, and Prince Faisal were received by Deputy Chief of Staff for Political Affairs to Iran President Mohammad Jamshidi and Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri Kani.

Saudi ambassador to Iran Abdullah Al-Enazi attended the reception.