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.”

 


Islamic Ministry unites volunteers to serve pilgrims

Updated 29 May 2024
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Islamic Ministry unites volunteers to serve pilgrims

  • The initiative is part of the ministry’s ongoing efforts to promote a culture of volunteering within communities

MAKKAH: Almost 5,000 people are set to volunteer for programs launched by the Makkah arm of the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday.

The branch has launched 247 opportunities via its volunteering platform to coincide with the start of the Hajj season. These include distributing more than 235,000 water bottles at 3,850 mosques, providing umbrellas to pilgrims for protection against the sun, distributing booklets and providing meals.

The initiative is part of the ministry’s ongoing efforts to promote a culture of volunteering within communities.

Earlier, the Presidency of Religious Affairs at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque launched its operational plan for Hajj, promoting voluntary and humanitarian work.

It recognizes the Two Holy Mosques as attractive environments for such efforts, based on religious and Saudi values that highlight the importance of generosity and hospitality.


Al-Jubeir meets US, Costa Rica officials in Riyadh

Updated 29 May 2024
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Al-Jubeir meets US, Costa Rica officials in Riyadh

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and climate envoy Adel Al-Jubeir met Robert Karem, national security adviser to US Senator Mitch McConnell, on Wednesday in Riyadh.

In a separate meeting, Al-Jubeir met Costa Rica’s non-resident ambassador to the Kingdom, Francisco Chacon Hernandez.

The talks in both meetings centered on bilateral relations as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest.


Global artists contemplate the future at Riyadh exhibition

Updated 29 May 2024
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Global artists contemplate the future at Riyadh exhibition

  • ‘Unfolding the Embassy’ contemplates humanity’s impact on the world

RIYADH: Fenaa Alawwal kicked off its most recent exhibition, “Unfolding the Embassy,” bringing together global artists to speculate on the looming future.

With scenography presented by Studio GGSV, the exhibition was curated by Sara Al-Mutlaq, whose initial instinct was to respond to the exhibition’s context.

Al-Mutlaq told Arab News: “The context is the Diplomatic Quarter and embassies … We ask: What is the future of the embassy?

“The moment that we’re living in today is witnessing a lot of changes. We feel it in technology, ChatGPT, the Ukraine war — there are a lot of things that are changing.”

As visitors enter the space, they are teleported to the year 2040. A SpaceX satellite orbiting the globe is the new reality, complete with a reception area, books, and brochures. Visitors soon realize that the decorative pieces around them are the artworks themselves.

As the story unfolds, they are left to wonder: What has happened to Earth?

The global experience was important for the curator; only artists of diverse backgrounds and practices could do justice to this collective narrative. Artists from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Palestine, Bosnia, Zambia, and Belgium are taking part in the exhibition, presenting their vision and interpretation of the future through works that address important contemporary issues, such as climate change, artificial intelligence, migration, and identity.

“I really wanted to engage with Saudi creatives and artists, but also Arab artists … and to always include the rest of the world and look at the nuances of conversation that they’re also creating,” Al-Mutlaq explained.  

Saudi artist Ahaad Al-Amoudi’s “Frying Pan” video installation looks at the past to study the future, creating a place where memory is lost, readapted, and reinterpreted.

In an ever-changing world, the video questions the role of memory, the tools of navigation, and whether humans will be able to envision a future when the present is a disintegrating past.

Egyptian graphic designer and artist Ahmad Hammoud presents two complementary works: “Flag of the Stateless” and “Passport of the Stateless.” Using the common housefly as an emblem for the 10 million stateless individuals worldwide, the works contrast two “unwanted” elements, creating a sense of ownership and symbolizing strength and resistance to Western colonial views.

The exhibition also showcases a photography anthology created using images by Dia Murad, Naif Al-Quba, Federico Acciardi, and Peter Bogaczewicz.

The digital works by Bogaczewicz, a photographer with a background in architecture, are part of his larger series titled “Surface Tensions,” which focuses on how the natural and built environments come together in Saudi Arabia.

His selection includes captures of a car buried in sand dunes and an abandoned Ferris wheel amid construction, subtly reflecting the influence of his architectural background.

He told Arab News: “I think there’s an idea of Anthropocene being a theme of the exhibit. I think the way these photos fall into it is because they address a state of the man-made or man-altered environment. That is something completely unnatural and unique of our time. It’s probably something that can’t be reversed so purely … Natural environments are harder and harder to come by and that’s just a present fact of being on our planet.”

Visitors can also explore the fate of humanity in the context of climate change, shifting political structures, economic challenges, and AI’s subversive interventions in human life.

Adopting a forward-looking approach, the exhibition raises a challenging question: Do humans need the distance of light years to better see what is near?

Al-Mutlaq said: “At its essence, the exhibition is a fictional time-space that highlights the fictional attributes of our economic, collective and technological worlds. In exploring the role of fiction, the exhibition and its artists ask: At the depth of truth, do we find the landscape of the arbitrary?”

The exhibition, running until Sept. 1, also features works from Dima Srouji, Abbas Zahedi, Aseel Al-Yaqoub, Nolan Oswald Dennis, Jerry Galle, PHI Studio, and Lana Cmajcanin.


Saudi envoy presents credentials as non-resident ambassador to Bolivia

Faisal bin Ibrahim Ghulam presents his credentials as Saudi Arabia’s non-resident ambassador to Bolivia. (SPA)
Updated 29 May 2024
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Saudi envoy presents credentials as non-resident ambassador to Bolivia

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Brazil Faisal bin Ibrahim Ghulam presented his credentials as non-resident ambassador to Bolivia, Saudi Press Agency reported on Wednesday. 

The credentials were presented to Bolivia’s President Luis Arce.

Ghulam conveyed the greetings of the Saudi leadership and its wishes for the continued progress and prosperity of Bolivia. 


Spanish PM meets Joint Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee on Gaza in Madrid

Updated 29 May 2024
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Spanish PM meets Joint Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee on Gaza in Madrid

  • Officials discuss efforts to stop Israeli aggression in Gaza Strip, Rafah
  • Saudi FM thanks Spain for decision to recognize State of Palestine

RIYADH: Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Wednesday held talks in Madrid with the members of the Joint Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee on Gaza, headed by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

The meeting, to discuss developments in the besieged Gaza Strip, was attended by the foreign ministers of Qatar, Palestine, Jordan and Turkiye and the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

The committee members hailed Spain’s move to recognize the State of Palestine and vowed to keep pushing to secure Palestinians’ rights and promote peace in the region and the world at a time of extremism, violence and violations of international law, the report said.

More than 140 countries now recognize a Palestinian state, after Spain, Norway and Ireland made the diplomatic move on Tuesday.

The meeting discussed efforts to stop Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip and the city of Rafah, the importance of an immediate ceasefire and the introduction of sustainable humanitarian aid.

It also called for an end to illegitimate Israeli actions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in order to achieve a comprehensive peace, protect Palestinian rights and ensure regional security.

The meeting reviewed the committee’s efforts to support Palestinian statehood and take the necessary steps to implement the two-state solution in line with the Arab Peace Initiative and other international proposals.

The committee stressed the importance of the international community taking urgent steps to recognize Palestine to preserve the rights of its people and achieve security in the region.

Prince Faisal thanked Spain and said its move gave “hope in a very dark time.”

“We are here to say thank you to Spain, Norway, Ireland and Slovenia for taking the right decision at the right time, for being on the right side of history, for being on the right side of justice with all the dark we are seeing as a result of the continuing human catastrophe in Gaza,” he said.

“This is the right moment to give a beacon of hope to the two-state solution, to peace, to coexistence and for that we thank you and we hope that others will follow suit because the only way forward is the path to peace and the path to peace goes through a two-state solution, through a state of Palestine that lives in peace and harmony with all its neighbors including Israel.”