The desert environment and Islam have influenced the Saudi diet. It consists mainly of milk products from goats, sheep or camels together with dates, rice and sometimes wheat. Milk is consumed fresh or made into yogurt or cheese. Meat is eaten only on special occasions when an animal is slaughtered or when wild game is available. Nomads eat fresh fruits and vegetables when they visit a village. They take little food during the day and have their main meal in the evening. Coffee and tea are favourite drinks among nomads as well as among other Saudis. A guest is usually served a cup of coffee, then a glass of tea and finally another cup of coffee.

The diet of the average farmer is more substantial than that of the nomad. The staple food of this group is millet, supplemented by rice, barley and wheat. These grains are cooked into gruel while wheat and barley are made into bread. Varieties of fruit, especially dates, are eaten regularly. While goat and camel meat are eaten, sheep remains the main source of meat consumption.

A typical Saudi meal consists of rice with mildly spiced lamb or chicken, dates and milk products. Food is traditionally eaten with the fingers while sitting cross-legged on the floor. Banquets are usually served on the floor covered with rugs. Aria, a special bread, is broken off and eaten with honey. Tea or coffee is served at all gatherings. Camel's milk, laban, a yogurt drink, buttermilk and cola are popular beverages. Saudi law prohibits the sale or use of alcohol. The consumption of pork is forbidden to Muslims and slaughtering of animals is governed by Islamic ritual. During the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, all Muslims must abstain from food and liquids during the daylight hours.

Here is a Saudi recipe to try.

Green Coriander Salad
(Serve 2-4)


3 medium tomatoes
2 green chili peppers
1/2 bunch coriander leaves
juice of 2 lemons
salt to taste


Grill tomatoes over low heat. Peel and puree them. Wash coriander and chili peppers. Chop both, then grind using mortar and pestle. Add this mixture to the tomatoes, plus salt and lemon juice. Mix and serve.