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Saudi Arabia gets a taste of the world

posted 20 Jan 2013, 05:22 by Mpelembe   [ updated 20 Jan 2013, 05:38 ]

Chefs showcase their culinary skills at an international food festival in Riyadh.

RIYADHSAUDI ARABIA (JANUARY 16, 2013) (REUTERS) -  An array of rich and diverse dishes is being prepared in Riyadh every night as the third edition of the Global Food Festival kicks off in Saudi Arabia.

Chefs from around the world took the opportunity to show off their culinary skills to hundreds of visitors, who flocked to the launch of the Global Food Festival last Wednesday (January 16).

The festival seeks to encourage cultural exchanges between Saudi Arabia and the rest of the world through food and entertaining performances.

Teams from participating countries took to the stage to introduce themselves, entertain and encourage visitors to take the plunge and taste foreign cuisine.

The Chinese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Li Chengwen, said events like this enhanced relations between countries.

"The cultural exchange is very important between the countries attending and also a strong motivation to enhance relations between the people," he said.

Visitors appeared impressed with the variety of dishes on offer, but some said they had already picked a favourite type of cuisine.

"I liked the Chinese restaurant very much. Other restaurants like the Spanish one and others are good, but not as good as the Chinese restaurant," said festival-goer, Saoud al-Motlag.

Spain's participating team of chefs said their offering at the festival represented tradition, featuring recipes handed down through the generations.

"We come here to introduce Spanish food that is very traditional. It came from our mothers and grandmothers, and we hope that you enjoy it," said team-member, John.

The opening festival featured dance performances, including the famous traditional Bedouin sword dance, known as 'Arda'.

Chef Swelem al-Shahrani said interest in Saudi cuisine, which included camel meat, was high.

"This is the Saudi kitchen and we are serving camel. The meat is very soft and the number of guests is high, so we must entertain our visitors," he said.

Reem Mogaidah, director of the Diet Centre at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Riyadh, said the festival gave visitors a chance to taste foods they would otherwise not have the chance to try.

"Maybe because we are accustomed to eating eastern food we love try western food and we enjoy it more because we do not eat it daily," she said.

The Palestinian ambassador to Saudi ArabiaJamal al-Shobaki, applauded as participants performed a Palestinian folk dance, the Dabke.

"As Palestinians, we participated with the Dabke troupe and it made us happy. There was wide acceptance and it was welcomed by the people. Because Palestinians have a heritage, and despite the long years of occupation we have maintained this heritage. I think that despite all that Palestinians have endured, they still live with hope and joy," he said.

The festival is being supported by the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities, and will see dishes from each participating country served at various hotels across the Saudi capital.

The Global Food Festival runs until January 28.