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Food Heritage, Memory and Cultural Identity in Saudi Arabia: The Case of Jeddah

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Food for Thought

Part of the book series: Numanities - Arts and Humanities in Progress ((NAHP,volume 19))


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is quickly becoming a cultural hub, and experiencing changes in patterns of culture and social behaviour. As a result, KSA is seeking to develop and expand its non-oil economy, transitioning into a destination more attractive for visitors and investors. In line with its “Saudi Vision 2030”, a strategic framework to reduce Saudi Arabia’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and develop public service sectors such as health, education, infrastructure, recreation, and tourism (, the country is developing different sectors, revalorising and revitalising its culture and foreseeing a form of modernisation based on a spirit of innovation. This chapter aims to explore how Saudi cultural identity is expressed and negotiated in different discourses regarding food heritage, and how hybridity generates an identity crisis between diversity and integration. In the light of upcoming transformations, how is Saudi cultural identity expressed, constructed, and negotiated in different discourses? Societal changes can occur either as progressive and linear transformations or as abrupt bursts of activity that could affect both the social environment and the country’s image. Change and transformation can be newly built from scratch, or can be a revitalisation of existing identity. Through an exploration of textual materials and methods such as observation and interviews, the research explores the meaning of food tradition and its representation through individual and collective memory.

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  1. 1.

    The semi-structured interviews, preceded by observation and informal interviewing, have been administered in Al-Balad to key informants with personal experience, perceptions, beliefs and a specific knowledge of the population and topic of interest.

  2. 2.

    Al-Balad is the old city of Jeddah.

  3. 3.

    The focus group was conducted in the first phase of the exploratory research, during the field observation period (April–May 2019), while the interviews were conducted between September 2019 and April 2020.

  4. 4.

  5. 5.

    Saudi Arabia has over 18 million date palms that create 600 million pounds of dates each year.

  6. 6.

    The term ḥalāl includes several conditions and criteria to recognise the sources not considered lawful according to the Islamic law (, CAC/GL 24–1997[27]).

  7. 7.

    Saudis eat an average of 88.2 lb of chicken per person per year. With regard to the import of local products, Saudi Arabia stood as world’s largest importer of live sheep (

  8. 8.;

  9. 9.

    Jeddah is considered the 100th largest city in the world by land area.

  10. 10.

    In the 1700s and 1800s, several riots characterised Jeddah, and the city was taken from the Ottoman Empire by the Nedji first but was later captured by Muhammad Ali Pasha, again under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

  11. 11.

    A mixed rice dish made of meat and vegetables.

  12. 12.;

  13. 13.

    At the time of publication, the institutional URL has been changed, while the links to the related webpages have been removed.

  14. 14.

    Established in August 2017, the CIC is an initiative of Ministry of Media to facilitate relationships with the global media community and as central source for the information in the country (

  15. 15.

    Other dishes served during Ramadan are Yughmish, a leavened bread, Mutabaq, a mouth-watering original from Yemen, Luqaimat, doughnut-like dumplings, Sobia, a drink, and the most traditional one for street food in Ramadan in Jeddah, Kibdah (fried liver).


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Correspondence to Cristina Greco .

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Greco, C. (2022). Food Heritage, Memory and Cultural Identity in Saudi Arabia: The Case of Jeddah. In: Stano, S., Bentley, A. (eds) Food for Thought. Numanities - Arts and Humanities in Progress, vol 19. Springer, Cham.

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