The country’s emblem is the date palm, which stands for vitality and growth, with two crossed swords symbolising justice and strength rooted in faith.
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The nation has one of the highest rates of diabetes type II in the world thanks to the locals’ enjoyment of sugary sweets, such as ma’amoul (a date- and nut-filled biscuit), kunafa (a white cheese dessert topped with semolina and soaked in rose syrup) and basbousa (another semolina-based sweet, drenched in curds, and sprinkled in coconut).
A popular meal across the Arabian Peninsula, this rice concoction typifies Saudi cuisine through its re-use of water: any liquid used to cook the meat (chicken, lamb, fish, or camel) is often recycled in the cooking of the accompanying spiced, long-grain rice.
Like kabsa, saleed is also a communal dish, served on a platter and eaten by hand. Originating in the west of the country, it consists of creamy, porridge-like short-grain rice and roasted meat. Melted ghee or butter is drizzled over the top, and the whole is often served with salata hara (a spicy, salsa-like condiment), duggus (a chili tomato-parsley sauce), or a tomato and cucumber salad.
The shwarma is another favourite, and a popular street food. This slow-cooked meat dish is marinated in salt, lemon, paprika and cumin, along with any number of other exotic spices, before being spit-roasted and packed into khubz (a flat, pita-like bread) along with yogurt, onion, tomato, lettuce, and spicy pepper.
Slightly less substantial though no less tasty, is harees, a mix of coarse ground wheat and water, butter, and meat, and a staple during Ramadan. Then there’s the traditional gursan, made with paper thin sheets of bread and vegetable broth; hininy, which consists of dates, butter and brown bread flavoured with saffron and cardamom; and tharid, a spicy lamb stew thickened with barley bread. And of course, one mustn’t forget the date: right there in the nation’s emblem, it’s gastronomically ubiquitous; the iconic symbol of Arabian hospitality and an essential part of life in the Kingdom.
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