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Over Breakfast, Hoping For Small Changes In Saudi Arabia


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Lena Lackey



Saudi Arabia, a country known for its rich history and cultural heritage, is also home to a vibrant and diverse food scene. From aromatic spices to tantalizing flavors, Saudi cuisine has captivated food enthusiasts from around the world. One aspect of Saudi food culture that holds immense significance is breakfast. Breakfast in Saudi Arabia is not just a meal; it is a cherished ritual that brings families, friends, and communities together.


In this article, we will explore the fascinating world of Saudi Arabia’s breakfast culture and delve into the role of breakfast in Saudi society. We will uncover the traditional Saudi breakfast foods that have been savored for generations, as well as the modern changes that have shaped the breakfast habits of Saudi people. Additionally, we will discuss the cultural and social significance of breakfast in Saudi Arabia, along with the challenges and opportunities that contemporary Saudi society faces in preserving its breakfast traditions.


Through this culinary journey, we hope to highlight the importance of breakfast as a reflection of Saudi culture and the potential impact of small changes on Saudi Arabia’s food landscape. Join us as we explore the flavors, traditions, and stories that make breakfast in Saudi Arabia truly unique.


Saudi Arabia’s Breakfast Culture

In Saudi Arabia, breakfast holds a significant place in the daily routine of its people. Known as “Al-Iftar” in Arabic, breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day. It provides the necessary energy and sustenance to start the day off right.


Breakfast in Saudi Arabia is not just about satisfying hunger; it is a social and cultural event. Families gather around the breakfast table to share not only a meal but also stories, laughter, and precious moments of connection. It is a time when loved ones pause from their busy schedules and bond over a spread of delicious food.


The pace of life in Saudi Arabia is often fast, with work and commitments taking priority. However, breakfast is an opportunity to slow down and savor the start of the day. It is a time for reflection and gratitude, a moment to appreciate the blessings of life and the company of those we hold dear.


Moreover, breakfast is a celebration of Saudi hospitality. It is common for Saudis to extend their warm welcome to guests by inviting them to share a breakfast meal. The generosity and warmth displayed during this meal are a reflection of the deep-rooted cultural values of hospitality and community.


This breakfast culture is deeply ingrained in Saudi society, and the traditions associated with it have been passed down through generations. While the fast-paced modern lifestyle has brought about changes, the essence of Saudi Arabia’s breakfast culture remains intact.


The Role of Breakfast in Saudi Society

Breakfast in Saudi society goes beyond being just a meal; it plays a vital role in fostering social cohesion and strengthening familial bonds. It is a time for family members to come together before they embark on their daily routines, providing an opportunity for meaningful interaction and connection.


Family values are highly cherished in Saudi society, and breakfast acts as a cornerstone for reinforcing these values. It serves as a platform for parents to instill important cultural and religious teachings in their children, passing down traditions and customs from one generation to the next.


Throughout history, Saudi Arabia has experienced a strong sense of community, and breakfast is an important part of nurturing and maintaining this communal bond. Saudi people gather in mosques, community centers, or private homes to partake in communal breakfasts, especially during religious occasions such as Ramadan.


Furthermore, breakfast acts as a catalyst for social interaction outside the immediate family circle. Friends and neighbors often gather for breakfast, sharing stories, laughter, and a sense of camaraderie. It is during these gatherings that friendships are deepened, and new relationships are forged.


Religious and cultural traditions also play a significant role in shaping the role of breakfast in Saudi society. During the holy month of Ramadan, the pre-dawn meal, known as “Suhoor,” is taken before the start of the fast, while the evening meal, called “Iftar,” breaks the fast at sunset. These meals have a special importance, as they provide sustenance for the devout during their period of spiritual reflection and worship.


Overall, breakfast serves as a key component of Saudi society’s fabric, promoting unity, sharing, and a sense of belonging. It is a time to nourish not only the body but also the soul, allowing individuals to start their day with a renewed sense of purpose and connection to their community.


Traditional Saudi Breakfast Foods

Saudi Arabia is renowned for its rich and varied cuisine, and breakfast is no exception. Traditional Saudi breakfast foods are a feast for the senses, with vibrant flavors and aromatic spices that awaken the palate.


One of the staple elements of a traditional Saudi breakfast is a variety of bread. Khubz, a round and flat bread, is commonly enjoyed with a range of accompaniments. It is often paired with labneh (a creamy yogurt cheese), za’atar (a blend of herbs and spices), and honey for a delightful combination of savory and sweet flavors.


Eggs also feature heavily in traditional Saudi breakfasts. Shakshuka, a dish made with eggs cooked in a rich tomato-based sauce with peppers and spices, is a popular choice. Another favorite is the mutabbaq, a savory pastry filled with spiced minced meat, vegetables, or cheese.


Ful medames, a dish made from slow-cooked fava beans, is a beloved option for those seeking a hearty and nutritious breakfast. It is commonly topped with olive oil, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of spices such as cumin and paprika.


Another traditional Saudi breakfast item is jareesh, a porridge-like dish made from crushed wheat cooked with meat or chicken broth. It is often served with a dollop of ghee (clarified butter) and a side of tangy yogurt.


No Saudi breakfast is complete without a platter of fresh dates. Dates hold a special significance in Saudi culture and are often considered a symbol of hospitality. Their natural sweetness and chewy texture make them a delightful addition to any breakfast spread.


To accompany these delectable dishes, Saudis enjoy a variety of beverages. Traditional Arabic coffee, known as Gahwa, is a distinctively flavored coffee infused with cardamom. It is served in small cups and often accompanied by dates as a gesture of hospitality. Additionally, guests may be offered a cup of mint tea or a refreshing glass of laban, which is a cool and refreshing yogurt-based drink.


These traditional Saudi breakfast foods represent a rich culinary heritage passed down through generations. They reflect the diverse influences of Arabian, Persian, and Bedouin cultures, creating a breakfast experience that is both satisfying and deeply rooted in tradition.


Modern Changes in Saudi Breakfast Habits

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has seen a shift in breakfast habits, influenced by modern lifestyles and global culinary trends. While traditional Saudi breakfast foods still hold a special place in the hearts of many, new options and preferences have emerged, reflecting the changing tastes and preferences of Saudi people.


One notable change is the incorporation of international breakfast dishes into the Saudi breakfast scene. Western-style breakfast options such as pancakes, waffles, and omelets have gained popularity, especially among the younger generation. These dishes provide a fusion of flavors, merging traditional Saudi ingredients with global culinary influences.


Another change is the increasing reliance on convenience foods. With the fast-paced nature of modern life, packaged cereals, granola bars, and yogurt cups have become common choices for breakfast. These quick and easy options cater to the on-the-go lifestyle of many Saudis, providing a convenient and portable breakfast solution.


The influence of global fast-food chains has also made its mark on Saudi breakfast habits. Fast-food breakfast sandwiches and wraps have gained popularity, offering a quick and indulgent breakfast option for those seeking a fast and satisfying meal.


Furthermore, the globalization of food culture has opened doors for Saudis to experiment with different cuisines and flavors. Middle Eastern breakfast options like Lebanese manakish (a type of flatbread topped with various ingredients), Turkish simit (a circular bread coated with sesame seeds), and Egyptian foul (a fava bean dish) have found their way onto Saudi breakfast tables.


As Saudi society becomes more health-conscious, there has also been a growing emphasis on healthier breakfast choices. Fresh fruits, yogurt parfaits, smoothie bowls, and whole-grain options have gained popularity among those seeking a nutritious start to their day.


Despite these changes, it is important to note that traditional Saudi breakfast foods continue to be cherished and celebrated. Many Saudi households still prioritize incorporating traditional dishes into their breakfast routines, recognizing the cultural importance and flavorsome delights that come with them.


The modern changes in Saudi breakfast habits reflect the evolving lifestyle and preferences of the Saudi people. While traditional foods remain at the core of Saudi breakfast culture, the integration of new options adds a vibrant and dynamic dimension to the breakfast experience in Saudi Arabia.


Cultural and Social Significance of Breakfast

Breakfast holds great cultural and social significance in Saudi Arabia, playing a central role in daily life and societal interactions. It serves as a mirror of the country’s values, traditions, and sense of community.


One of the key cultural aspects of breakfast in Saudi Arabia is the emphasis on hospitality. Breakfast is seen as an opportunity to extend warmth and generosity to others. Inviting guests to share a breakfast meal is a common practice, allowing hosts to showcase their hospitality and create a welcoming atmosphere.


Breakfast also plays a vital role in strengthening social connections. It serves as a time for families to come together and bond over a shared meal, fostering relationships and creating cherished memories. When friends and neighbors gather for breakfast, it strengthens the sense of community and fosters a spirit of togetherness.


In addition, breakfast is a time for reflection and gratitude. Saudi society places great importance on spirituality and taking a moment of quiet contemplation before beginning the day. Breakfast offers an opportunity for individuals to express gratitude for blessings and seek inner peace before the hustle and bustle of daily life.


Culturally, breakfast provides a sense of identity and continuity. Traditional Saudi breakfast foods, passed down through generations, are a testament to the country’s rich culinary heritage. By preserving these traditions and sharing them with others, Saudi Arabia showcases its cultural roots and preserves its unique identity.


Moreover, breakfast acts as a marker of time and rhythm in Saudi society. The morning meal sets the pace for the rest of the day, signaling the start of work or school activities. It helps establish a sense of routine and structure, providing a foundation for productivity and accomplishment.


For many Saudis, breakfast is not just about physical nourishment but also emotional and mental nourishment. It serves as a time to recharge and gather strength, both physically and mentally, for the challenges that lie ahead.


Overall, the cultural and social significance of breakfast in Saudi Arabia goes far beyond its nutritional content. It is a symbol of hospitality, a catalyst for social connections, a moment of quiet reflection, and a celebration of cultural heritage. Through the rituals and traditions associated with breakfast, Saudi Arabia upholds its customs, values, and sense of community, making it an integral part of everyday life.


Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities

As Saudi Arabia embraces modernization and opens its doors to the global community, there are both challenges and opportunities that arise in preserving and evolving its breakfast culture.


One of the challenges faced is the increasing influence of Western fast-food chains and convenience foods. The accessibility and marketing tactics employed by these establishments have led to a shift in preference towards quick and easy breakfast options. This poses a challenge to preserving traditional Saudi breakfast foods and the cultural practices associated with them.


Additionally, the fast-paced nature of modern life has led to a decrease in the time and effort dedicated to preparing and enjoying breakfast. This poses a threat to the communal and social aspects of breakfast, as individuals opt for solitary and hurried meals.


On the other hand, there are opportunities to adapt and innovate while staying true to Saudi Arabia’s culinary traditions. Chefs and food entrepreneurs can explore creative ways to fuse traditional breakfast flavors with modern concepts, catering to evolving tastes and lifestyles.


Technology also presents opportunities for promoting and sharing Saudi breakfast culture. Online platforms and social media can be utilized to showcase traditional recipes, breakfast rituals, and the importance of family and community during this mealtime.


Furthermore, there is an opportunity to invest in culinary education and research to document and preserve the diverse range of traditional Saudi breakfast foods. This can help ensure that future generations are aware of their cultural heritage and have the knowledge and skills to carry it forward.


Collaboration between the public and private sectors can also play a crucial role in promoting the importance of breakfast in Saudi society. Initiatives that encourage local farmers, producers, and businesses to provide high-quality, traditional breakfast ingredients can help support the sustainability of Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage.


Moreover, efforts can be made to raise awareness about the health benefits of traditional Saudi breakfast foods. Highlighting the nutritious aspects of these dishes, such as the use of whole grains, fresh fruits, and legumes, can encourage people to choose traditional options over processed and less nutritious alternatives.


By addressing these challenges and embracing the opportunities, Saudi Arabia can strike a balance between preserving its breakfast culture and adapting to the changing needs and preferences of its people. With innovation, education, and a renewed appreciation for tradition, Saudi Arabia can continue to celebrate and evolve its breakfast culture for generations to come.



In conclusion, breakfast in Saudi Arabia holds immense cultural and social significance. It serves as more than just a meal; it is a time for connection, reflection, and celebration of Saudi Arabia’s culinary heritage. Traditional Saudi breakfast foods like khubz, shakshuka, and ful medames have been enjoyed for generations, showcasing the diverse flavors and influences of the region.


While modernization and global influences have brought about changes in breakfast habits, it is important to preserve the cultural practices and traditions that make breakfast in Saudi Arabia truly special. The challenges posed by convenience foods and shifting lifestyles provide opportunities to adapt and innovate, ensuring that traditional breakfast foods remain a cherished part of Saudi society.


The cultural and social significance of breakfast can be seen in the values of hospitality, community, and gratitude that it embodies. It is a time for families, friends, and communities to come together, savor delicious food, and create lasting memories. Through breakfast, Saudi Arabia maintains its cultural identity and fosters connections between generations.


As Saudi Arabia continues to embrace modernization, there is a need to find a balance between preserving tradition and embracing innovation. By embracing technology, culinary education, and collaborations between the public and private sectors, Saudi Arabia can ensure that its breakfast culture thrives and continues to be a source of pride and identity.


In this culinary journey through Saudi Arabia’s breakfast culture, we have witnessed the beauty, flavors, and traditions that make breakfast a cherished ritual. It is an integral part of Saudi society, capturing the essence of hospitality, community, and gratitude. Let us continue to appreciate and honor the rich breakfast culture of Saudi Arabia, ensuring its vibrant legacy for future generations to enjoy.