The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was founded in 1932 by Ibn Saud, who is known within the Arab world as Abdul Aziz. As King, he presided over the discovery of petroleum in Saudi Arabia in 1938 and the beginning of large scale oil production after WWII. In accordance with the customs of his people, Abdul Aziz headed a polygamous household. He had 22 wives and almost a hundred children. Of his 45 sons, 6 went on to become king.
Saudi Arabia has since become the world’s largest oil producer and exporter, controlling the world’s second largest oil reserves. It relies on the oil industry for almost half of its GDP.
The percentage of Saudi Arabia’s population that is female is one of the lowest in the world. Women are not permitted to drive, open bank accounts, work, travel or go to school without the express permission of a male guardian. In December 2015, women were allowed to vote for the first time, and 979 women ran for office.
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and home to Islam’s two holiest shrines – Mecca (where the Prophet Muhammad received the word of Allah), and Medina (where Muhammad died in A.D. 632). One of the five pillars of Islam is performing Hajj, by traveling to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, at least once. Approximately two million people a year make the pilgrimage.
The cuisine of Saudi Arabia has been influenced by Turkish, Indian, Persian, and African food. Pork is not allowed due to Islamic dietary laws. Popular dishes include Khouzi (lamb stuffed with chicken that is stuffed with rice, nuts and sultanas), Shawarma (meat kebab), Kabsa (meat and vegetables with rice), Markook or Shrak (flatbread), Saleeg (white rice cooked in broth) and Murtabak (stuffed pancake). I opted to make the simple but tasty Dajaj Mashwi (Arabian grilled chicken) which I served with aioli and a mixed salad.
Prep time: 15 minutes + 1 hour marinating
Cook time: 20 minutes
4 boneless chicken breasts
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp mild chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp olive oil
Quick aioli dip
4 garlic cloves, pressed
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Fresh ground black pepper
Using a mallet, flatten the chicken breasts and place them in a plastic bag
Add all the spice powders to the bag with the lime juice and olive oil
Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for about an hour
Place the chicken breasts in foil and wrap well
Cook them on a hot BBQ for 15 – 20 minutes, then remove from the foil and cook directly over the heat for 5 minutes to give them some colour
Serve hot, with aioli and mixed salad
Quick aioli dip
Mash garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt in small bowl until paste forms
Whisk in mayonnaise, olive oil, and lemon juice
Season to taste with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper