Ramadan is supposed to be the month of not only fasting but remembering those less fortunate who are not able to eat or drink clean water daily. A time for striving to be a better Muslim and person, acting modest in every way (including eating). This should definitely not be the month to indulge in fast food. Many locals and Muslim expats however have the habit of over-eating and splurging on food among other things during this month. It’s like a month long pig-out fest for some.
People often opt to eat their iftar, the meal which is eaten after breaking the fast, out at restaurants for a change. Restaurants try to attract hungry customers by offering lavish iftar buffets. Fast food chains are in the game too by offering their own “Ramadan Specials”. People will be out until the early hours in search of a quick meal to eat at sohoor just before the Fajr prayer is called around 4 am. There are long queues at McDonald’s, Burger King, Herfy’s and other fast food joints during this time.
Here is the KFC version of iftar:
The amount of fast food chains available in the Kingdom might come as a surprise to many first time visitors or to those unfamiliar with Saudi-Arabia. The majority of the most popular American chains have branches in Riyadh and Jeddah and there’s junk food available at every corner. New burger joints are sprouting around Riyadh like mushrooms after rain. American diners are among the most popular restaurants in town and becoming very common. So are heart diseases, diabetes and obesity.
The popularity of fast food in the Kingdom is very unfortunate. Combined with a very sedentary and lazy lifestyle (Saudi-Arabia was recently found to be the world’s third most lazy country) the effects on the public health are enormous.
There seems to be a complete lack of health awareness and education in Saudi-Arabia. Very obese kids can be seen indulging in french fries and burgers and sipping on caffeinated drinks. Sometimes I wonder what is the future like for these kids who have been spoiled by food and most likely by maids as well. They sit with their iPad’s and computers all day never lifting a finger let lone doing some physical exercise. They are like ticking time bombs.
I find it best to avoid giving my daughter fast food at all costs. Especially those fries. All those saturated fats, bad carbs and possible carcinogens are best left alone. On the very rare occasion we do go eat fast food I always try to pick out the more healthy options, if you can really even call them such! In Finland kids meals actually contain baby carrots and milk instead of fries and Coke. One fast food chain I never went to in Saudi is Hardee’s. Thank God I never ate there.
Check out their “Ramadan special” the “Fungus Burger” found inside a kiddie meal the other day:
This pic was posted in a Facebook group today. Apparently a woman in Jeddah had ordered a kids meal which was delivered to her house in the early hours of sohoor time. Yes, fast food chains DELIVER to the door in Saudi-Arabia. The poor kid ate half of the rotten burger before the parents noticed the “extra flavoring”. According to her Facebook, thank God the child did not suffer any food poisoning but nevertheless this is totally unacceptable and disgusting.
The woman and some of her friends had tried to post this image on the Hardee’s Saudi-Arabia FB page which resulted in them being blocked from the page. The manager had offered them a new meal to compensate the damage. Ermm, no thanks buddy.
This is such a gross violation it should be reported to the health authorities so they can go and check the branch and take action against them. Junk food is already unhealthy enough!
I find this image at the same time nauseating but not at all surprising. The standard of hygiene that is practiced by some of these workers here in Saudi is below appalling. Staff at fast food places don’t receive proper hygiene training and I’ve hardly ever seen them wear gloves or other protective clothing. I wonder how many wash their hands after going to the toilet?
This reminds me of a BAAK branch in the D.Q Kindy plaza, which had no running water in the entire restaurant at one point. Yes, you read correctly, no running water. I guess that answers the previous question and also why my friends got a severe food poisoning after eating there.
Another recent incident I recall was with Chili’s here in Riyadh. It was shut down for a while after the authorities found oh just a few TONS of expired meat and cheese in their kitchen. Chili’s is now open again and remains one of the most popular restaurants in Riyadh.
A while back there was a video circulating of a McDonald’s restaurant in Medinah Saudi-Arabia that claimed to show lettuce being washed in the washing machine in the backroom. It was never totally clear if the video was a staged fabrication or not. After the incident the McDonald’s Arabia page issued a statement saying the video was fabricated and that they don’t handle lettuce in such a way in their restaurants. They even said they have an “Open Door” program:
“McDonald’s prides itself on its transparency. With our Open Door Program, we open our doors and welcome you to tour our kitchen to take a close look at the quality standards of our products and procedures. This is an open invitation for those interested in learning more about our kitchen at any point in time,”
I was immediately interested and contacted them by email as requested to book an appointment. But why by appointment only, and why only certain locations? I thought they had nothing to hide? Photography was mentioned to be strictly forbidden. I still wanted to check it out. I waited a week for a reply then emailed them again. In total I sent four emails requesting for the Open Door tour without ever receiving a response. I guess they thought issuing the statement was enough and that nobody would actually be interested or bothered to come and look.
So what exactly goes on in the kitchen’s of Saudi-Arabia’s fast food joints? It remains a mystery.
Will you take the risk?