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JAZAN, SAUDI ARABIA: High in the mountains of Saudi Arabia, in the very southwestern corner, on the border of Yemen, is Jazan province. It’s a unique part of Saudi Arabia, where some of the world’s most prized coffee in grown and where the mix of culture and food is unlike other parts of the country. Today we have the privilege to visit a local coffee farm where a local family will be cooking a full goat haneed in the backyard.
We began our journey from Jizan city, in the Jazan province of Saudi Arabia. The city is located on the Red Sea, yet just an hour drive away to Fayfa, and you’re transported high into the rugged green mountains that are famous for generations of coffee farming.
Coffee is more than just a drink here, it’s a symbol of hospitality and a gesture of welcome. The coffee is much different than your typical Americano – it’s roasted very lightly, and brewed with cardamom and saffron for a unique fragrance. Rather than using sugar, coffee is served black, but with dates so you can alternate between sips of coffee and sweet dates. The combination is perfect.
After a welcome and coffee, we lit the outdoor wood fire oven, and then took a tour of the farm to learn about the prized Khawlani coffee beans. The farming practice has been passed down for generations in this area. Along with coffee, there were many medical edible herbs throughout the mountain.
Back to the oven, we loaded up an entire goat, along with big handfuls of sour dough, scented with the aroma green leaves. The oven was closed tight for a couple of hours to seal in all the steam and smoke. This cooking technique is common in Saudi Arabia and really does a great job of smoking, baking, and steaming all at the same time.
The time finally came, and we dished out all the tender goat on the rice trays. There were also a number of side dishes, including fresh buttermilk served in a smoky wooden bowl, a variety of doughs served with ghee, and possibly the highlight for me; helba, a sudsy fenugreek sauce that’s definitely a unique flavor, and loved in this region.
It was a meal I’ll never forget, in this friendly coffee village in the mountains of Jazan!
Thank you to Visit Saudi Arabia for arranging my food trip to Saudi Arabia!
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