Eating Out Riyadh Style


Are you constantly hungry?

Think you might like to step out for a quick bite?

Dreaming of a hot choc sundae from Baskin Robbins?

Hold that hunger pang…..

it’s praytime in Riyadh

Five times a day there is the call to prayer for every faithful muslim and up till now the only inconvenience this has caused me is interrupted sleep or being told to turn my music off while driving my convertible. (The driving took place in a neighbouring country and I now know to place some  distance between my bedroom and the neighbourhood mosque). 

Here in Riyadh they have taken the further step of shutting down all the shops and all the restaurants once the prayer call is sounded. If you are waiting in a cue in a  department store you have to leave your purchases aside, step out and wait for the store to reopen. This can take anything from 30 minutes to 3 hours depending on the  store.

I haven’t figured out how this works if you are mindlessly filling your  shopping trolley in a supermarket and have no way of clearing the checkout before the store’s grilles come shutting down. What happens to your frozen chook or tub of  ice cream?

Wallace says that the Maghrib call (evening prayers around 6.30pm) are timed to keep office workers like him famished until after 7pm. Before I arrived, it seems that every time he stepped out for a meal he would find  restaurants closed and  would have to pound the pavement till they reopened.  With current evening temperatures in Riyadh staying in the high 30’s this is not recommended.

Last night I discovered what happens when the call comes in the middle of your dining experience.

The restaurant staff all walk out and lock you in to finish your meal.


Our waiter came to us and said, ‘I have to go outside now, enjoy your meal.’

My first thought was what happens if there’s a fire and my second thought was of raiding the kitchen for  cheesecake.

In Riyadh you don’t eat out, you eat in – locked in.


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