Want to do something different for Iftar (the evening breaking of the fast) during Ramadan here in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia? Outside dining by the sea perhaps? Al Khobar is really turning their natural coastline, which is situated across from the country of Bahrain, into destination spots. A raw area of natural beauty, with pebbly beach areas, where you could drive your car off the highway and onto the sandy beach near the water, Saudi now is building up the beachfront. The restaurant SALT is a new addition for about 2 years here. They cater to the American cuisine, burgers, fries, sodas and ice cream.
They have about 20 tables arranged on the beach. For an unobstructed view, choose the seats closest to the water. The downside is that you will have no light once the sun sets, but maybe that doesn’t matter. I loved where we sat. Next to a palm tree, we had two sofa benches and one chair. Light sticks surrounded us so we could see our area well. The cool design for lighting that SALT has, are lightbulbs put into bamboo poles. They add an element of rustic charm and tropical feel to the spot. At night it looks as though there are camp fires on sticks, or stars in the dark. It is a very comfortable place. You must wear your mask when ordering on line and walking in and out, but when you are seated, or by the beach, you can remove it.
So, during Ramadan it is not lawful to drink or eat in public, until the sun sets and the call to prayer is heard. There are stiff penalties for breaking this law. Last week we drove to SALT and parked in their ample parking lot. They let us in to sit at 5:45pm. We could order food only after 6pm. Being prepared for Iftar, I had made a tuna pasta salad and rice and beans. This way some people in the family could break the fast, and not have to wait for SALT’s food. (If you order at 6pm, you will not get your food by 6:15 let’s say, when you need to break your fast.) We also brought our own water bottles. There were only 2 other families there, and slowly others trickled in after 6:30.
The sea breeze was gentle and refreshing, coming right off the water. The boys waded in and walked around the beach. There is no swimming here at the beach, but it is enjoyable to be able to sit and look out at the misty water as the sky and water blend together in the fading light. The sun sets orangey-red over the city, opposite of the beach. It was really beautiful as the lights began to come on and the night sky faded to light purple, blue and pink, then gray. By the time we left, which was only 7:15 it was completely dark and our bellies were full. When you view the restaurant from the highway running the Corniche, it looks beautifully lit and inviting. It does get crowded around 9pm onwards.
So, what can we recommend on the menu? I am not a fan of their burgers, but other people are. I think they are small for the money spent. The fries get two thumbs up from my kids. The ice cream is really good and rich, and one of the best I’ve had. They have two flavors of ice cream, brownie and lotus. If you like chocolate, I can recommend the “brownie” flavor, and it comes sprinkled with chocolate crumbles. The crunch is a nice complement to the creaminess. My husband got a “brownie” milkshake, but he said it was alright, not the best. But don’t take our word for what is good, come try for yourself! You won’t be disappointed you came.
Here’s my opinion:
Building up the coastline and beach will have positive and negative effects, of course. Positive effects, are more areas for people to hang out, enjoy eating next to the water, clean beach areas and nightlife spots. What you get is a more manicured and clean coastline, with jogging and biking trails, playgrounds, and the planting of more trees to green up the area. Since we have been here, there has been a lot done with the garbage that people left after eating near the beach. It used to look dumpy and dirty in areas, and there were no trash cans for disposal. Here there is a work force for just cleaning up the roads and beach areas.
Negative effects, are less natural areas that you can easily access, more light pollution at the water’s edge, and more “built” environments along the coastline. I hope that some areas will remain natural and un-built, so that people can appreciate how it has looked in the past.
If Saudi stays in a balance between keeping the coastline park-like, with restaurants dispersed here and there, they can avoid what Alexandria, Egypt has currently. Once a beautiful expansive coastline, where the turquoise waters were easily seen and accessed, Egypt has let humanity crowd right to the water’s edge with nightlife dining spots, clubs, businesses, while taking away public beach areas. There is more pollution from motor vehicles, etc. Much of the coastline is now private, so that to enjoy it, you have to go to an establishment, which breaks up the beach view. Granted, there are a few areas where you get the old vibe of fishing boats and such, but that is the exception.
Al Khobar seems to be more tame, and while there are nice villas being built along stretches of the beach, they are inland, so that the coastline will for now, remain easily seen and accessed for all.