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Famous for its food vendors, Jeddah's Qabel St. continues Ramadan tradition
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 28 - 07 - 2012

Salem Al-Malki at his balilah stall on Qabel St. in Jeddah.
Samar Yahya
Saudi Gazette
JEDDAH - Jeddah, one of the oldest and most famous cities in Saudi Arabia, has a distinctive atmosphere especially in the holy month of Ramadan. A tourist city, Jeddah offers a lot to its residents and visitors throughout the year and downtown Jeddah in particular is known for its distinct Ramadan atmosphere.
Qabel St., located in Al-Balad district, is one of the city's oldest streets. The famous street got its name from the Qabel family that owned vast tracts of land in the area. The entire street is a commercial hub with gold shops and currency exchangers lined along the street. Every year, Qabel St. gets prepared to welcome the holy month of Ramadan and transforms into a colorful street lined with food vendors selling traditional Hijazi food including the famous boiled chickpea and pickled cucumber dish known as balilah.
Salem Al-Malki, a married father of 2, operates a balilah stall on these street. Al-Malki, whose stall is know for its custom (and often spicy) sauces, said he enjoys the opportunity to interact with people. Al-Malki and his friend Mohammad Al-Subhi, took a paid vacation from their day jobs at a laboratory in Jeddah to run the stall. The two said they want to run their own business and thought running a food stall would be a great start.
Another balilah vendor, Abdullah Ibrahim Al-Johani, a father of 5, inherited his balilah profession from his family who has been in the business for 20 years. Al-Johani said he prepares the dish while his brothers help him serve customers. During Eid he also cooks debyaza, a traditional dessert made of nuts, sugar and other ingredients.
At another stall, Abdulrahman Al-Haythy a student at King Abdulaziz University, sold balilah, freshly-cut fries and a local drink with his partner Alaa Maghraby. Both come from families who have years of experience running street carts.
“We started this business a long time ago when people still used metal cutlery and plastic plates. People used to come and eat around the stall. The municipality does not allow us to lay out tables and chairs for our customers anymore but we still get plenty of take away orders," said Maghraby who added that the secret to their stall is the spices they use.
Al-Haythy, wearing traditional Hijazi clothes, said his mom boils the chickpeas and the two come to Qabel St. right after Maghreb prayers and leave around 2 a.m.
The Jeddah municipality gave permission to over 500 people, including women, to operate Ramadan food stalls this year.


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