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Saudi region awarded global gastronomy title

Creative Commons
Aseer: World Region of Gastronomy 2024
  • Move is part of $13 billion plan to develop tourism
  • Aseer region known for its coffee and local dishes

The Aseer region in southwest Saudi Arabia is to be given a global showcase after being awarded the title of World Region of Gastronomy 2024 by the Barcelona-based International Institute of Gastronomy, Culture, Arts and Tourism (IGCAT).

The move is part of a wider $13 billion plan to redevelop the tourism potential of the little-known area of the kingdom.

The Saudi region, which is known for its coffee, wheat and fruit culinary delights, will be the first region outside Europe to earn this accolade.

IGCAT is a non-profit institute established in Spain in 2012 and works to highlight gastronomy, culture, arts and tourism around the world.

The Aseer region submitted its bid for the title on December 31 last year, and the IGCAT visited the Saudi province from February 27 to March 1.

“The jury was impressed with the region’s efforts to support local cultural and food diversity, ensure regional biodiversity and environmental protection, preserve heritage and traditional knowledge, as well as to empower the younger generations to create innovative products and services to attract sustainable tourism,” the IGCAT said.

“All the local stakeholders that we had the pleasure to meet – including chefs, farmers, producers, young entrepreneurs, guides – demonstrated great pride and love for the heritage and traditions of their region, as well as passion for their work and country. We are confident that Aseer will be an exemplary World Region of Gastronomy 2024,” the jury concluded.

The title will be officially awarded at a ceremony in Turin on September 24.

The accolade will help to be a catalyst for a $13 million plan announced by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in September last year, aimed at attracting more than 10 million visitors to the Asser region by 2030.

Under the theme The Arabian Highland’, the investment will spur a renaissance in the region, the Saudi Press Agency said. The region has 125 kilometres of Red Sea coastline and is currently home to 2.5 million people.

Meal, Food, DishCreative Commons
Local speciality: lamb haneeth

Five local specialities from the Aseer region

  • Ghee
    An essential item in the region’s cuisine, it is a form of butter, extracted from the milk of goats.
  • Al Mefa Bread
    Bread by Aseeri locals is made from multiple grains found in the region and is eaten at every meal. Its sour taste is created through the cultivation of a natural leavening agent extracted from former loaves left in cool, dry places. 
  • Haneeth
    Haneeth is one of the dishes that Aseeris most enjoy preparing for guests. Local freshly cut meat, usually sheep or goat, is first prepared using traditional methods to ensure it will be crispy and fully cooked. 
  • Mashghutha
    A thick milky porridge that is traditionally served in a vessel made from tree trunks painted on the outside with tar or bitumen to preserve the heat and flavour of the food
  • Gisher coffee shells
    Meaning peels, this is a beverage made with the coffee shells. This drink is exceptionally popular among Aseeris, as it’s believed to have healing properties. To prepare Gisher, a handful of coffee peels should be roasted with dates and cinnamon. Just before it’s cooked, other herbs and spices are often added to the mixture.