Saudi Arabia: Shahiya’s Social Network Food Site

 

For anyone who enjoys Arab cooking Shahiya’s Social Network site is one of the best web sites to find both old and new Arab recipes.  The recipes are organized by types of dishes as well as origin of cooking.

American Bedu is pleased to have the opportunity to interview Hala Labaki, one of the founders of Shahiya.com.

First of all, Hala, please share a little bit about yourself.  Where are you from?  When and how did you get the idea of creating Shahiya?

Shahiya is the brainchild of myself and my partners Carole Hani and Daniel Neuwirth. The three of us met while attending the American University of Beirut, and remained friends. Carole is a registered dietitian, Daniel has a solid background in project management, and my focus was on marketing development.

It all started with a simple realization: for all Arab cuisines, finding reliable online sources of recipes was close to impossible. The Arab culinary heritage had been stored forever in family notebooks, lying on the shelves of every grandmother’s kitchen. But most of the time, it was only transmitted to the close family, sometimes even being lost with the departure of the elderly.

We thought of the idea for this site while studying abroad. We craved Lebanese food, but couldn’t find a single dependable online source for Lebanese recipes, especially in Arabic. We used to call parents and friends, wasting hours in international calls to be able to make this or that dish. But for other cuisines, French, Italian, American or Chinese, reliable recipes were all over the net. This is how we first identified a need.

What is the primary aim of the Shahiya Social Network?  How do you find women (and men?) from around the Arab world who are willing to share their recipes?  What kind of criteria does one have to meet in order to submit a recipe to Shahiya?

  Shahiya’s social network aims at keeping the Arab gastronomical heritage alive by bringing together men and women interested in food and cooking from all over the Arab world, and facilitating the interaction between them in order to exchange and spread their knowledge that will be stored on Shahiya. Anyone can submit a recipe, add pictures or participate in a live conversation about food and cooking in our online forum. Our team will review and modify your recipes in order to comply with our set standards, as well as ensure that they are informative and reliable.

 

Does anyone from Shahiya test a recipe before it is made public?

All our recipes are user-generated. However before being published on shahiya they are fully moderated by a trained editorial team to ensure clear, reliable and relevant information. This is what we can offer: moderation, but we can’t test all our 2000+ recipes!!!

If you want to have tested – fool proof- Lebanese recipes, we have an iPhone application: “Cook Lebanese- 101 recipes”. What is unique about this app is that All of the recipes have been personally tested and tasted by our team.

 

 

In addition to the recipes what other features does Shahiya offer?

What makes this site unique, among other things, is a feature found on no other Arab food site: each published recipe gets its nutrition facts calculated. So if you always wondered how many calories there are in your sayyadieh, now all you have to do is to post the recipe on shahiya.com and when it gets published you’ll find out! This service, along with diet recipes and an online free nutritional profile, is provided under the supervision of Carole Hani a US Registered Dietician.

 

Which types of food seem to be most popular, such as Saudi, Iranian, Lebanese, Moroccan…?

It is evident from the search on the website that three cuisines are very popular in the Arab world: the gulf cuisine (mainly Saudi), the Levantine cuisine (Lebanese/ Syrian/ Palestinian) and the American cuisine: chicken nuggets, burgers, cheesecake have a very special place in our audience’s hearts.

In which ways do you envision Shahiya expanding?

Encouraged by the success of the site, we decided to take the idea further; to bring Arabic food home to even more people. We launched an iPhone application focusing on what we know best, Lebanese Cuisine.

101 quintessentially Lebanese recipes were selected by the Shahiya team. We then cooked, tasted and fine-tuned these recipes. The resulting final, foolproof set of recipes made it into the app. The 101 recipes are divided into nine categories with a vegetarian filter offered for each. The dish pictures are not only beautiful; they genuinely illustrate the expected end result.

The app ‘Cook Lebanese – 101 recipes’ is available in six languages (Arabic, English, French, German, Spanish and Portuguese). Conveniently, all the listed ingredients are readily available anywhere in the world, and all recipes can be emailed to friends with a click of a button. In a nutshell, that’s the Lebanese culinary heritage meeting the entire world, 21st century style.

We do plan on creating additional applications featuring other Middle Eastern cuisines in the near future.

On average, how many individuals visit Shahiya per week?

Currently we have more than 5000 visits per day, meaning 35,000 visits per week. More than 60% of visits are from the KSA. For the past two Ramadan seasons Shahiya was ranked as the number Arabic website visited in the KSA.

  Where do you hope to see Shahiya in five years?

The main aim of Shahiya is to bring people together around the theme of food and cooking, and to have them share their recipes and their experience. In five years we would want Shahiya to become THE reference in Arabic for food online, so that each person who wants to cook anything will automatically come to Shahiya and find what they’re looking for.

Are there any additional comments you’d like to add?

Food is at the heart of our lives. It’s a great vehicle for drawing people together, and introducing them to new experiences and cultures. It is also such a huge part of our heritage, and we hope to keep it alive on the web with Shahiya.com.

It’s really a pleasure to have this interview on American Bedu.

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4 Responses

  1. yay for good food! 🙂

  2. love love lebenese food. My SIL juma used to make great food, miss her so much, I’m glad they have some place ot store recipes from families.. and tested. can’t get any better

  3. Thanks for posting and for the interview. I am very exited about the website which is now in my favorites and I will start cooking from it very soon!!!

  4. I, too, appreciate hearing about this! My significant other wants me to cook Arabic food, and this sounds like a good online resource! (Interestingly, some of the Arabic dishes remind me quite a bit of American &/or European ones.)

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