Saudi Arabia: Thanksgiving in the Kingdom?


It is approaching the time of year when Western Expats, particularly Canadians and Americans think about Thanksgiving.  Thanksgiving is traditionally known as a celebration at the end of harvest for a good harvest.  It is the time when individuals give thanks and blessings for what they have.  While Canada and America may be the most widely known places which celebrate Thanksgiving, according to Wikipedia, Thanksgiving is also recognized and celebrated in Grenada, Liberia, The Netherlands and the Australian external territory of Norfolk Island.

Fortunately expatriates can celebrate a hardy Thanksgiving in the Kingdom.  This is the time of the year when there will be a selection of frozen turkeys, cranberries, marshmellow crème, yams and other delectable’s associated with Thanksgiving.  Tamimi grocery stores usually have the widest selection of Thanksgiving staples although Danube and Panda will have some Thanksgiving offerings too.

American Thanksgiving always falls on a Thursday.  This makes it very convenient for American expatriates in the Kingdom as Thursday is a day off.  It gives one the entire day to prepare that special feast of a meal.

It is traditional to have a gathering of friends and family around the Thanksgiving table.  There is always more food than one can imagine eating in one setting.  This is a time when special and traditional dishes are made.  Some families will make special dishes using cranberries and yam.  Other families will make green bean casseroles.  Potatoes are also served at Thanksgiving, either mashed or scalloped.  Of course there will be stuffing which can be made in so many different ways.  And last but not least, the piece de resistance is the succulent turkey!

After one’s stomach has settled from all the delicious Thanksgiving food, then an array of desserts are typically served.  Pies are a favorite and many families may have a selection of pumpkin, pecan or apple pies.

For the expats in Saudi Arabia who are celebrating Thanksgiving, this is also a great opportunity to invite Saudi friends over for a special home cooked meal.

32 Responses

  1. I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, Carol! Thanks for your interesting blog and for your dedication in keeping it updated and enjoyable for all! 🙂

  2. Two words: Turkey kebsa.

  3. Tamimi’s was great for supplying alot of things. But as all expats know there are other things that you have to bring in from home.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all in Saudi! May you have a peaceful and joyful time together.

  4. I’ve never experienced Thanksgiving, the food looks great though. I was supposed to go to my first a couple of weeks ago in Canada. I wish they had Boston Market here.

  5. I was happy to see this particular entry on Amerin Bedu. I will miss the traditional meal with my family but I really liked what you said at the end of the blog. It is a good time to invite some Saudi friends to come and experience some of our diversity. Thank you for the great idea! One thing about being here in Saudi for the holiday season, there is not a lot of worry about gaining extra unwanted weight over “the holidays!” Thanks for your blog!!!!!

  6. “This is the time of the year when there will be a selection of frozen turkeys, cranberries, marshmellow crème, yams and other delectable’s associated with Thanksgiving. ”

    Tamimis’ is the key I guess. We don’t have one in Tabuk and the Panda’s (2 of them) have not had eggs since the Eid al-Adha holidays.
    I fix our company’s dinner. Fortunately for me, the guys at the head office will send up some of what I need. Of course, no perishables can be sent. I buy turkeys when I see them and put them in my freezer. But these turkeys don’t have the giblets. No Butterballs or Honeysuckle Whites here. I bring pecans back with me from the US.

  7. Hi carol, any of your contacts in Jeddah knows where I can get any pumpkin pie, I have been dying for years to put my hands on some to no avail. 🙂

  8. You may be able to get canned pumpkin to make your own. That is one of the items I can get here in Tabuk. It is found in the canned fruit section of the store.

  9. Recently there has been canned Pumpkin in various Danube’s in Jeddah. The pie recipe in on the label- I recommend brown sugar instead of white. They also have Butterball turkeys and canned cranberries jelly and whole. Usually AFTER Thanksgiving they get Ocean Spray fresh cranberries. They have Stove Top Stuffing if you don’t like to make your own.

  10. Thanx Linda, and Sandy, canned pumpkin I got from Danube here in Jeddah, now that I got it what do I do with it, remember I’m a guy, I don’t know how to cook, or bake for that matter. Someone, please help, I want to make that pumpkin pie 🙂

  11. @ Anonymous: The recipe is on the can 🙂 For the crust, go to;; or any other recipe site and just type “pie crust” or “pie pastry” into the search. Oh, you will also need some sort of pie dish to bake it in. Perferably a 9 in diameter one. Since you are in Jeddah, you may beable to find pre-made crusts or a box mix for crusts.

  12. When I was in England, what I missed most about Thanksgiving was just being near people who were familiar with the holiday. That said, one thing I did not miss was “traditional” American food such as turkey, stuffing, etc. Ironically, it was my Chinese flatmates wanted me to fix a traditional American meal. I did miss Mexican food, though.

    Not sure what ethnic style of food to fix this Thanksgiving, but it looks like Turkey is going to be on the menu!

    Why not celebrate Thanksgiving with traditional Arabic food or some other ethnic type of food? Thanksgiving may be an American holiday, but let’s face it- America has been a mix of ethnic food styles ever since the first “settlers” arrived! It isn’t just “traditional” southern food that has been in the US all this time- there were Native American (including native Mexican), European, Chinese, etc. influence in the United States from its beginnings.

    I love this holiday because it can be spent with friends (not just family), most people have the day off, and it’s not a religious holiday (so more people can celebrate together- yay!). And it’s always nice to remember all the blessings we have in life. 🙂

  13. I have Arabic food ALL THE TIME! No thank you. On Thanksgiving it is Turkey with all the trimmings because it IS an American holiday! Turkey’s and potatos are native to the Americas. Has nothing to do with Southern food.

  14. I thought potatoes were native to European countries like Ireland? Squash, corn, and beans make up the triad or “three sisters” of the Americas- the basis of many Native American dishes.

    Southern food like turkey and potatoes are actually a mix of various European, African, etc. dishes. (Okra has African roots, if I’m not mistaken.) My family has had Italian and Cajun food (at different times) for Thanksgiving. I know families that have Filipino food, Mexican food, Arabic food, etc. for Thanksgiving.

    I do not consider Turkey to be any more native than Cajun, Mexican, Chinese and African food styles since these have also been around for at least as long as “turkey and the trimmings”.

    However, if you like turkey, stuffing, etc. I can see how Thanksgiving would be the perfect excuse… *ahem* reason… for it! ❤

    Did you know that burritos as Americans know them are actually an american dish?

  15. If I were living in another country, I’d so be after Mexican food for Thanksgiving! (I ❤ tamales!!!!) That is, if I could find the ingredients. Although, I did miss American biscuits from time to time!

  16. @Strangeone – ‘I love this holiday because it can be spent with friends (not just family), most people have the day off, and it’s not a religious holiday (so more people can celebrate together- yay!)

    RIIIIGHT!! We invited our extremists and we were told that our traditional Thanksgiving food is too bland for our Pakistani ass-in-law and it was suggested that we make tandoori or chargha spiced turkey. We suggested we make it the way that we like it and that SHE contribute something spicy to the meal (people in our family always contribute a dish at family gatherings-she has yet to do that) and I would make a spicy chutney. Naaaaa, he won’t eat that. Then it was WHERE are you going to buy the halal turkey, we refused to go to the store that charges you an extra $5 to put their store label over top the same label we could buy at the ‘normal’ store. Told her she could feel free to go buy it herself and bring it here but that was a no because they ‘don’t even like turkey’. Needless to say we’re making other plans!! Carol, where’d you say you were going for Thanksgiving? Maybe we’ll meet you there! 🙂

    And there’s my obligatory segue into Muslim bashing!

  17. @Anon-Saudi – next time I am in Saudi I’ll bake you a pumpkin pie! (smile)

  18. I eat Mexican alot- and most of it available in the US is quite different than what’s in Mexico. Potatoes, sweet potAtos are American as are pumpkins and turkeys. I eat Mexican on Cinco de Mayo and waffles at Vaffledaggen. I’ve not yet met a food holiday I don’t like- yet I do keep forgetting to brine some beef for corned beef and cabbage on St Paddy”s Day.

  19. @anon Saudi- your best bet for a pre- made crust is also Danube. Or possibly a bakery would do it for you- unbaked though because it cooks with the filling.

  20. I eat ”oliebollen” and ”spekkedikken” at New year, eggs at Easter, Christmas cookies and lots off extra nice food at christmas, chocolate mice and letters and ”pepernoten” at Saint Nicholas, ”taai taai” at Saint Martin’s day, sweets at eid, apples at Samhain, cake at my birthday and I hope to get my turkey this thanksgiving.
    I am all for food and parties.

  21. @Aafke- Is spekkedikken the Dutch version of spotted dick? What is oliebollen? That sounds like something scandanavian.

  22. I used to go out of my way to buy halal foods for my Muslim friends in England when I’d cook for them- just like I went out of my way to make sure that there were vegetarian dishes prepared when my vegetarian friends were over. I might fix things with other ingredients, but I’d always make sure people knew what those were and were not.

    So glad I don’t have to worry about “halal” labeling currently- it can be hard to find sometimes!

  23. And I agree with Sandy and Aafke- I love holidays with yummy food, too! ❤ ❤ ❤ Hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving this year, Aafke!

  24. @ Linda and Sandy, I thank you, I’m going to give it a try, and if anyone wants to invite me for thanksgiving dinner, I’m available 🙂

    @ Carol, thank you, can’t wait till you can come down here to Jeddah :), and if all else fail, I will be coming to the States this summer if not for anything, it will be certainly for the pumpkin pies 🙂

    HappyThanksgiving Everybody….

  25. OK, Lynn. THAT was actually funny!!

  26. OK, Lynn. That was actually funny.

  27. StrangeOne, thank you!
    Kristine, ”spekkedikken” are some sort of wafer made of a lot of different kinds of flour, moalsses and spices and eggs and you add sausage and porkfat (spek) and it’s something they made since the middle ages. They are only made deep in the country side, and in the countryside in the north of Germany.
    One’s enough to keep you going for hours in the cold weather, at least if you use my grandmother’s recipe, which is the most tasty one, if you buy them they tend to taste boring.
    Not suitable for Muslims.
    ”Oliebollen” are balls of special dough with raisins fried in fat and sprinkled with powdered sugar, you have to eat at least one for the new year! I make them with apple which is very nice.
    ”Pepernoten” are small round cookies with lots of spices, very nice. Saint Nicholas brings them, he comes for weeks before his birthday and all the children put up an empty shoe (or with a carrot for his horse) sing songs and the next day there will be a small gift, until the birthday when we all get small presents, usually with poems.

    Food holidays! Yay!

  28. Lynn…

    Your comment touched upon a nerve and a raw spot that I have had over the years but have managed to (more or less) get over…but I totally understand where you are coming from. My husband when we first were married had the benefit of me learning to cook indian food. He loved it and I made it so much that my entire diet changed because I wasn’t going to make one indian and one nonindian meal so I ate a lot of Indian. Each year I would make a Thanksgiving meal for us..turkey and all. And it would only be us two as his family was in India and mine half a country away. He wouldn’t invite his workmates as they were Indian and would think the food is too bland. Every year for quite a few years he would splash tobasco on everything I cooked because it wasn’t hot/spicy enough. One year I completely lost my tolerance and went over the edge for a few minutes. I was a woman possessed! I let him have it because I told him I had learned to eat Indian food although it was spicy and I wasn’t used to that. And I eat it all the time…All I ask is that ONE DAY per year he eat the meal as it was meant to be eaten. I spent hours cooking and he ruins it every year with Tobasco sauce. I think he thought I was crazy but I told him I felt insulted that he ruins my meal by not appreciating the flavors as they are meant to be. ONE DAY is all I was asking. He still put tobasco on it but I got my petty revenge. Slowly over the years as I cooked Indian food I would add less and less spice…to the point now where I don’t add any chili or very little. Funnily enough, when he eats out he finds the food too hot and now I have a greater tolerance than he.

  29. @Lynn..was sad to hear your story..its freaking food so petty.. cos u were inviting them they could have chipped in and brought their own dishes if they were that psycho about not eating one non-pakistani meal in their entire life..what a sacrifice..i have to say I’m on ure side for this one.
    @Oby..revenge is sweet lol My mum has the same problem..

    I think when it comes to food some ppl are really so stubborn. I love those ppl who are cool with whatever you put in front of them..keeping in mind their personal religious preferences of course and or diet needs if possible or they should bring it themselves. The concept of Thanks Giving in Australia is so foreign but it sounds like a nice time for family big dinners yumm!.

  30. @Oby – I actually don’t even care if they ruin the food on their OWN plate! But I have never in my life heard of anyone RUDE enough to tell you that your food sucks so bad that they can’t even join your table. Haven’t they ever heard of eating BEFORE you go?! LOL

    Oby, I LOVE your solution. IF we ever invite them again they’d have to worry about all that extra spice (poison) that I’d be adding. My husband was the one that called to invite them because he wants so desperately to try to keep some semblance of a family (he lost a LOT losing his mother, father and then son all five months apart from each other) That is why before he called her I asked him if he was prepared to end up hurt because if he wasn’t he’d better think twice before making that call. One of these days he’ll learn. Myself, I was prepared to NEVER speak to her again as I thought that she had gone over the edge of acceptable behavior when she finally came back from Pakistan but never found the time to even call us, let alone visit us (she lives a mile away from us) in the three months that they were back before my husband called to invite her to our son’s memorial celebration. (which she DID come to, hours later, and with a child that didn’t even know us and acted shy of his own grandparents because he hadn’t seen us in 7 months). Grrrrrr!

  31. One of my many many blessings is your blog. I don’t always follow it, but very often, and it’s so good to know that it’s there with its thought-provoking, compassionate and wise views.

    A very happy Thanksgiving to you. I know the holidays the first year of so of a bereavement can be difficult, so my wish goes to you for strength and courage.

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