Saudi Arabia: Are There Any Saudi Vegetarians?

vegetarian diet


Saudi Arabia has expatriates from all over the world working in the Kingdom.  As a result, there are a plethora of ethnic restaurants to include plenty of Indian restaurants which specialize in vegetarian foods only.

It is not surprising for there to be vegetarians among the expats and not limited to expats from India.  There are many vegetarians among the Western expats who make the Kingdom their home.

However, the typical Saudi is brought up on a diet which includes meat, lots of meat.  Most Saudi families have some type of meat or meat dish served with breakfast, lunch and dinner.  In fact, lamb is viewed as a staple in the average Saudi’s diet.

Many Saudis may enjoy vegetarian food but I know in all of my interactions with Saudis throughout the Kingdom, I never met a Saudi who proclaimed himself or herself as a vegetarian.  As a result, it has made me wonder…. Are there any Saudis who consider themselves a vegetarian?  If so, I’d like to know about.

I’d like to know what made a Saudi choose to become a vegetarian and how easy (or difficult) is it for a Saudi to maintain a vegetarian diet among family and friends.


40 Responses

  1. In my research for my book, I only found pork products to be banned from Saudi diets. Lamb is the main substitute for pork as compaired to a western diet. Is there other forbidden foods?

  2. pork products are indeed banned which can also include types of gelatin which has pork products in the ingredients. Alcohol is also banned and includes alcohol that is in medicinal products like Nyquil.

    On Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 4:06 PM, American Bedu

  3. It’s really interesting post. Actually puts a smile on my face. It’s hard to find a vegetarian Saudi.Why People choose vegetarian, first is religious reason, we take India as example. Second some time in life people choose that eating animals is cruel and unhealthy. These are common two factors, environment and availability are uncommon reasons.

  4. @American Bedu, I doubt that medicinal products that contain alcohol is banned in Saudi. They probably just don’t import Nyquil because they already have other substitutes such as Panadol PM, etc..
    Other products that are non-medicinal but contain alcohol include natural vanilla extracts, balsamic vinegar, and Listerine. all of which contain small amounts of alcohol. I believe they are allowed because the amounts are not sufficient to be intoxicating.

  5. I don’t recall finding true vanilla extract when I was in Saudi; even at Tamimi. I can’t comment in regards to balsamic vinegar or Listerine.

    You can find non-alcoholic beer in Tamimi though under the category FWIW.

    On Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 5:15 PM, American Bedu

  6. In Jeddah, Danube, and Manuel Market mostly sell imported products, organic foods, etc… Tamimi lost its spark since they took the Safeway branding away lol

  7. Why my comments just disappearing? Not showing moderation status just vanished. I’m posting this to ask and to check?

  8. I’m trying to comment on the post about divorce, even tried the same comment here, as I click post comment, it vanished from here and from divorce. Why?

  9. My comment also vanished.

  10. My husband is thinking of becoming a vegetarian but me, I love meat just a bit too much…Mandi Laham anyone?

  11. I think the vanishing comments are a WP glitch. ):

    On Fri, Jan 4, 2013 at 8:42 PM, American Bedu

  12. I have been vegetarian most of my life and only just now am gradually trying meat. I have never tasted chicken in my life.

  13. Actually chicken is the more popular choice nowadays because it is cheap, fast cooking, less dangerous to the body.. etc.

    at this day and age lamb is becoming a delicacy that is only being offered at weddings and/or large lunch-dinner parties.


    a lot of Saudis are becoming vegetarian.. but not in the sense of eating soy foods or vegetables or fruits only..

    they just leave meat out of the customary dishes like (kabsa, saleeq, jareesh, matazeez, marqoq) mainly because of the repercussions of having a meat based diet.. e.g, (gout, high blood pressure, cholesterol).

    BTW, I love the blog, keep up the good work.

  14. I get a duplicate error message whenever I wanna re-post something that didn’t post 😦
    American Bedu, can you post something for me on “Debate” please?

    I don’t quite understand what you mean Yasser, you can’t post? Please explain what the problem is, meanwhile I will search for comments in spam.

  15. I actually do know a Saudi vegetarian. She’s a dear friend of mine studying in the US. I’ll link her to this entry and see if she would like to comment

  16. Aafke-art, have you ever asked your questions about Islam, Quran al Hakeem and Prophet Muhammad from a good Muslim scholar? You spend so much precious time and efforts finding faults, kindly spend some more time and efforts, find a good ,unlimited scholar anyone who you like and ask question from a Muslim scholar. A good Muslim scholar has the knowledge and they know the answers.
    These days social media become a drawing room for debating and verbally abusing Islam, social media can’t accommodate these debates because of its limitations.
    Quran al Hakeem is the final message of Allah al Mighty sent to Prophet Muhammad, Allah al Mighty words are absolute truth. I believe every word Allah tala said and His final message Quran al Hakeem.
    Quran al Hakeem is Alalh al Mighty talking to Muslims, to me. It’s verses belong to a context. In fact as a rule that non Muslim do not touch Quran al Hakeem,as most probably they are not clean and your twisting and turning of verses proved its logic. You don’t care for its message, you just twist and turn verses according to the meanings you like.

    Salma, you were in spam, this happens sometimes, we don’t know why. If you find your comments do not get placed, please contact Carol so we can look through the spam folder.

  17. Yes it looks like that, I posted this comment on divorce post, never appears there and now showing here. I ll contact Carol. Thank you.

  18. I send the email at admin@americanbadu. Thank you.

  19. I live in Khobar & just like Bedu said I can’t find true vanilla extract here. The Listerine I use says it’s alcohol free. Danube just opened up & Tamimi still I popular here.

  20. In more than 20 years I’ve never seen true vanilla extract or any product except Listerine (and it’s availability is sporadic) containing alcohol. All true vinegars go through an alcoholic stage as they are made through double distillation- but I do not believe they are alcoholic in there own right. I used to see substitute “fake” vinegars – I suppose for those that were uncomfortable with the alcoholic process of making vinegar.

  21. It’s time to pay a visit to Manual market I guess 😉

  22. Manuel has Vanilla? Really?

  23. […] tends to be the meat of choice for special occasions and family celebrations. It is rare to find a vegetarian in Saudi society but, with the massive influx of westerners into the region, that fact is likely […]

  24. I’m a Saudi guy who will try to be vegetarian for one week. I think it will be challenging at first, but I will see what will be the out come.

  25. Hello im 23 years old.I born and raised in khobar I never eat any kind of meat in all my life thats not religion its just becuse

  26. Well i’m a saudi girl who’s been vegan for 6 months now. To be honest it was kind of hard at the beginning, I didn’t know where or how to be a vegan! My family got along with it at first thinking it was just a phase and I wouldn’t survive a week because I used to be a “meat lover”.
    Then in the first two months everyone started pissing me off joking about my “tasteless food” but By the fifth- sixth month everyone around me accepted the fact that I am not going back to eating meat and dairy products and actually were so thoughtful during parties and family gatherings and made vegan dishes for me. And some of my friends and cousins are now consider trying veganism for a month or two to challenge themselves and to support me.

  27. I am saudi and i have been vegan for 2 months now.. in my family there are 2 vegetarians and one vegan beside myself.. we chose to be vegetarians/vegan because we love animals : ) being vegetarian is not hard at all .. being vegan wasn’t hard cuz we have the alternatives widely available in all major supermarkets.. as for resturants, indian are vegetarian frindly but not always for vegan as they use yugert and butter in almost all of their dishs.. asian resturants have vegan options but nothing tastes as good as home cooking at least for me; )

  28. Salaam Valekum (Sorry for any spelling mistake) Norah . This is Parvesh Sharma from Delhi, India. I am totally vegetarian not even egg. This is nice to hear to become veg from your side.. Namaskaar

  29. I am saudi, and I am vegan

  30. Itsn’t about how hard was it, But how good it felt.

  31. Elham, welcome to the blog. Do you feel notably different on a vegan diet?

  32. all vegan and vegetarians in Saudi Arabia and all arab worlds are the best of human in the region, those who pray 5 times daily and still kill animals for food will definitely not find joy in the afterlife, those vegans and vegetarians will find joy with Allah in the afterlife irrespective of prayer or no prayer.

  33. I’m a vegan in Saudi for three reasons. First, I believe it benefits my health greatly have a low-fat, plant-based diet. Second, the animal industry is not at all sustainable. The facts are horrifying. The amount of trees being cut down and the pollution caused to produce meat is ridiculous. Third, but definitely not least, are the animals. Animals are sentient beings with souls like us, and it is nothing short of heartless to end a life meant for twenty long years for a twenty minute meal. ESPECIALLY when vegan alternatives are so abundant and healthy.

  34. Hi .. I’m 36 Saudi male, vegetarian since 10 months and loving it 🙂

  35. I’m saudi and i went vegetarian about a year ago and i’m vegan now
    there are very little to know people who idetifies as a vegan or vegetarian wich is very sad
    most of them think that humans are meant to eat animals and animal products and that animals were created for them to enjoy eating or whatever they do with them
    And It is very rare to find vegan or vegetarian restaurants around

  36. My older sister is a vegetarian, shes been that way for a long time actually I’m gonna guess she doesn’t want to be vegan because it would be way too hard here.

  37. There actually are vegetarian/vegan saudi’s out there. My cousin was a vegetarian once, And me myself am becoming a vegan very soon. Even though it might be a little hard at first considering the fact I’m living in saudi arabia, at last, I believe it really is the best for me!

  38. Hi American Bedu, I was looking for vegan in KSA and came across your post, though it’s old one but I thought I ‘d just leave the comment anyway. I am saudi woman , vegetarian for 1 year and went vegan 1 month ago, and yea it’s a commitment to this lifestyle for good . veganism is really new and strange concept in here. During my stay in the US I used to shop at the whole food market where I came to see lots of vegan food and products, I remember that at first I thought like it’s crazy and extreme, but it’s really stuck in my mind for a while till I begin to educate myself about it.I’v always been looking for new ways to greenify my life, and from there I started reading about animal testing, sustainability and factory farms , I watched documentary and did my homework googling alternative for whatever I was using that might be involved in cruelty industry.It’s not that I just woke up and decided to go vegan, not for only one reason, not because of only one reason.It was like a journey to me.
    ohh, and my husband is not vegetarian but he enjoys my food. my brother is vegetarian for about 4 months.

  39. i’m not sure if you have conducted your post based on a research or just based on few saudies you’ve met. However i am a saudi and find it strange that on your post it says we have meat for breakfast! Not really we don’t.
    There are some vegiterians in saudi, but it can be hard to ge the fresh organic produce though i see that being more avalible now

  40. Is there a vegan/vegetarian society in Saudi Arabia peopl can join?

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