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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - ALKHOBAR: With the lingering scent of freshly fried fish and the enticing aroma of brewed coffee, Alkhobar welcomed its first Seafood Festival recently, just a short walk from the corniche.
The four-day ticketed event, a family friendly space that celebrates seafood in all its forms, is supported by the Quality of Life Program and the Saudi Culinary Arts Commission.
A wide range of seafood is available to buy from local eateries, from fish tacos and poke bowls to traditional rice dishes and soups. Groups of families and friends can set up their feast at one of the many communal picnic tables available to enjoy in the cool air.
The festival, which features about 30 booths, is not just about food, but also offers educational and recreational activities. Some booths sell fishing rods and bait, as well as model ships. A booth from the Museum Al-Ferij also provides educational material on fishing.
“This festival represents a valuable opportunity to explore various flavors from around the world, with the participation of a selection of seafood restaurants. It aims to showcase the cultural influence of these dishes by highlighting their local and global preparation methods,” the festival organizers said in a statement.
A caricature artist is on hand to sketch customers, and there are arts and crafts booths, with a make-your-own jewelry spot providing plenty of pearls and seashells to create sea-inspired art.
Spectators will be entertained by a DJ set, as well as live group dances on stage from countries such as Kuwait, New Zealand, Vietnam and Haiti, and one inspired by Native American fishermen. Children and adults can enjoy the live performances relaxing on bean bags, which last about 20 minutes each.
There are plenty of spaces to take photos with sea-inspired art, and, if you are lucky, you might even snap a photo with one of the characters dressed as lobsters, sea turtles or sharks.
With a seafood-themed children’s play area and workshops, as well as live cooking demonstrations, one could easily have a crash course on all things seafood just by walking across the space.
But if you want to live the best of both worlds, you can enjoy the festival and then take something home to snack on later.
“It is shrimp season, so we have plenty of fresh shrimp on sale today — the small, the medium sized and the jumbo, even super jumbo,” Mustafa Karam of Qatif-based Kilo Samak told Arab News.
“We cleaned it, packaged it and can deliver it straight to your door, or you could pick something up now. We have it in the perfect portion size, with clear instructions on the package, so you can take it from us and prepare it at home in your oven or air fryer at your leisure.”
This year, one of the firm's proudest achievements was receiving a diploma from the Norwegian Seafood Council, presented by Thomas Lid Ball, the Norwegian ambassador to the Kingdom since 2021.
Kilo Samak receives weekly frozen shipments from Norway directly to its base in Qatif and delivers anywhere within the Kingdom. Its most popular product is inspired by the flavors of Morocco, a salmon dish with vegetables. Other products include salmon burgers, salmon sausages and roasted shrimp — spicy or regular. It also sells fish and shrimp, cleaned or not, breaded or marinated.
“We started five years ago and then began offering these pre-packaged dishes. We have participated at another local festival before, but this is the first Seafood Festival outside in the fresh air, and honestly, I’m shocked at the crowd and how popular it is. I hope they extend it for even more days,” Karam added.
The festival ends on Dec. 24. It is held from 5 p.m. until midnight and tickets can be bought for SR20 ($5) from ticketmx.com.
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