Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sweet Mother of Ali

I thought I should start the first post after my long break by writing about something sweet. And what better subject for a sugarphile like myself, than with what could arguably be one of the most beloved desserts in the Middle East. You cannot go to an Arabic restaurant and not see it on the menu. At buffets it is at the front center of the dessert tables. Also, those who know me know why it is special to me as well.

Omm Ali, Umm Ali – there are many variations to its spelling - is a delicious mixture of baked puff pastry (or phyllo dough), raisins, nuts (almonds, pistachios, walnuts and/or pine nuts), and sometimes coconut, all covered with a thick sweet cream and baked until golden. It is similar to bread pudding, but richer and made without eggs. Properly made, it is a piece of heaven in a bowl. Creamy but not too rich with bits of dried fruits and nuts. But I also have had many horrible renditions. Poorly made ones resemble soggy, sugary leftover cereal and milk – and taste of the same.

Omm means mother in Arabic, so Omm Ali literally means Ali’s mother. In the Arab culture it is not uncommon for people to often forgo their first names after the birth of their first son and be called Omm or Abu (which means father) name of first son instead. Those without sons are sometimes called by the names of their firstborn daughters, but this is not as prevalent.

Now a bit of history about this famous dish. Arabs love folklore and they certainly have a gift of story telling. So whenever I write about a traditional dish, I try to find the story behind it.

Well, most leads pointed to the origin of Omm Ali as being Egyptian and concocted during the reign of the Mamelukes, a military caste originating in Turkey that ruled Egypt from the 13th to 16th centuries. One Egyptian tourism web site claimed this dessert was named after the first wife of the sultan Ezz El Din Aybek. When the sultan died, his second wife had a dispute with the first wife, (Ali’s mom), which resulted with the death of wife number 2. To celebrate, Omm Ali made this dessert, or probably had ordered it to be made by the palace chefs, and distributed it among the people.

Another version was about a sultan, name unknown, who was hunting in the Nile delta and developed a veracious appetite. He stopped in a small village and the peasants, coveting to please him, requested the best cook of the village, Omm Ali to create something. She whipped up something with the only ingredients she had on hand; dried wheat flakes (perhaps pieces of gullash, an Egyptian phyllo-like pastry), raisins, nuts and coconut. She covered it with sugar and milk and put it into the village communal oven. It turned out to be so good that the sultan requested Om Ali’s dessert the next time he visited.

Yet another story is related by Charles Perry, a retired food writer for the Los Angeles Times and an authority on medieval Arab cookery. Eschewing all prior versions, according to him, Omm Ali was a pudding learned from an English nurse named O'Malley.

Hmm...I like the Egyptian versions better.


Omm Ali

1 package good quality (i.e. made with butter) frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup golden raisins, or other dried fruit (cherries, apricots etc)
1/4 cup unsalted chopped pistachios
1/4 cup sweetened, flaked coconut (optional)
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 can evaporated milk
1/2 can sweetened condensed milk (or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom powder
1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Unroll the puff pastry sheets, and place flat on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven, or until puffed and golden brown. Remove and allow to cool.
Break the puff pastry into pieces, and place in a large bowl. Add the raisins, pistachios and coconut (if using), and toss to distribute. Pour into a 9x13 inch baking dish and spread evenly.
Pour the milk, cream, evaporated & condensed milks into a saucepan, along with the vanilla or cardamom powder. Stir to combine well. Heat until hot but not boiling. Carefully pour over the pastry & nut mixture in the baking dish. Sprinkle sliced almonds on top.
Bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven to broil, and broil for 2 minutes or until lightly brown on the top. Remove from the oven and let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. Serve warm. With whipped cream & caramel sauce if you want to really gild the lily.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Leave of Absence

This blog was silent for almost 1 year - for a good reason (besides my laziness of course); of which I may write about when I am in the right frame of mind. I have missed ranting and raving about my life in Doha, and will periodically post things which I find amusing, bewildering, annoying, humbling and/or all of the above. Thank you to everyone who dropped me a line during my absence.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

In Sickness And In Health

The past few weeks have been challenging, to say the least. With the exception of me, the entire household fell sick, one after the other. Many forms of illnesses have been perpetrating Dohaites these days and quite a few colleagues and friends have also been under their influence.

But in all honesty, this happens every year, right after the long winter break. Residents who had gone abroad during this period return to Doha from all over the world, bearing a mélange of gifts, viruses including.

It has also been unusually cold these past few weeks. The thermostat may be hovering in the 60’and 70’s, but harsh, bone chilling winds have been sweeping throughout the city. It also manages to seep through the cracks in the windows and doors (construction here leaves a lot to be desired, to say the least); no matter how many newspapers we stuff into them.

So we residents of the Middle East, who are accustomed to bringing out our sweaters, comforters, space heaters and fur lined abaya’s (some even consider this a good time to break out the thermals and anoraks) when the temperature drops to the 80’s, are in a predicament which has left our sun drenched systems unbalanced. But, we find comfort in the fact that in just a few short weeks the temperatures will return to hot, hotter and scorching – up to tissaa wa arbaaeen (49 C / 120 F) and no, this is not a typo.

Of course the kids stayed home from school and K did not go to work. I also missed a few classes since I have been playing the part of Florence Nightingale. My job description had been modified to include dispenser of a variety of medicines – both allopathic and home made, shoulder provider (to moan on), dispenser of clean and disposer of snotty tissues, and maintaining the continuous flow of chicken soup.

Coughing and lightheadedness persists, but everyone is now out of the house and have gone back to their respective schedules

Now if you will excuse me, I am going to check myself into rehab for the next few days.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Old Lightbulb Joke


We all know how the old joke goes:

Q.How many [insert target group here] does it take to change a light bulb?
A. N — one to replace the light bulb and N-1 to [behave in a fashion generally associated with a negative stereotype of that group].
(Thank you Wikipedia!)

This post, I must say, is not about stereotyping any group of people, it’s about how certain things are done here, in true Qatari fashion.

A few weeks ago our refrigerator decided to take break from its usual routine. It was working, but not to its full capacity. So until it was fixed, we could only open it in dire necessity. This bought quite a bit of frustration to the kids, since one of their favorite pastimes is to peer into the fridge for no apparent reason, I guess in hopeful anticipation something wonderful and delicious might have magically appeared since their last visit (they are almost always disappointed). Hmmm, come to think if it, maybe that’s why the fridge went on the blink in the first place.

The refrigerator is pretty new, less than 2 years old, and it was still under the manufactures warranty. We called the service company, and after a few days - yes days - and several runarounds later, 4 people showed up; one to actually do the job while the remaining 3 stood close by, seriously observing the prognosis. Seems the compressor was not functioning properly, and this was fixed on the spot.

The light bulb was also fused, so the foreman told us he will ‘soon’ be back with a new one. Over a week (and several frustrating calls) later he showed up again, this time with 2 extra men. The same scenario ensued, and work was completed in a matter of minutes.

Now a few days prior to this, a friend of mine had come by with a delectable and rather large chocolate cake. Due to its size we could not eat it all ourselves (well we could, but lets not go there). I had distributed parts of it to the neighbors, but about a ¼ of it still remained uneaten. There it sat, languishing on the top shelf, right in front on the diffused light bulb (yes, the compressor was fixed prior to this). K asked the men if they would like to take it with them and they cheerfully obliged.

So they left with the cake, a few plastic forks and a few riyals tip each. 10 riyals, or $2.74574 to be precise. Here, this amount can still buy you lunch, or even a couple of meals at small local restaurants.

So, how many _________'s does it take to fix a light bulb? Can't say.

By the way there is a shortage of 100 watt bulbs these days, can't find any in most stores. So I have to make do with 60 or 150 watts ...

Monday, January 5, 2009

Qatar National Day

These Qatari's, got to give it to them, sure know how to throw a party.

A few weeks ago, on Dec. 18, we celebrated Qatar’s National Day. The historical background is that on this day in 1878, Sheikh Jassim bin Muhammad bin Thani succeeded his father Sheikh Muhammad bin Thani as the ruler of what was then known as Qatar. Prior to his succession Qatar was divided into many different and often warring tribes. Sheikh Jassim united all and formed a unified state of Qatar. These tribes, called Qabila in Arabic, still exist today, but consider themselves first and foremost Qatari’s.

On National Day each of the different Qabila’s had their own tents to welcome visitors. They were lined along the road which leads to the Wajba Palace – the Emir’s primary residence. Each had outdone one another in decoration and splendor.

Preparations and festivities were going on for days in advance. The entire city, it seemed, was decorated with Qatari flags of various sizes. There were also camel dressing contests, horse races, Arabic poetry recitals etc.

A camel procession started off the day at 7 am to greet the Emir at the palace. This was followed with a more traditional parade, with the armed forces and various floats etc, at 9 am. Throughout the day there was live music and entertainment at the Corniche. People drove around in extravagantly decorated cars. The mood was festive and the weather was extremely pleasant. The day was topped off by fireworks at the – where else – Corniche.

The following are pictures of a camel dressing contest and the interior of a tent. To see more pictures go to:http://www.flickr.com/groups/qatar_living/.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gas Food Lodging

Dubai. Gotta love it.

The kids have a month off from school and K had a week off during Eid Al Adha, therefore we decided to leave Doha for a while. But with the global economy continuously spiraling downwards, we did not want to venture too far or too expensive. Dubai quickly became the logical choice. The United Arab Emirates is an extremely popular destination for many residents of the Arabian Gulf countries, for both locals and expats alike. It is more developed, modern and socially permissive.

We decided to drive since it is approximately 440 miles/709 km (one way), roughly a 7 hour drive. But one must travel through Saudi Arabia in order to enter the UAE. For this we needed to obtain a visa – called a transit visa – in order to pass through the Kingdom. This was not a problem; there are many travel agencies which provide this service for a nominal fee. The visa is processed within a week, no worries, hassles or headaches. We also found out we can stay in Saudi Arabia for 3 days, but we did not avail to this. Not for lack of want though. We did not have enough time, but will certainly take advantage of this on our next border crossing. The visa to enter the UAE is obtained at the border for ‘certain privileged nationalities’. Our’s probably tops the list.

Gas StationIt took us almost 8 hours to reach Dubai. Crossing the boarders took a bit of time. Leave Qatar; go through 3 check points – car registration check, passport check, customs. Enter Saudi Arabia; go through 3 check points – car registration check, passport check, purchase insurance for car (very cheap). Leave Saudi Arabia; go through 3 check points – car registration check, passport check, customs. Enter UAE; go through 3 check points – car registration check, passport check, and purchase insurance for car (very cheap). Reverse this for the drive back – with the exception of purchasing insurance at Qatari boarder.

At the UAE border one also needs to go through a retina scan. So out we poured, dragging our heels. We filled some forms and waited in a separate room for someone to take pictures of our eyes. After 15-20 minutes no one showed up so K went to another counter. An Emirati man asked Eye check? K tried to give him a long winded answer in English, that we waited for a while, no one was there, yada, yada, yada... The man looked at all 5 of us, stopped K in midsentence and stamped our forms. Khalaas, eye check! I guess we don’t look like terrorists. On the way back we had to get an exit permit. The same man was at the counter. Ahlan habibi! Stamp x5 Ma’asalaama!

FoodWe also stopped at a few places to refuel – the car as well as ourselves – along the way. Both K and I, much to the ire of the older kids, have always loved truck stops. Even here we prefer to patronize these roadside restaurants over western or westernized eastern fast food joints. These establishments are clean and efficient, service is extremely courteous, and they are always a culinary adventure. Here we often order freshly baked khubz (Arabic for bread) with the curry of the day (almost always chicken) or freshly grilled kabobs. Sometimes we get a rice dish which is always called beryani, but no 2 have ever tasted remotely similar. Cutlery is optional, just a good hand wash will suffice. We do however avoid the salads. The finale is always the cloyingly sweet milky tea served in a glass. Sorry kids, we’re not in Kansas any more!

LodgingThis time in Dubai we wanted to see the places we were not able to visit on our previous trip and even found some places we did not even know about. I particularly enjoyed the day trip to Hatta, a small village near the boarder of Oman. It is a little over an hours drive and is a historically preserved town with a heritage site. The terrain chances dramatically as well, with craggy lithic mountains replacing the usually desert vistas. The kids were pacified by a round of miniature golf – this is the UAE of course!

We enjoyed strolling though the Ibn Battuta Mall, named after the famous and cherished Moroccan explorer. The mall is divided into themed sections - Andalusia, Tunisia, Egypt, Persia, India and China – a few of the major destinations taken by Mr. Battuta. Each section represents the best of each region and outdoes the other in splendor. Details of Ibn Battuta’s journeys and the contributions of other great Arab scholars and scientists are also inscribed throughout the mall. Therefore it is also a history lesson as well, one which is often overlooked in most text books and classrooms. It is certainly a must see for Dubai bound travelers, history buffs or otherwise.

We also roamed through a few souks, which are located in the older, less developed neighborhoods (compared to the newer contrived construction projects). This is the old Dubai, and in my opinion, the real deal. Tour guides abounded everywhere followed by camera wielding tourists of every nationality – ourselves no exception. The only difference was we were not wearing shorts or carrying fanny packs.

I will leave you with these pictures, which for the weary and often desperate traveler is certainly worth a couple of a thousand words.

Hammam men

Hammam women

Monday, December 1, 2008

Let's Talk Turkey

Give thanks
Thanksgiving recently rolled in and rolled right back out, giving us a nostalgic glimpse of our lives back then. It also added about 4,000 additional calories towards our expanding waistlines.

Last year, much to the dismay of the children, I had eschewed the time-honored festivities. I missed my family and friends and did not want to have a traditional Thanksgiving dinner without them. In other words I was feeling sorry for myself. So we went to Chili’s instead and had a bloomin’ onion. It was bloomin’ awful.

But this is now our home. And I am happy to report we have resumed our beloved holiday. I invited a few friends who enjoy turkey and we had a grand time.

Thanksgiving is an occasion when we eat a certain combination of foods which we most certainly will not eat for the remainder of the year. It is also when we use many kitchen gadgets which we won’t use for the rest of the year either. So out came the turkey baster, citrus zester, pastry cutter, nutmeg grater, yolk separator… I also prepared the dishes according to what I was able to find in the local supermarkets. Here is a breakdown of the items I prepared, along with a few minor details:

Halal turkeyTurkey: When I told K I was going to make turkey he began to pale. To put it mildly, he’s not a turkey fan. But Thanksgiving is not the same without big bird, so turkey it was – no compromises here. I saw Butterball turkeys in Megamart, but did not purchase one since we never bought them back home; we had always purchased organic Halal ones. Makes me wonder if they are slaughtered in the Islamic way for the Middle East? I found one with the Halal stamp, and at almost 3 kilos (a little under 7 pounds) it was much smaller then the ones I generally bought back home (think 20-25 pounds). Needless to say we did not have many leftovers.

Stuffing: Stove Top - easily found, with sautéed apples & onions added by me. I baked it separately; as apposed to stuffing it into the turkey itself. I would have made it by scratch, but did not have the time.

Gravy: Graciously supplied by Mr. Turkey himself, with a little chicken stock and roux added as a thickener.

Cranberry relish: I found cans of cranberries for 17 riyals at Megamart, but could not justify spending so much for something that I once used to purchase 2 for a buck. I bought some dried cranberries instead, resuscitated them in water and made a fantastic cranberry-orange-ginger relish.

Mashed potatoes: There is only one kind of potato available here, the good old potato kind. Forget the Russets, Yukon Gold’s, Fingerlings, Peruvian Purples, etc. Occasionally I see small new or red potatoes, which are for the most part flown in from the US or the Indian subcontinent. To this I added ample butter made with milk from cows who graze bucolically on the hills of Normandy.

Other vegetables: Sautéed green beans and broccoli (both fresh) and steamed corn (frozen) – the broccoli added for my 4 year old broccoli lover.

PumpkinPumpkin Pie: This is H’s favorite, so we had to have it. Here not many people know what it is, thus requiring me to make it from scratch – including the crust. I never knew I would miss Pillsbury. I had heard that canned pumpkin was available in Doha, but I was unable to find it. I must admit, I also did not trek to every single store in the city. For canned pumpkin? Fuhgetaboudit. I asked one of the stockers in the supermarket I frequent if they had any. Can pomkin? No ma’am. all the while nodding his head sideways. Frankly I believe he didn’t even know what the heck I was talking about. But he was polite so I forgave him. I bought chunks of a lovely Indian pumpkin called Bober and stewed it. I then followed a recipe I found on the Food Network. It came out to be more of a mousse like pie, but delicious nonetheless. I served it with whipped cream from a can (it was French, so I felt better about it).

We also had rolls with butter and vanilla ice cream with passion fruit syrup, made by me a few days ago in one of my creative moods.

Compared to Thanksgiving back home I kept it simple since I did all the preparation and cooking. The day before I had a midterm for one of the classes I am taking, so I was also pressed for time. I must acknowledge this was not completely an American Thanksgiving; it was a Qatari one as well. And, if I may say so myself, everything was fabulous!

A's light It was the first Thanksgiving for our guests, and they thoroughly enjoyed it. They eagerly took home whatever leftovers there were – also an age old custom. After dinner we went outside and lit up firecrackers graciously provided by our quests.

But Thanksgiving is not only a time when our tables groan with the weight of a delectable and copious array of food. It is, more importantly, a gathering of family and friends. There is an old saying that no one should be alone on thanksgiving, so every year we often would have a few new faces at our table. But mainly it is a time to look inwards, reflect upon our lives and give thanks for what we have.

In the end I must add that although our feast was superb and well appreciated, and we are certainly grateful for many, many things, our celebrations would have been complete if some of the seats were filled with loved ones I have left behind.


Pumpkin Pie
Crust recipe courtesy Joy of Baking, pie recipe from Paula Deen - The Food Network

Shortbread Crust:
1 cup (140 grams) all purpose flour
1/3 cup (36 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (114 grams) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 cups canned pumpkin, mashed – I had prepared my own
1 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 cup half-and-half
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, optional

In your food processor, place the flour, sugar, and salt and process to combine. Add the butter and pulse until the pastry starts to come together and form clumps. Place the pastry in the prepared tart pan and, using your fingertips; evenly press the pastry onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. (Can use the back of a spoon to smooth the surface of the pastry.) Pierce the bottom of the crust with the tines of a fork. (This will prevent the pastry crust from puffing up while it bakes.) Cover and place the pastry crust in the freezer for 15 minutes to chill. (This will help prevent the crust from shrinking while it bakes.)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.
When the pastry is completely chilled, place the tart pan on a larger baking pan and bake until the crust is golden brown, about 13 - 15 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool while you make the filling.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees (177 degrees C).

In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined. Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, if using, and beat until incorporated.
Pour the filling into the prepared pie/tart crust and bake for 50 minutes, or until the center is set. Place on a wire rack and cool to room temperature.
Cut into slices and top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Aw Shucks!

I Love Qatar

I have recently found out that my blog was selected as one of Qatar’s Top Blogs by a popular local web site called I Love Qatar. The owner of this site, known as Mr. Q (aka Kei & Amnesia), left me a wonderful comment a few months ago. I had no idea it would lead to this.

When I had started this blog it was mainly a way to keep my family updated of our daily life, however mundane it might be. I had also intended it to be mainly a food blog (not enough of these you know!) focusing mainly on local cuisine, hence all the food related posts. But, lots of interesting things happened in between, so I decided I could not limit myself to a particular subject.

So Mr. Q if you are reading this, I am, to say the least, honored and humbled. And I will definitely try (fingers crossed) to post more often!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

24 Cupcakes

24 cupcakes
It was my eldest son’s birthday a few days ago. He turned 15, and at 5’9” is now taller then his dad. Yes, there are a few well earned silver strands mingling with my otherwise raven locks, but I have not broken out the Clairol yet. I know it is just a matter of time that I will - or won’t.

We had given H a choice of having a party or getting something he couldn't live without, and I am delighted to say that my gregarious and ever sociable son chose his friends. His invitation list initially consisted of 25 of his closest friends, but we whittled it down to 15.

We had reserved 3 lanes at the Markaz Qatar Al Bolinj / Qatar Bowling Center. The bowling alley here is about the same as back home, except it is immaculately clean, with a VIP sitting room and waiters in black and white uniforms who deliver snacks in hefty proportions while you bowl. Security is plenty and is strictly enforced. The rules are similar as well, with the exception of this one, by far my favorite:

No bowling is allowed while wearing an abaya or thobe.

We had requested everyone not to bring gifts. We wanted it to be a simple and casual affair, for the boys to get together and have a good time. We also did not want H to receive expensive gifts, such as IPhones & IPods (which is not unheard of by the way). But Arabs are extremely generous, with the Qatari’s being high on the list. So a few did come bearing gifts. I am left pondering how we will reciprocate.

We had a great time. I met all of H’s friends who were there, and they are a great group of kids, albeit a bit shy in front of mom. The gathering truly represented a mini United Nations. N and I had slaved all afternoon making cupcakes - with a little help from Ms. Betty Crocker. We made over 30, and had taken 24 with us, which disappeared within minutes. Afterwards K and I allowed him to go to Johnny Rocket’s with his buddies for his favorite meal of burgers, fries and shakes. Qatar is a much safer place to live and we give our children a greater amount of freedom that we otherwise would have. In case you're wondering, that's when the real party began!

I have previously mentioned in a former post our main purpose for moving to Qatar. But another greatly important reason was that we wanted our children to grow up with a greater sense of awareness and respect for other people and cultures.

I have lived in the US for the majority of my life, but have been fortunate to have lived in other parts of the world as well. I have also been blessed with many opportunities to travel. I can honestly say we Americans, no matter how the bad economy gets, compared to the rest of the world, still have got it good. But we often tend to be myopic, barely noticing what goes on beyond our back yards.

We don’t need to drive gas guzzling SUV’s, and we don’t need to fill our homes with inexpensive items manufactured in foreign countries under dire conditions. We are a nation of immigrants, therfore we must educate ourselves to a greater degree in order to prevent the evils stemming from xenophobia. And having such a profound influence on the rest of the world, we need to choose our leaders wisely. I am proud to say, this year we did.

But having said all this I must also point out that we citizens are by far the most generous of all developed nations, giving twice as much to charitable causes; benefiting not only our own communities, but wherever the need is greatest.

Therefore, I did not want my children to grow up to be the epitome of the old and often unjust cliché the ‘ugly American’. Here they are experiencing another way of life, different from what they are accustomed to, but wonderful nonetheless. They are interacting with people of various demographics, from distinct cultures, societies and economic levels. Through our frequent travels they have been able to observe other parts of the world at a closer range. And they are developing a keen sense of awareness, along with a greater appreciation and respect for others. They also know how good they have it.

And so ya ibni, my sweet boy, may you carry this knowledge with you throughout your life, when you return home, or wherever you choose to live. And may you convey this more so through your actions than with words.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Gimme a Break

King Tat Bar
Gimme a break, break me off a piece of that ... uh … King Tat Bar?

This post is not about advertising jingles or odd candy finds - although there are plenty here - it is about change. And since this is not a political blog (although I have pretty strong opinions on many issues), it certainly is not about the change Obama/McCain are proselytizing either. It is about the good old chaching kind.

Coins - called dirham’s - are often not used much in our daily transactions. When purchasing an item, paper currency is used almost exclusively. Prices are rounded off to the nearest quarter. I don't know if dirham's come in any denominations besides .25 and .50 since I have never seen any. I have also never seen an item for QR 2.99, or QR 299.99 for that matter.

To give you an example of how this works, if your bill in any given store comes to 12.25 riyals and you hand 15.00 riyals to the cashier, most often you will receive 3 riyals back. If your total comes to 12.75 riyals most likely you will receive 2 riyals back. When your total comes to 12.50 you may be handed 2 riyals, and in lieu of .50 dirham’s, a mini King Tat bar or some other interesting and/or odd flavored chocolate, hard candy (mango-mint, tamarind) or gum (coffee, banana, cardamom). No one seems to mind this exchange.

Often these chocolates are loosely disguised reproductions of Western confections (of which we also get in great assortment). But none of my kids will eat them, so I keep them stashed away until they expire. Only then will my conscience allow me to throw them away.

Enough babbling for now, its time for some real change. Y’all go vote now ya hear!