Today, one of my new colleagues, Dr. Khalid Al Ramadan, and I went to the town of Al Qatif to get some inexpensive and fresh fish and vegetables. Al Qatif is north and east of Dammam/Dhahran/Khobar and is settled on an honest to goodness desert oasis. The first map below shows its location relative to the main three Eastern Province cities. For reference, KFUPM is just about where the Rt. 613 marker is, south of King Abdulaziz Rd. The second Google map image shows the greenery that marks the oasis of Al Qatif. Here, groundwater is coming near the surface as it exits into the Arabian Gulf to the east. The groundwater obviously becomes more brackish as it approaches the Gulf because of marine water intrusion.
Al Qatif in relation to Dammam/Dhahran/Al Khobar. Arabian Gulf to the east.
The green swath down the center of the image is the oasis, with Al Qatif city center and the Gulf on the right and off the image.
Interestingly, Al Qatif is predominantly Shia, while the vast majority of KSA is Sunni. Regardless, people from all over the Eastern Province go to these markets.
If there’s a “national fish” of Saudi Arabia, it would be Hamour (Arabic name). We would call it Orange Spotted Grouper. An example would be the large fish at the top in the photo below. The others are Batfish (striped with yellow fins) and Yamah (Snub-Nosed Emperor). A very popular fish, from which transverse steaks are cut, is Spanish Mackerel (not shown).
Al Qatif fish market offerings. That’s a big hamour (and really good eating)!
I bought only a half kilo of hamour, and Khalid got some mackerel and some other fish that I didn’t catch the name of. We took a quick swing through the produce market across the street. The produce was fresh and was way less expensive that what I have been buying in the city supermarkets. I got a big bag of jumbo radishes, green onions, coriander (cilantro), and parsley for about $1.30.
Figures the pic that turned out shows packaged and imported veggies (more expensive), but the real gems were the fresh local items.
Since we were in the markets and it was early afternoon, we decided that having lunch in a nearby restaurant would be a good idea. We asked the fish market guys for a recommendation and found a place just a half block away from the market where we selected a fish and picked out salads and two types of basmati rice for our meal. They grilled the fish with spices over a charcoal flame. You can imagine how fresh this fish was!
Khalid with our huge split grilled whole fish and mounds of basmati rice.
Classes start tomorrow morning and my first class, Physical Geology for sophomore geoscience and petroleum engineering majors, kicks off bright and early at 8:00. My other class is a senior-level Carbonate Geology class. Awwww yissss!!!