"No Reservations" is a hit TV show on the Travel Channel, in which charming chef Anthony Bourdain travels around the world sampling exotic local dishes and slices of life. The show made quite a splash in Jeddah earlier this year when an episode was taped here. A Saudi-American woman originally from Bismarck, ND, Danya Alhamrani, won the first-ever "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations FAN-atic Special" Casting Call. Her prize was to showcase the flavors of Saudi Arabia by treating Mr. Bourdain to the local sights, the distinct tastes, and the traditions and culture of this misunderstood, sheltered and mysterious land.
Out of some 1200 entries, Danya's video and personal interview clinched the deal for her selection as the enviable winner. Despite Mr. Bourdain's original knee-jerk apprehensions and uneasiness at the thought of taking his show to the strict Muslim country of Saudi Arabia, Danya's entry was a stand-out. So throwing caution to the wind, Bourdain chose Danya and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, as his contest winner. You can read his entertaining thoughts about the selection process HERE
I think that Mr. Bourdain's choice of Saudi Arabia took a certain amount of guts and I applaud him for his decision. Too often, America and much of the rest of the world have a fear, and even a loathing, for this diverse country of which there is a very limited understanding. By crossing that cultural bridge, Mr. Bourdain has shown a kinder, gentler, and more human side to the complex world of Saudis by giving people around the world a peek inside this mysterious shielded country.
This television event had all of Jeddah abuzz. Some friends of mine happened to accidentally run into Mr. Bourdain this past spring while he was in town taping the show, and boy, was that exciting for them! The show aired in July and again in September, and the excitement in Jeddah could be cut with a knife. Through Danya's efforts, this proved to be great PR exposure for Jeddah and the country of Saudi Arabia, as well.
Now a Jeddah resident, Danya attended school in southern California and is Muslim. She is an accomplished and remarkable individual, a TV director and producer, having formed a film production company with her partner, Dania Nassief. You can read more about these two extraordinary ladies and their Eggdancer Productions collaboration HERE in this Arab News Article and additional information HERE.
Please take the time to watch the following entertaining look at life and the cuisine of my new hometown of Jeddah, courtesy of Anthony Bourdain and the Travel Channel's "No Reservations" program. There are five short videos which make up the hour long show. You'll see many things I have previously written about and photographed - this just serves to bring it all to life even more. I'm sure you'll enjoy it!
And one more thing: take a look at just one more really good article written by an American female producer of the show offering great insight and perspective on her experience in Saudi Arabia. It's worth reading!
No Reservations - Saudi Arabia, Part 1
No Reservations - Saudi Arabia, Part 2
(Although I could not get this segment to play on my computer, I hope you have better luck!)
No Reservations - Saudi Arabia, Part 3
No Reservations - Saudi Arabia, Part 4
No Reservations - Saudi Arabia, Part 5