Sunday, October 19, 2008

"No Reservations" in Jeddah

"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


  1. I watched all 5. I found this so interesting. Thanks for posting it. I have to say it makes me so happy to see how we are all the same in this world, when you think about it. Anthony Bourdain is great and his show made me realize that if we can learn more about other cultures, we become more understanding. I've traveled all over and can't wait to see ore of the world.

  2. The one episode I did see on tv I didn't care for lol... but it wasn't someplace that interested me either... I can't wait to see these, but don't have time tonight, so I'm gonna leave your page up to remind myself lol.

  3. I've watched that show twice now,it aired again friday and dh saw it too.We both thought it was interesting,awesome and definately makes you "want to go there"This from dh who thinks you need a passport to cross the mason dixon line.There's hope for us yet!

  4. Thanks for bringing this to us. Unusually I found myself watching every video and following every link - I find it facinating to see how Saudi women like Danya and Dania are pushing the boundaries in areas where we take our freedom for granted in the west. Good luck to them but I'll pass on the lizard!

  5. Sorry it has absolutely nada to do with your post buttt.... HAPPY BIRTHDAY for yesterday! Hope you had a great day. :D

    Umm Ibrahim x

  6. I've never even heard of that show but thanks for posting the episode. It was very very interesting. I'll definately have to find the local listing for it.

  7. I loved the program! I thoubht I'd have a quick glance at it, but I watched the whole thing.
    It was so funny as she said all the time:''Oh, no, I've never eaten that!'' And I loved the meal at the end.
    Jeddah seems such a nice place to live in KSA.
    And Happy birthday Susie!
    (have you had a look at my yesterday's post???) :D

  8. I totally enjoyed watching this! Thnx Susie, I wasn't even aware of this show and episode -- and plus I looove foodie programs *LOL*

    Ahh, food + travel = best combination ever :-D

  9. I really like his show (all food shows in general actually), but this was one of my least favorite episodes (and I was really looking forward to this one.) For starters, the food seemed unappetizing. I also didn't care for how all the foods she introduced him to was stuff she herself had never even eaten. Just seemed strange to me to say "this is what we eat" yet she's never eaten it.

  10. Ohhhh, I LOVED this! I didn't know what to expect, but it was fantastic! I loved seeing the people and food and around the city and even the desert when Anthony was hitting his head off the dashboard...hahahaha!

    I loved Danya and how she hadn't tried (or liked) many of the traditional foods that Anthony tried.

    Really cool to see that the women like dressing up for all-women events. How interesting! I bet those are fun times.

    This was totally NOT how I pictured KSA. Shoot, they even have fried chicken and french fries! :-D

    Thank you for posting these wonderful videos. I greatly enjoyed them (in case you couldn't tell.)

  11. Hi Gutsy! I totally agree with you. Traveling and learning about other cultures totally breaks down barriers. It's a shame that not everyone feels the same way.

    Hi MamaKalila! I hope you've had a chance to watch the show.

    Hi Always! There is always hope! So glad you and the hubby enjoyed it.

    Hi Heather! I am also amazed at Danya and Dania. They are a new generation of go getter Saudi women. I don't think I would try the lizard, or the camel either for that matter!

    Hi Umm Ibrahim! Thanks so much!

    Hi Anonymous! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks.

    Hi Aafke! Thank you so very much. You are so wonderful! And I'm glad you liked seeing Jeddah in this way. I think the show puts a real human face to Saudi Arabia.

    Hi Aalia! I like your math!!!

    Hi Anonymous! I think one of the reasons why Danya had not really eaten some of the native food here is that I believe she actually grew up and went to college in the states, and then moved here permanently as an adult. I think she made a terrific hostess for Tony and the show. I must agree with you that some of the food seemed unappetizing, but honestly, the native foods that I have eaten here have been quite delicious.

    Hi Susanne! I am so happy to hear how much you enjoyed the show. I think it paints an accurate picture of life here. Thanks for your enthusiasm!

  12. I just re-watched this episode for, like, the fourth time. I just love it.

    I thought Danya made a wonderful ambassador. Her energy is contagious from the screen. When DH and I first watched the ep, we agreed that "a star is born."

  13. Ok, so I had every intention of watching those on here... Kept your page up and everything.

    Skip to today & it was on tv! So I saw it there... I enjoyed it. I'm glad you mentioned it on here or I prob would have skipped right by it...

    Happy Belated bday btw! I meant to send that earlier too & forgot :-S

  14. Thanks for posting these! I had a little time to watch them, and I enjoyed every minute. Unfortunately, part 5 said it is no longer available. I will have to check my listings here and see if I can see it on TV. I love when there are programs that show the real Arabs--family-oriented, funny, educated, interesting, rather than the few fanatics who ruin it for everyone else. What a great program!

  15. That was a great video! My girlfriend in the U.S was just telling me this evening that I should look for the video and I logged on and there is was. amazing!
    I love Saudi.....Glad I'm in Beirut now but really miss Saudi at times.

  16. yeah that was a really great episode and I know a lot of people who has changed their minds about Saudi Arabia.

    But the sad thing is that when me and my friends made a similiar video asking anthony to come to jeddah, he never came!LOL

    Dania did a great job though....which I would never hav done.

  17. this episode was awesome...loved it. and while reading your post of your weekend it made me think of Danya and her swimming adventure.

  18. As salam alaikum sis.

    mashAllah a wonderfull blog to start with and a grt post, i really enjoyed it, i have lived here in khaleej for 22 years and im going to get my first tatse of saudi inshAllah in 2 weeks when i go to umrah, i cant wait to see the palces u have spoken of and taken pictures of.

    just to note, im no arab but thanks to the arab hospitallity and thier warmth and love and affection and honesty, i feel like one from the depth of my core. SubhanAllah 22 years of this area has an affect on me so much that i have no need to go back to my home land of uk. here is my HOME !

    Regards to ur family, Adam and ur husband. have urself a wonderfull day.

    hiyyach Allah

  19. hi, good site very much appreciatted

  20. Thanks Susie for keeping us up to date always..this Wed 21of Dec @ 8pm there's going to be a showing of Anthony Bourdain in Jeddah. For those interested pls go to event page at the link below:

  21. FYI Danya grew up in Jeddah- not the US.

  22. where is this abu abdallah where they had the breakfast with liver, kidney,heart etc. ? I want to go there any street name, google map coordinates ?