EAT LIKE A LOCAL
Come mealtime, most pilgrims settle for the familiar comforts of KFC, Domino’s, or McDonald’s. Don’t be like them. For centuries, Saudi Arabia’s Hejaz province has been a gathering place for Muslims from all reaches of the world, so Makkah has spawned an impressively cosmopolitan food culture, incorporating dishes and flavors from East and South Asia, Africa, and beyond. Sample the best offerings on a self-guided tasting tour through the neighborhoods spread out beyond the mosque. Al-Bani, in Ash Shawqiyyah, is a local mainstay that frequently caters weddings around the city; it’s lauded for Makkah-style classics like saliq, a delectable, porridge-like dish wherein rice is cooked with both chicken broth and fresh cream, and kuzi, rice and noodles paired with chicken or lamb. Abu Yasser is known for African-inspired dishes like the beloved sereh, steak dusted in flour and grilled over flame. Abu Zaid is worth a stop for a Yemen-style murtabak, a savory flatbread filled with leeks, eggs, and spice-scented ground beef. The new Khan Baba does a brisk trade in Indo-Saudi “fusion” shawarmas, stuffed with biryani or chicken tikka masala and wrapped in piping-hot roti-style breads. End your trek on a sweet note at Halawani, a Makkah institution that’s still in the same family after more than 80 years; the owners migrated here from India and brought recipes for desserts like milk-and-cardamom labania and fried laddoo (balls of sweetened chickpea flour). Take a mixed platter home for 60 riyals per kilo.
These restaurants are all within 30 minutes from the Conrad by car, and some are difficult to find, so ask the concierge to plot them on a map and give directions to your taxi or Uber driver. Alternatively, the hotel can arrange a private food tour with a local chef and dining expert.
AL-BANI: Ash Shawqiyyah
ABU YASSER: Ash Shawqiyyah
ABU ZAID: Umm al-Qura Rd.; abuzaidrest.com
KHAN BABA: Shafei
HALAWANI: Umm al-Qura Rd.