Saturday, March 12, 2011

Halal and Tayyibaat Food

Bism Illah wa as salaamu alaykum wa Rahmat Allah wa Barakatuh.

Prior to moving to Saudi Arabia, we had been living a very "green" life, mashaa'Allah. We took seriously the amanah of our bodies, our earth, and our environment from Allah. We ate organic, unprocessed, whole foods. We were concerned about being able to eat healthily here in Madinah, especially knowing how limited good quality food is and not knowing what kind of regulations Saudi Arabia had on the types of pesticides and insecticides permitted for agricultural use.

There is an amazing amount of very poor quality, cheap, chemical-laden food here. Junk food such as chips loaded with MSG, artificially colored and flavored everything with all manner of additives, no apparent regulations on the ingredients of cheap candy for children, with the exception of it being technically halal, and shelves full of empty, harmful calorie snack and processed foods. Sadly, the diet of the majority here is very poor. It is the subcontinent workers, who cannot afford all those little convenience packs, who seem to eat more healthily as they have to actually cook. They are the ones who we see carrying bags of vegetables back home on Jumu'ah, mashaa'Allah.

We researched before coming and found that there was a Saudi company committed to organic foods, Al Watania, mashaa'Allah. On arrival, once settled into our apartment, we found that the supermarket right over the road from our apartment building had a diet section with a small but good range of organic foods, such as wholewheat pastas, brown and red rice, raw sugar, fruit spreads, etc. After checking out the other supermarkets, we found wider ranges of beans, grains, apple cider vinegar, etc. Al Watania chickens were easily available, as were the eggs.

Then, just a few months after we arrived, an Al Watania shop opened in Madinah, where we can buy organic flour, wholegrains such as barley and wheat, organic meat, dates, honey, pasta, beans, herbs, produce, and even soap. We later learned of another shop called Kul Thimar, which sells locally grown produce and some natural foods. Another source of natural foods is a shop we finally located about a month ago called, Beit al Gheethaa. It has many things for natural health, including bancha tea and twigs, different whole grains and flours, real soy sauce and tamari sauce, seaweed, natural body products, books, acupressure sandals, and fresh herbs. 

There is a big fruit and vegetable market in Madinah where a wide variety of vendors sell produce. Beside it is a meat market and also a fish market. There is a strip of shops that sell freshly deep fried fish, which is delicious. There is also a chicken and bird market, where live birds can be bought and chickens or turkeys can be selected to be slaughered and defeathered. There are women selling the natural, organic eggs from those birds as well. The women also sell the handwoven palm leaf mats that we bought to eat on, baskets, and palm leaf brushes.

After more investigation and looking at the size of the animals here, we learned that Saudi Arabia doesn't allow genetically modified products into the country, mashaa'Allah. They also do not appear to use any form of steroids on the animals. We have never seen a big fat animal since coming here, LOL. Even the chickens are tiny compared to what we were used to. A standard weight for a chicken here is 1 kilogram, perhaps 1.3 kg at the most.

It takes some effort to find the various things we need as usually you have to go to 4 or 5  different shops to complete our whole list, but truly Allah has made it easy for us to maintain a good standard of healthy living.
In addition, we found that there were many like minded Muslims here. They are well-educated, religiously committed, and consider healthy living part and parcel of their Islam, mashaa'Allah.  The wife of a student at the Islamic University holds classes once a month on health and nutrition, reminding and teaching the sisters about living according to halal and tayyibaat. Many families are increasingly health conscious and environmentally aware, mashaa'Allah.

Subhaan Allah, we came here thinking we might be the odd ones out, but we find that people are seeking us out for advice on where to find healthy, safe food and on natural living. We have traveled to this blessed city and found people from all over the world with like minds and hearts, wa al hamdu l'Illah!