Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Saudi Cuisine with an Irish Twist | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Sean Redmond (Asharq Al-Awsat Photo)

Sean Redmond (Asharq Al-Awsat Photo)

Sean Redmond (Asharq Al-Awsat Photo)

London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Perhaps the last thing you would expect is an Irishman ‎speaking in a Najdi dialect talking about ‘al mataziz’ and swiftly switching to a fluent ‎Hejazi dialect when he talks about making ‘ruz al bukhari’* as though he were a ‎Saudi native. However, Sean Redmond does precisely that. ‎

In fact, the local Saudi Channel Two has given him a spot as hot of the program ‎‎‘Traditional Meals with Sean’ in which he tours various regions of Saudi Arabia to ‎present popular meals whilst dressed in traditional Saudi attire as he meets people and ‎learns about their customs. ‎

Sean, or ‘Yehia’ as he has come to be known after embracing Islam, currently resides ‎in Riyadh. He has a unique story with the Arabic language and the region as a whole, ‎particularly Saudi Arabia. ‎

In a telephone interview with Asharq Al-Awsat he said that he had been fond of ‎languages from a young age. Born in England in 1974, Sean’s father is an Irishman ‎who married a Maltese woman, which according to Sean is what helped him learn ‎Arabic, as he believes the languages are very similar. ‎

Sean specialized in Middle Eastern studies and modern European languages; and ‎graduated from the University of Manchester. He explained that his fascination with ‎Arabic compelled him to study Islamic history because both were closely related. ‎

Sean embraced Islam in 1993 after studying with the Arab Muslim community living ‎in Manchester, which helped him learn more about the religion and its teachings. ‎

Between the years 1994-1996, Sean traveled to Egypt where he learned to speak ‎Arabic with an Egyptian accent. He returned back to Britain and became a certified ‎English language teacher. Sean found he was making many friends in the Saudi ‎community and used to frequent the Saudi student club, however his next stop would ‎be Kuwait. ‎

Although he continued to teach English in Kuwait, Sean said that he took greater ‎pleasure in teaching the basics of the Arabic language to the residing expatriate ‎community. “The beauty of Gulf countries is that you are exposed to a number of ‎different [Arabic] dialects because of the various communities living there, and ‎through watching satellite channels,” he said. ‎

He added, “I noticed that Arabs have a tendency to compare their dialects and try to ‎ascertain which country’s dialect is more correct.” Sean, however, does not try to ‎conceal his inclination towards the Gulf Arabic dialect in particular. He said he knew ‎the different Saudi dialects from watching the popular television series ‘Tash Ma ‎Tash’. ‎

Following seven years in Kuwait, he settled in Saudi Arabia where he first started ‎working as an English teacher then took a job as a training coordinator in a company ‎that is contracted with the Saud Arabian National Guard (SANG). ‎

In the kingdom, Sean discovered his fascination with the rich cultural heritage and ‎soon began to familiarize himself with the country’s customs and traditions. His first ‎televised appearance was in Ramadan of last year where he hosted a program on ‎Saudi Channel Two that discussed embracing Islam. He was soon asked to present a ‎regular slot in which he shared information and expressions that could benefit the ‎expatriate community living in Saudi. ‎

Sean’s current show ‘Traditional Meals with Sean’ is a hit on Saudi television. Asked ‎how he was able to acquire such a fluent grasp of the language and all the related ‎dialects and expressions, Sean said that he had always had been interested in learning ‎Arabic and about the Saudi culture, especially since he married a Saudi woman two ‎months ago. ‎

‎“I am against segregation and what helped me understand the local culture well was ‎my close association with the locals and by making friends in the local community.” ‎

‎* ‘al mataziz’ is a meaty stew and ‘ruz al bukhari’ is a rice dish and they are ‎traditional Najdi and Hejazi dishes respectively. ‎