Category Archives: Saudi Arabia

Final Thoughts on Saudi Arabia

With more than five months of Saudi Arabia in our rearview mirror, we still feel remnants of our time there all around us. We see faces that look familiar, hear voices that remind us of friends past, and taste resemblances in our food that is not as good but transports us back to local flavors that gave us comfort and joy. We still reminisce about life back there and talk about people who had an impact on us. Sometimes it’s hard to comprehend that as quickly as it began, it ended.

I recently saw a picture from one of the first two weeks of our arrival, and I look younger, naive, excited. The past two years did not disappoint.

Maybe it’s because we enjoyed our time so much in Saudi that we signed up for a third year in the Middle East with Baghdad. Sure there were some hard times, but they weren’t enough to make us lose perspective of the day-to-day satisfaction of accomplishing our goal of living overseas and then taking advantage of the travel opportunities.

People want to know what it was like to live in Saudi Arabia and I always tell them that I loved it. They ask about things that they’ve seen on tv about the culture, and most of it is true, but none of it really made as much of a difference in our life there as the people we met.

The most difficult part of Saudi Arabia wasn’t with regard to the local culture. It was with the people who couldn’t hold up to the pressures at work and on the compound. These are the people who are miserable and want everyone else around them to be miserable. Transplant them out of a country that has many restrictions on entertainment, self-expression, mobility, activities, and for a few months of the year, good weather, and place them in paradise, and they will still be the ones to complain about something. Sure I complained. About said limitations listed above and other things. But I also stayed active and tried my best to make friends and have true cultural experiences that I could take home with me. My happiest memories came from opening myself up for opportunities to happen.

Of course, being a “yes person” also meant that I opened myself up to what David and I call “moochers” and after being burned several times, learned when and whom to say no. Make no mistake, being a moocher is quite possibly the worst offense. I can handle the complainers, however, the moochers are no friends of mine. You know the people. The ones who only call you when they need you. Yep, they are rampant in the expat community. Beware.

Aside from the complainers and moochers, Saudi Arabia was one of the best things that we could have done. Learning about a new culture firsthand is the beginning of compassion. The closure of a gap. It’s what makes us not so much as different, but the same. What was hard about life was also what made it special – the people.

Most of all, I miss the friends that I made. The ladies with whom I lunched, joked, and explored. They were willing to take chances at making life better, a lesson I learned almost ten years ago which changed my attitude and gave me hope. Maybe it’s because of the desolate and barren landscape, the loss of freedom, and the tendency to feel isolated that we continued to reach out to one another to look for the amiable hand that was reaching back. It was the shared feeling between all of us that we were in it together

I know Baghdad will be similar, although amplified, and we feel that Saudi was preparing us for this greater challenge.

Just as the California desert calls me home, the Middle East desert calls me back to continue the adventure.




Let me begin by admitting my naïveté and say that I had never heard of Ramadan before moving to Saudi Arabia. Much of the Islamic culture is new to me and I am enjoying learning about it and experiencing it firsthand. I won’t try to explain the religious significance of Ramadan – you can Wikipedia it – but I will share my understandings after a month of observing it.

Ramadan began on June 18 and ended on July 17 this year, beginning and ending with a crescent moon. During this time, Muslims fast during the daylight hours, which depending on the time of year (it’s not always during summer) and location in the world (near or far from the equator) Muslims can be fasting for most of the day. Here in Saudi, Muslims fasted between 3:30AM and 6:30PM, eating and drinking only during the evenings. This is a month of deprivation and spirituality, some praying through the night between meals. Their fast is broken at sundown with a date followed by Iftar – a large meal – shared with family and friends. These can be big gatherings with elaborate spreads and are often a time of charity feeding those who are less fortunate. I am told that food is always in overabundance during Ramadan. Later in the evening is Suhoor, a smaller meal of snacks which can also be shared. Since Muslims are up through most of the night, in SA they tend to sleep through most of the day even working a reduced number of hours.

Decorations for Ramadan.

Decorations for Ramadan.

Oud player at Iftar.

Oud player at Iftar.

Some traditions that we were privileged to participate in are unique to the Eastern Province only. We were invited to enjoy a Geerga’an which marks the fifteenth day of Ramadan and is a kind of celebration by the locals. It is mostly for the children who traditionally receive candy and nuts, but many of the adults participate with dancing and eating as well. One notable aspect of the occasion is that women will dance in horse costumes and bang on drums…I’m not sure how this originated. We had a wonderfully sweaty time in the tent with everyone dancing and watching the kids have fun. As you can see from my pictures, the girls wear colorful dresses. Women also wear colorful and elaborate dresses called Jalabiyas during Ramadan, but only at home in private. I bought three for myself. 🙂

At the Geerga'an.

At the Geerga’an.

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In my Jalabiya.

In my Jalabiya, it was made in Kuwait.

Ramadan concludes with Eid, families and friends call upon each other and enjoy dates, chocolates, and cups of Arabic coffee. We paid our respects to our Saudi contacts and enjoyed wishing them “Eid Mubarak,” many will now travel during the rest of summer before school begins at the end of August. For us, we are just happy to go to restaurants again during the day.

Dates and fancy chocolates.

Fresh dates and fancy chocolates.

During Eid calls, it is customary to sit on couches that line the perimeter of the room.

During Eid calls, it is customary to sit on couches that line the perimeter of the room.


Not Your Average Farm House

Ever wonder what it would be like to visit a Saudi businessman’s farm house? Me neither. Let me tell you a story…

In the middle of the dusty desert, there is an oasis. As you and your companions voyage to this place of respite, you know something will be there to quench your thirst, rest your achy bones, and fill your empty belly, but you expect nothing more than a break from the elements. You travel down a dirt road several miles from the highway, past Bedouins, past camels, past unexplainable piles of used tires. Your eyes are weary of old sights and are eager to see something new. There are only so many shades of tan and brown that can color a landscape before it becomes a vision of God’s lazy expression. As you approach the large gates, men in white thobes and red headdresses open the doors and wave you through.

Suddenly the picture changes.

Generous green trees form a kind of tunnel overhead and shade your path. They lead you for a while along with large carousel horses posed intermittently and in varying stances. Some are lying down, regal and relaxed, some bucking, leaping, and dancing. Occasionally a mother and foal watch as you pass by. Then with the kind of attention seeking for which they are known, bright faced yellow sunflowers spring out here and there to say “look at me!” Well look at you.

At the end of the road, large marble houses with Arabic calligraphy scrawled on the walls meet you around the corner. You crane your neck to try and comprehend this wonderland. Luxury off road vehicles sit to the side waiting for their moment of glory in the wild.

A man with dark eyes and a black robe greets you at the door with confidence and benevolence. He ushers you inside where he plans to shower you with attention and hospitality until the day is done. One room after the next is as large and ostentatious as a five star hotel lobby. Lush rugs, pillows, couches, displays of cascading fresh fruits, baskets of chips and cookies and candies, fresh pastries, and attendants bringing Arabic coffee, cappuccinos, and tea. In the corner, two cooks work with a wood fire oven, pulling out fresh pizzas and calzones. You are invited to relax and enjoy the home.

He notices you have children, out come fifteen nannies – three for each child. A pillow fight ensues amongst them. You wonder how this place could be real.

An incomplete tour of the home reveals three GIANT sitting rooms each the size of a gymnasium; a large banquet hall; a guest quarters with fifteen hotel rooms, common room, and bar; an entertainment room complete with a stage, dancing floor, dining tables and chairs, and balcony seating to overlook it all; another guest quarters with multiple floors and innumerable suites; fifty single wide trailer homes from the Gulf war, most in original condition; and finally an indoor wave pool with a 3D ceiling of birds, dolphins, shellfish, and a vintage disco ball “like the one from Saturday Night Fever.”

And since this is a farm house – duh – your host wants to show you his farm. Your group piles into the waiting SUVs and caravans into the desert to view the greenhouses, shooting range, another home where people are gathered playing cards, camels, and ostriches, and to go digging in the desert for faga, a Saudi truffle.

Upon returning from the excursion, your host has arranged for lunch. He leads you into the banquet hall where at least ten chefs from around the world are preparing their regional cuisine: Middle Eastern, French, Italian, American, Chinese, Japanese. With so much to choose from, you try to eat it all but there is no way. Asparagus soup, smoked salmon, peking duck, shrimp tempura, chicken in mushroom cream sauce, roast beef, beef tenderloin with blue cheese, warm bread. They bring over the fresh faga cooked with rice and lamb. You eat until you can’t eat anymore – and then you head for dessert. Chocolate mousse, oum ali with rose water, tiramisu, crème brulee, éclairs, cream puffs, carrot cake, chocolate bomb cakes with Chantilly cream, a designated chef for making fresh crepes, and fresh from the oven orange and chocolate soufflés with vanilla ice cream. It is the most extravagant meal and you don’t want to leave. You attempt to grow a second stomach so you can go back for more.

Some of your companions have to move on and continue their journey back to the desert. Your group is more reluctant to say goodbye. The host senses the hesitation and eagerly exploits it by offering you hookah in the garden while the sun sets and a fire dance after it gets dark. Neither disappoints.

Finally it is time to be on your way, you have delayed your departure long enough. You decline invitations to stay in the hotel rooms because, alas, your journey cannot wait any longer. They load down your van with gifts of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and bell peppers. Your host hands you a box of miswak to chew on as you leave, something to savor the glow. And as you wave goodbye, fireworks explode in the sky, following you as you head down that tree-lined horse-guided path back to the entrance.

Laughing hysterically, you wonder what was this place? And as you continue on further into the desert you think maybe it was a mirage…

Nope. You have pictures. 🙂


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Half Moon Bay

A few weeks ago we were invited to the yacht club at Half Moon Bay. My acquaintance took us out for a ride on his sailboat. It was a tranquil experience floating across the bay letting the wind catch the sails. It was sunny and clear. I caught a glimpse of a jelly fish lingering at the surface of the water and our captain told me that the bay attracts thousands of them in the summertime. So many that they layer one on top of each other and bounce against the boat.

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The yacht club beach is private so women don’t have to cover up, although modest dress is still encouraged. David and I played bocce ball and snacked on watermelon and eggplant salad. Late in the afternoon we watched a pod of dolphins play in the bay, they lingered for an hour surfacing close to the shore and even jumping a few times.

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Just before sunset, we grabbed a nice table on the restaurant porch to enjoy the sun as it settled over the horizon. For appetizer there was Arabic bread, hummus, and olives, and for dinner I chose my local favorite hammour. It is buttery and flaky with a very delicate fish flavor.

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Pink, red, orange, and yellow colored the sky and just as the base of the sun touched the water we timed its descent. The bright disc sunk quickly and less than three minutes later it was gone behind the Gulf. And a perfect beach day was done.

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Culture Shock

Readjustment to life in a new culture is full of mental and emotional fluctuations that require frequent reality checks. For some, living as an expat in Saudi Arabia is as difficult as surviving its arid deserts in the middle of summer with no air conditioning or conveniences of modern technology. Of course, the heat is an adjustment, but thankfully we don’t live in tents or ride camels to get to work, therefore much of the struggle is related to government regulations, local attitudes, and cloistered surroundings. For many Western expats this means giving up alcohol, pork, and driving (if you’re a woman), learning to appreciate residential/ work compound activities and events, paying attention to security warnings, and accepting the fact that there will be few opportunities to engage on a friendly level with local Saudis – I, for one, am disappointed with this aspect. It’s the restrictions that pose the biggest shock and hardship. While Saudi culture is unique and very interesting, it doesn’t make for easy living if you have been accustomed to certain rights and treatment. To be sure, there is a significant amount of discrimination and prejudice governing this populous and it can be a challenging transition for those who do not share these ideologies.

Last August, just as we were gearing up to leave DC and move to SA, I took a class called, “The Realities of Foreign Service Life.” In it we discussed the idea of “culture shock” and how it can hit people at different times in their overseas journeys. They gave us a chart outlining the rollercoaster effect that’s likely to occur – if not to you, then to someone in your family. I tucked the chart away after the class and didn’t think about it until recently when it occurred to me that my newfound feelings of frustration and irritation were probably symptoms of culture shock.

A quick Google search will offer many variations on the ups and downs, this happens to be the chart they gave us in class.

A quick Google search will offer many variations on the ups and downs, this happens to be the chart they gave us in class.

At this point in time, almost six months in SA, the graph would put us on the downhill slope of the valley just about to hit the rocks below. Of course this is a general estimation maybe suggested by various psychology studies and is not to be taken too seriously, but it does have me questioning where it is that I really sit on the rollercoaster. Am I on the uphill, downhill, or sitting in the valley? Is the worst yet to come? I admit that recently my energy levels have decreased, I am less motivated to engage with the community, and I miss my freedom to drive and be spontaneous. There is an element of confinement that women in particular have to learn to cope with, but it is conceivably the biggest struggle for most since Saudi culture is very closed and regulated. The routine of going to work and then back to the housing compound every day is not healthy. Unless I get out and explore at least every other week, I begin to feel trapped. I keep my eyes out for possible excursions and sign up when they are convenient. David has found his coping mechanism amongst the routine and stresses to be weekly Jiu Jitsu practices. I learned in my class that this kind of stress management is called “plugging in.” The idea that you are doing something for yourself that makes you feel connected to the new environment.

Joining a new culture doesn’t necessarily mean moving overseas, culture shock can occur when moving from rural to urban life, when going to college, even when joining a new profession or club – any kind of transition to a new environment can throw a person into an existential crisis and state of chaos. The experience is not unique to any particular gender, race, or age (although it’s probably safe to say that teenagers and young adults are the most susceptible due to high school, college, and workplace transitions) – it can affect anyone, and I’ve witnessed it to be quite prevalent here. Mature men and women struggling with cultural differences, loneliness, homesickness, etc. and they are unhappy and unsettled. Maybe it’s annoyances at people, at the job, at the routine, at the customs or laws – whatever the causes – a build-up of environmental stresses will bury even the most resilient. This is the phase of “mental isolation” where people retreat within themselves and don’t engage openly or outwardly with others. Once the mind has been set that there is nothing to be gained, no one to understand, and nowhere to go from the present, it’s impossible to recover. Maybe it’s due to the cloistered atmosphere in SA, but many don’t seem to break from this period.

It is easy to see that everyone on some level is dealing with culture shock – even if they’ve been here for several years. One lady who has been here nearly three years once said to me that she was “tired of being kept in closets.” Before we went to Oman we were beginning to feel the pressure. With no break from work for five months, monotonous routines, and simmering feelings regarding wearing the abaya and riding as a passenger in the backseat, it was definitely time to get away and do something different. These breaks are absolutely essential to mental health and I can see why it has been recommended that people get away and leave the country every three months to reset.

Other aspects of Saudi culture that we’ve had to learn to cope with relate to the marginalization that we are expected to endure and tolerate since as diplomats (and I suppose invited guests) we are of course supposed to be diplomatic (or pleasant company). In Saudi culture there is a racial hierarchy and unless you are Saudi or white, you will receive lukewarm acknowledgment and respect. This was made apparent when David attempted to join a new Judo club and local children waiting outside the community center heckled him and tried to shoo him away. The manager also quoted him an exorbitant rate in order to use the facilities. As for gender biases, women are joining the workforce and seeking higher education (many I see going to the U.S. on student visas), but I still feel there is a lot of traditionalism at stake. A lot of women are very conservative and choose not to show their faces in public, sensitive to the gaze of men, even going so far as to cover their hands with gloves. In my sporadic conversations, one Arab man said women are “ministers of the home.” Of course there are progressive thinkers, the ones seeking more equality, but they tend to be understated. As I’ve mentioned before, the law preventing women from driving does not apply inside the compound walls and Saudi women in particular take advantage of this opportunity. A couple weeks ago, a couple young Saudi women drove me and a work colleague around their farm, they lamented that they were hoping the laws would change last year, but now with the new leadership they don’t think it will happen anytime soon. A lot of hope for change comes with an attitude of inshallah – “God willing” – rather than with social activism since it is quickly quieted by the government.

Finally, a note on security warnings. I have not gone to work for the last four days due to heightened security concerns mission-wide. It is a strange circumstance to find myself living in a region where terror threats are a daily concern, but it doesn’t feel completely foreign since the U.S. has long been a target of terrorists. In all reality, SA is a safe country to live. It’s my understanding from people who have lived here for five years or more that these security warnings from the embassy and consulates are rather routine, there has always been some group or another threatening Western expats. The warnings are something to pay attention to and a good reminder to stay alert of our surroundings at all times, noting any bizarre behavior while also preparing ourselves in case of an emergency. However, this time around, the security warnings have a slightly different feel to them – the pulse of the community is on standby. Coincidentally, the weather has been dark and gloomy these past four days, with gentle sprinklings here and there, like the clouds are waiting for the lingering threat to subside before parting. We are waiting and hoping for a peaceful return to business as usual.

Here are some pics from a recent camping trip in the desert:

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Pet Travel: Part II

Since David was the primary caretaker for all the documents related to our dog’s importation into Saudi Arabia, I asked him to please guest post the details for anyone who may be going through the same process. It requires a lot of footwork (and paperwork and money), but we are certainly glad to have our Pigpen along with us here overseas. And now over to the expert:

Pet travel/moving

Pet travel, whether for leisure or permanent relocation, is a difficult process. It is harder to move and relocate a pet dog than it is to relocate a human to a foreign country. To our fellow Foreign Service pet owners, we feel your pain and are available anytime to “pay it forward” and share our experience. Pet travel is expen$ive. Hotels and airlines charge high fees to accommodate a pet. Lesson one for hotels: La Quinta Inn and Suites is a GOOD choice for pet owners traveling within the U.S. Sure, some of you accustomed to Hilton/Marriott and other like brands may scoff at that name, but LQ Inn and Suites really isn’t that bad, especially when you’re moving and doing the vacation routine requiring you to stay in multiple hotels. The fees add up, considering average hotel pet fees are around $100. LQ Inn does not charge pet fees whatsoever. The quality is more or less Holiday Inn, so no complaints. When you have a pet, what difference does that stuff make anyway?

Pet health certification for travel is also difficult. Make sure you do your research. For Foreign Service, I highly recommend doing a lot of the initial research online, then reach out and talk to other pet owners at post. There’s A LOT of helpful information out there. If you figured out you have to get USDA certification, you’re on the right track. Realize that different vets charge drastically different prices for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection (APHIS) examination that leads to the official paperwork (APHIS form 7001) that goes to the USDA. Some veterinarians charge upwards of $400 for the examination, others charge as low as $80. There really is no rhyme or reason except possibly demand. We found the more expensive prices to be in the Washington D.C. metro area (MD/Northern VA) where there are a lot of military/Foreign Service customers doing the same thing. We used a popular veterinarian and pet boarding facility for our initial pet health inspection required for the pet import paperwork and although they had a competitive rate of just $150, we found their quality of service subpar and attention to detail lacking. I wasn’t impressed that they were widely recommended in similar circles. We had to do a separate pet health inspection for the actual pet importation documents used to admit the dog not only to our next post, but also at our rest stop in Germany. Germany falls under the European Union and is under the European Union pet importation standards. We had to get our dog USDA and EU certified, which could have easily cost in the hundreds in the DC metro area. Thankfully, we did the exam in California (during vacation) at a well rated vet who only charged $82 and did both USDA/EU certifications. Here’s another tip: Depending on the state you get your USDA/EU pet exam, some USDA vet offices in that state will only accept vet certificates from that state. I read this on another blog that said this for Texas. Since I’m so careful about this stuff and want there to be zero errors come customs time, I mailed the documents via USPS Express Mail to the USDA office in Sacramento. These guys were above and beyond helpful. For starters, I actually was able to speak to a live human being who understood my concerns and worked with me when there was an issue regarding the dog’s paperwork.

Here are some of our lessons learned:

First: Have paperwork documenting your dog’s ISO chip implantation and date implanted. This HAS to be done before rabies. It was more of an issue for the EU paperwork. I would have been in trouble if I tried this with another USDA office we previously worked with outside CA since they could never be reached on the phone.

Second: Have an original rabies certificate that has the vaccine serial/lot number, expiration date, and any pertinent detail. Some vets may not understand this and only put the date/name/signature.

Third: Anticipate the crate you’ll need consistent with airline standards. For us, having a Beagle puppy and a crate at the start was great for training/familiarization, but I did not anticipate his growth enough to meet the particular airline’s standards. Some airlines require at least 3 inches of clearance from the dog’s head to the ceiling of the crate (for safety reasons especially in turbulence). In our case, United airlines does, but Lufthansa doesn’t, but we’re on a United flight on a codeshare with Lufthansa…you know where this goes. So yes, we had to spend another $80+ and upgrade his crate since the old one, although roomy for him, was creeping close to his head.

Fourth: If you’re able to go to the airport the day before or anytime before travel, do so. Take your dog to the airport. Let him/her “sniff” around and familiarize himself with the environment so it isn’t as stressful on the day of travel. Talk to the airline and reconfirm everything you’ve researched. We did this for our vacation and work-related travel airports and it cut a lot of uncertainty and stress. In fact, the day of travel was relatively stress free! I say “re-confirm” because, as you fellow FS pet owners may know, things will fall through and not go as planned. In this case, Lufthansa (after the third time reconfirming our pet), did not have our pet logged in their system. Also, you can obtain helpful paperwork and fill out for the crate ahead of time. We also planned where I would drop my wife and the high volume of cargo plus the pet while I went to return the rental car (this process can take a good hour, so factor that in) and meet back with her to check the baggage in.

Fifth: Keep copies of vaccination records, health certificates, extra photos of the dog, etc. in a neatly organized binder with plastic document protectors. This will save you a lot of heartache, especially when dealing with the unexpected. You never know when an airline employee/customs official will challenge you and ask for a copy of something.

Six: If you’re about to become a pet owner, consider the long term and what breeds may be easier to export to whatever post. This is where having a Beagle helped. He’s not a big dog and so the crate fees were less ($200 vs $400 on Lufthansa). He wasn’t a snub nosed dog (i.e. Pug), so that took out the risk of breathing difficulties in flight, and isn’t a fight dog, so he is likely to be accepted into a greater number of countries that typically ban those breeds. There’s a wealth of information in addition to the above I can share, but for now, I feel the lessons provided were the major points and the rest can be figured out through messaging us or research. DO YOUR RESEARCH AND ASK OTHERS.

Arabic Bread Pudding “Oum Ali”

Kaif Halik?
Al hamdulilah.

With the death of King Abdullah last month, Saudi Arabia has been in the news lately. I turn on the TV or browse the internet and see much hype about the events occurring in the Middle East. We have been keeping our attention on the unrest throughout the region, but life hasn’t changed much for us. Saudis were sad for the passing of their king, and there was a little hoopla with President Obama and Secretary Kerry coming to Riyadh, but the transition to a new reigning heir has been quiet and uneventful. We still go about our lives the same ways (work, socials, dog, shopping, cooking, extra curriculars) and don’t anticipate changing our habits any time soon. With Valentine’s Day approaching, we plan on enjoying ourselves with food and dancing and then we will prepare for our first trip outside of SA to a neighboring Middle Eastern country (stay tuned).

In short, life is still good.

Following is a recipe I’ve had the pleasure of discovering while here. It is an Arabic bread pudding that traditionally began in Egypt. I am told there is a story about how this dish got its name “Oum Ali” (meaning “mother of Ali”) and it has something to do with the idea that “revenge is sweet.” While this is not quite an accurate depiction of the Oum Ali I’ve tasted since it is generally made with puff pastry or phyllo paper, it is a close and delicious compromise. It is a particularly nice treat in the morning with a cup of coffee. I hope you try it and enjoy!

Arabic Bread Pudding “Oum Ali”

2-3 Cups milk
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
Croissants* – stale, crunchy, pulled apart in pieces
1 Cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 Cup chopped pecans/sliced almonds/pistachios
1 Cup softened raisins
1 Cup whipping cream
Powdered sugar for dusting

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*You will need enough croissants to cover your baking dish, so depending on their size, buy accordingly. My store-bought croissants are rather small so I used 12. If your baking dish is deep enough, you can also layer your bread pieces. I have a pie dish so I can only fit all the ingredients in one layer.

The bread should be stale in order to soak in the liquid without becoming soggy. If the croissants are still soft and buttery, put them in the oven to harden at 400 degrees until brown and crunchy.

To soften the raisins, soak them in hot water for 10-15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Heat milk through and add granulated sugar, stir to combine. Do not let the milk boil. Remove from heat and set aside. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form and set aside. Assemble all ingredients by starting with the base of croissant pieces. Sprinkle in nuts, raisins, and shredded coconut. Pour milk over the ingredients until it just covers the bread. If you would like less moisture in your pudding, add less milk. Finally, cover the bread with whipped cream and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the cream has hardened to a nice golden brown crust. Serve warm.

For a more Arabic flavor, you can add cinnamon and cardamom to the milk.

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Fresh out of the oven! Smells like a french bakery.

Fresh out of the oven! Smells like a french bakery.

Inspired by this corny clip.