Saudi Arabia

With alcohol, nightclubs, playing music in public and mingling with unrelated people of the opposite sex all banned, it's fair to say that nobody comes to Saudi Arabia for the nightlife.

coffee shops

Pretty much the only form of entertainment for bachelors is the ubiquitous coffee shop, which serve not only coffee and tea, but water pipes shisha with flavoured tobacco. These are strictly a male domain, and in some cities like Riyadh establishments that offer shisha are banished to the outskirts of town.

If, on the other hand, you're looking for a hazelnut frappucino, Starbucks and its legion competitors have established a firm foothold in the Kingdom's malls. These usually welcome women, although 2008 saw several arrests of unmarried couples "mingling".

As for the coffee kahwa itself, try mirra, made in the Bedouin style. Sometimes spiced with cardamom, it's strong and tastes great, particularly drunk with fresh dates. Tea chai usually comes with dollops of sugar and perhaps a few mint leaves na'ana.

soft drinks

As elsewhere in the Gulf, Saudis are big fans of various fruit juices, ranging from the ordinary apple, orange to the downright bizarre banana-lemon-milk-walnut, anyone?.

Non-alcoholic versions of alcoholic drinks are popular. Two of the most common are Saudi champagne, basically apple juice and Sprite or soda water, and malt beverages, ie. non-alcoholic beer, always sweet and often strongly flavored with mango, strawberry, apple, lemon etc essences. You can even get apple-flavored Budweiser!