For insight into these head-spinning times in Saudi Arabia, where the ultraconservative social and religious codes that micromanage daily life seem to spring a new leak every month — women driving! movie theatres! Usher and Akon rapping to sold-out crowds! — it sometimes pays to read the Google Maps reviews of specialty coffee shops.
“I visited this place and was in a total shock!” Tarak Alhamood, a customer at Nabt Fenjan, a Riyadh coffee shop, raged online recently. “YOU r VIOLATING the rules of this country. I hope this place get closed permanently.”
The blame lay not with the matcha iced tea and flat whites (good, other reviewers opined), the nondairy milk options (appreciated), the chocolate cake (don’t miss) or the prices (less popular).
The issue was the decision that made Nabt Fenjan a daring outpost of the new Riyadh: Originally opened only for women, the coffee shop began allowing male and female customers to mix in late 2018.