The Culinarist’s Guide to Thuwal

By | July 24, 2016

Al Washirimi Restaurant in Thuwal: The home of the peculiar rectangular pastries

Just south of KAUST is the town of Thuwal. It used to be a sleepy fishing village, but as KAUST has grown, so too has the village. We have visited Thuwal often since we moved here and our visits almost always include eating a meal. For a long time, we always went to the same fish restaurant on the corniche, but recently two of our friends have started doing restaurant reviews for the town and we have been lucky enough for them to host us to some of their favorite spots.

Juho Häppölä and Grace Gruendler have been meticulously visiting every single restaurant in town and have been writing about their experiences via their online guide: The Culinarist’s Guide to Thuwal. Their restaurant reviews are tailor-made for non-arabic speaking expats and have a light-hearted tone. They map each location, share some photos and a review, and rate each place on taste, cost, and ease. They are very encouraging of people who wish to visit our neighbors to the south.

Here is their description of the site:

Thuwal is one of the most underexploited and underrated tourist destinations of Hejaz. This magnificent small town offers dozens of options for the traveller keen on buying electronics, praying, having their hair cut and, well, stuff. This page lists some of my experiences in Thuwal and tries to pay tribute to the sometimes absurd but delicious restaurants therein.

In our most recent visit to Thuwal with Grace and Juho, they took us to the Pink Cockroach, a highly-rated Pakistani dive. We got take-away and brought it out to the beach where we had a delicious meal and heard stories about some of the other restaurants. Here is their review of the Pink Cockroach:

Named after the little critter crawling on the floor and the colour of the tiling on the walls, this little restaurant on the side alley offers the Thuwali culinarist a fine treat of pakistani curry. Even a more demanding restaurant-goer will find the quality matching that of Al Hamad, one might even say that this place takes the lead among Pakistani joints in town, thanks to the fresh roti. A group of three inspectors ate large dishes of curry and a pile of delicious Roti for 42 SAR, and placing an order in English was possible with relative ease.” The place gets a pretty stellar rating of 5/5 for taste, 4/5 for cost, and 4/5 for ease.

And here are a few photos from the site:

Indian food from Marhaba Restaurant where, “For a measly 17 Riyal, one obtains a ton of extra spicy biryani”


Outside Kasara Al-Zajaj, where you can get a “more than satisfactory” shwarma.


The King Fish: “an adventurous culinarist will be rewarded for going the extra mile and stepping into this peculiar establishment”.

(Aside: Long time readers will note that their reviews are reminiscent of our own efforts in Cambridge, UK via our short-lived Mill Road Fare project.)

If you are thinking of making the journey to Thuwal soon, be sure to check out Grace and Juho’s reviews at