With the fragrance of onions and the all too familiar sound of bursting bubbles, one knows that on any given weekend in Meissa West, Ahmad Nabhani ’15, can be found making Kabsa. He is never alone in his endeavors as a group of his friends and fellow “Khalijis,” as they call themselves, always provide entertainment as they await the feast. Every weekend the crowd seems to grow larger. From the scene in the common room following the massive repast, there is no doubt that Nabhani’s ritual has turned into a celebration of cultural identity. I took the opportunity to interview Nabhani himself and find the true story behind the legend.
The Rexonian: Why do you cook Kabsa every weekend?
Ahmad Nabhani: What we are trying to do is cook Kabsa so it can make us feel like we’re at home. It is like the normal food we normally eat there. That is the main reason why we actually cook it. It makes us feel…well, we are hungry…
TR: Isn’t Kabsa a Saudi dish?
AN: It is Saudi but…I don’t know if you have been in other countries in the Gulf. The GCC Countries have really similar food, so it does not really make a difference whether you are from this part or that part of the region. It is all the same food.
TR: Why do you listen to music while you cook? What music do you listen to while you cook?
AN: Normally we listen to Arabic music, Khaliji music. Music just makes you feel at home… it makes you feel active. It just lets us have fun while we are cooking, dancing, and making fun of each other.
TR: Can you define the word Khaliji in your own words?
AN: A person who is from the GCC [Gulf Corporation Council].
TR: What have you learned from making kabsa? Have you made any mistakes? Learned any secrets while making it?
AN: I learn new things every time. I think we have only made it once without making any mistakes. That was the best time we ever made it. Every time we do something really stupid like we forget to put in the tomatoes, which are one of the main ingredients. Every time we make a mistake, we realize it right after we are finished cooking. Like, when we put the food on the plates, we think, “Oh, we forgot this or that.” But it’s always okay. It’s not bad when you forget the ingredients, but it is not as good as we want it to be.
TR: Are you guys thinking of doing anything else? Or are you sticking with the traditional?
AN: I normally keep telling my friends that we should do something else but every time I think of something else, they say, “Oh no, I don’t like that, don’t make that.” This is what they mostly like so that is why we do it.