For the Naji sisters, bread is a family business

Hanan Naji serves a customer at Al-Saidi bakery in Souk Al-Alawi, downtown Jeddah.

Hanan Naji serves a customer at Al-Saidi bakery in Souk Al-Alawi, downtown Jeddah.

For nearly 80 years Al-Saidi bakery in Jeddah has produced the famous sesame bread locally known as “Shreik”.

Founded by the late Saif Naji, the bakery is currently managed by his three daughters who have still managed to keep their father’s recipe a secret.

Located in the narrow Souk Al-Alawi, the aroma of freshly-baked Shreik bread attracts customers from the west of Imam Al-Shafei Mosque. The bakery has received the attention of officials, most notably Prince Sultan Bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) who paid a visit to the bakery recently.

Hanan, one of the daughters of the late Amm Saif Naji, said Al-Saidi bakery is considered to be the oldest in Jeddah and despite its location, the bakery attracts people from all over the city and in some cases, other regions of the Kingdom.

“There are several families who purchase large quantities of bread from the bakery. We distribute the bread among a number of restaurants and cheese shops on Qabil Street and Bab Makkah. Despite having several workers, we have kept the dough mix a secret. This is the key to our distinctive product,” she explained.

Hanan hopes her son Saif will one day follow his grandfather’s steps and take over the bakery. Asked about the difficulties the sisters face as women managing a bakery, Hanan said it is a shortage of workers.

She explained that several workers quit as they were not under their sponsorship. “They left their jobs because of the new labor regulations. Regrettably, Saudi bakers are not available, but we have a Saudi accountant. My sisters and I supervise work in the bakery. All the three of us hold university degrees. We do not face any difficulty in dealing with customers. On the contrary, there is a big response from the people. We participated in the festival ‘Our Ramadan is like this’ with a stall so that more people get to know our products,” she said.

“Our bread was in high demand at the festival. We have many customers from outside Jeddah and they make sure to purchase Shreik bread, rusk and brown bread whenever they come to Jeddah due to the unique taste of our bread,” she added.

 
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