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A visit to Barking Lot in Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia’s first cafe dedicated to dogs
ALKHOBAR: Blal Antika overcame his great fear of dogs when he started working at the Kingdom’s first cafe dedicated to dogs, the Barking Lot, eight months ago.
Today, Antika is like a tall, protective cousin, standing stoically at the entrance to the building with her clear glass exterior, dutifully scanning the area, while emphatically greeting people she recognizes.
He is the first friendly but firm face that greets you and the last you see before you leave.
Jack-of-all-trades, he does a bit of everything. While sipping his favorite iced white mocha from the cafe, he lifts the door to let people and their best friends in and out.
He is now part of the whole Barking Lot visitor experience, but even he was surprised to be in this position.
“Growing up in Jeddah, I never thought I would be surrounded by dogs. I have always had a sense of adventure so when I was offered to work at the Alkhobar dog cafe, I was curious. Even though I have always been afraid of dogs, I thought of trying anyway. Now I miss them whenever I am not with them,” Antika told Arab News.
The unique cafe has 14 in-house dogs while others visit regularly.
The Alkhobar branch has been in operation for more than two years. With plenty of snacks for humans and dogs, the cafe caters to those who want their pets to play in a safe and controlled environment or chat with other people, to swap tips and show off new tricks from their friends. furry.
Humans can sit in chairs in the back, placed along the clear glass walls overlooking the city, where passers-by sometimes look curiously.
Sometimes some dogs urinate out of excitement, but a staff member comes quickly to clean and disinfect the place. You can hear bursts of barking, as the dogs come in and out, but it doesn’t last long.
The cafe also has a grooming station where they can get their nails trimmed and showered.
Ameerah, who grew up in Dhahran, returned last year after living in Canada, armed with a degree and her first dog, Lilly.
The 20 kilogram golden retriever and poodle combination is a golden doodle.
“When I first got Lilly, she was only seven weeks old. I was very excited because it was my first time having a pet, and it was a dream of mine. childhood. When I first got her, it was overseas so everything was open. You know, people there understand what it means to own a pet and raise it. C It’s like their child at home but here it’s different,” she told Arab News.
In Saudi Arabia, dogs have traditionally been excluded from living in homes. They were kept on farms or used for security purposes. But over the past decade, there has been a culture shift.
On the evening of our visit, you could hear dazed children calling Lilly. A young girl asked if she could give Lilly a treat, but Ameerah gently refused and explained that it would give canine indigestion. The little girl happily stroked Lilly instead. It’s not hard to see why Lilly is a local favorite.
Lilly gently interacts with other larger dogs and socializes in the controlled environment. Her mother enjoys these visits and appreciates how the Barking Lot cafe helps broaden the understanding of what it means to include a woman’s best friend in the cultural mix.
Lilly helped Ameerah cope with being away from home during the pandemic and is now helping her hometown accept dogs as rightful family members.
The coffee also helps them beat the sweltering Saudi heat.
“The weather, of course, is a shock to her and me and when I came to the cafe, you know, everything is closed. There’s AC so I’d rather bring her here than take her to play in the park. We are either at home or at the cafe,” she said.
The Barking Lot was launched in Kuwait by Dalal Al-Sharhan with the opening of the Alkhobar branch in 2020 as the Kingdom’s first dog-friendly cafe, followed by its second branch in 2021 in Riyadh.
For their hours and menus, including grooming for pets and coffee for their humans, visit @TheBarkingLot.sa