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keshta

Bringing Back the Simple Arabian Desert Picnic Tradition – Keshta

Last Updated on by Admin


The simple joys of life are such: A cup of a warm beverage, a holiday in the wild outdoors & a heartfelt conversation with a fellow human.

It’s the era of travel grams and vlogs. A time when visiting new destinations has become a rite of passage for social belonging. Most of us, when we go on vacation, are ready with our go-pro in hand for the shot that could become the thumbnail on our travel vlog. Yet there is something about travelling that enriches the soul.  Whether it’s the thrill of catching spectacular views or meeting new people, coming back from visiting new places always leaves us a little different than when we started.

And maybe that’s why humans have moved places, since the time of Ibn Batuta and still further back when nomads shifted with the seasons.

In fact, travelling from home and gathering around a bonfire at pit-stops or destinations has been a quintessential ritual for indigenous communities all over the world. Whether it’s ban-bhaat (eating in the jungle) in the Himalayas or Keshta in the Arabian Peninsula.

gathering-around-a-bonfire

Keshta – A way of life

The Bedouins of the Arabian Peninsula are said to have been the earliest to celebrate the Keshta- meeting for a feast at a gathering place near fire. Even today as winter arrives, people in the Middle Eastern region await Keshta season, a time for families to go out and enjoy a picnic in the desert.

keshta-a-way-of-life

But this ancient practice is more than just an outdoor picnic. In this fast-paced world where everyone is busy taking travel pictures as soon as they catch a view, Keshta is an invitation to slow down and reflect on the journey together.

What does Keshta Mean?

outdoor-arabian-style-camping-set-up

A Keshta is an outdoor Arabian style camping set-up. It was difficult to come across the English translation for the word Keshta or find its exact origin. If we break down the word in several linguistic contexts, in the Urdu script Keshta means “Cultivated” , written کاشتہ. In Arabic Kashtah, Qishta (Arabic: قِشْطَة, also known as kishta, kashta , ghishta, or ashta, is a dairy coagulated milk product prepared from heated fresh milk and consumed as a dessert. The Sanskrit meaning of the word “Kasht” is hard work or a unit of time. The old word for the city of “Kathmandu” was “kashta-mandapam” which means a wooden structure.

So here’s a small, perhaps fantastical possibility:

The Bedouin tribes in pre-Islamic Arabia were nomadic pastoralists, who reared small herds of goats, sheep, camels, horses for sustenance. They travelled frequently, migrating in-tune with the changing seasons. The cultural practices of Indigenous communities are usually attuned to the growing and harvesting of their crops. Winters were a time for the numerous tribes to gather their hard-earned cultivation and rest to feast. A camping structure was usually erected around a fire which people gathered to exchange their produce and enjoy the fruits of their labor & this perhaps is the origin of the Keshta.

Experience Keshta- A gathering in the outdoors that resounds of Arabian Nostalgia

winter-time-outdoor-activity

Keshta is a winter time outdoor activity involving a short drive to the vast desert or wadis for a picnic with friends and family.  A bonfire is lit and an array of choicest delicacies are laid out on colorful rugs. Camping involves swapping stories, playing cards and carrom. While the traces of the origin of this Arabic picnic remains elusive, it is reassuring to know that this simple community gathering still continues even as the world races on.

For this beloved tradition of the people of the Gulf is more than an outdoor picnic. This indigenous adventure is a way to connect with the wholesome simplicity of Arabian culture. From the thoughtfully designed seating arrangements with ethnic motifs to the hearty Arabic cuisine prepared on the fire, Keshta is a celebration of family and community. It is an act of slowing down to listen to one another while celebrating the simplicity of a Bedouin hospitality and the Arabian landscape and heritage.

What is Keshta camping?

what-is-keshta-camping

Picture this: a lush oasis surrounded by golden sands, a gentle breeze rustling through the palm trees, and a meticulously laid out spread of delectable treats awaiting your arrival. That’s Keshta in all its glory – a fusion of traditional hospitality and modern elegance that captures the essence of Arabian culture. The camp involves a simple Arabesque picnic set-up in the deserts, wadis, and mountains of the Middle East.

We took a 7000 km off-road adventure in Saudi Arabia, read all about it here

Keshta Setting

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Setting up a Keshta is a practice of paying attention to detail. Every element adds to the ambience of the camp. Whether you’re gathering with friends, family, or that special someone, a comfortable Keshta should offer a setting where intimate conversations flow as easily as the platter of delicacies. The designers add plush cushions in vibrant colors and patterns over warm rugs. A low table is laid out in fabrics of appealing colors. The backdrop is usually a stunning desert landscape, a serene beachfront, or a majestic wadi. The table setting can be as luxurious or as simple as one pleases. Choose elegant dinnerware, delicate floral arrangement and flickering candles, or go for the rustic charm with Gahwa in tall metallic tumblers and the warmth of sheep-skin rugs.

What Food to enjoy in your Keshta Picnic Basket?

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Now, let’s talk about the food – the heart and soul of any picnic experience. Keshta doesn’t just serve food; it offers a culinary journey through the flavors of Arabia. Think succulent kebabs, fragrant rice dishes, fresh salads, and decadent desserts – all crafted with the finest ingredients and traditional recipes passed down through generations.

Here are some Keshta must-haves to savour with your friends and family:

Arabic Gahwa and Karak Chai

A piping hot cup of coffee on a chilly winter evening is an emotion. But sipping the Arabic coffee, Gahwa is an experience of the culture. Take it up a notch by trying the Hijazi Almond Coffee, infused with Middle Eastern spices, blanch almonds and rice flour. Another Keshta classic is the Karak Tea, packed with a punch of flavor thanks to its generous use of spices. This popular tea is generally credited to the large South Asian expat community in the Middle East.

An Assortment of Raisins, Dates & Chestnuts

Dried fruits are delightful companions for quick meals and long journeys. A fun picnic platter would consist of a mix of dates, sultanas, raisins, pistachios. A secret winter specialty in Saudi Arabia is Abu farwa or chestnuts. Roast these early winter harvest treats on the bonfire and munch them through long conversations in the night.

A Rustic Open-Air Barbeque

Relish a culinary adventure of West Asian traditional barbecue carried on since the age of hunting for sustenance in the dry deserts. Levantine Arabic Mashawi with shish taouk and kebabs are favourites during gatherings. Robustly marinated lamb chops, koftas, and meat stews are equally relished in the outdoors.

Outdoor activities to enjoy on a Keshta

outdoor-activities

Time spent at the Keshta is meant to while away in celebration of human togetherness. Entertainment comes in many forms. From singing together to the music of Arabic drums and lutes, to cooking an elaborate biriyani together or just relaxing over a storytelling session, the possibilities of fun activities on an outdoor picnic in the Middle East are plenty.

Here are some ideas for things to do in the outdoors with a Keshta:

  • Board Games

Enjoy carefree rounds of card games, carrom, or board games. The winner gets to enjoy a hearty piece from the special barbeque.

  • Dune-bashing

A Keshta set-up in the desert is the perfect opportunity to enjoy the adrenaline rush of dune-bashing on a 4 x 4.

Book your red sand dunes adventure 

  • Hiking

Keshta set-ups are easy-to-carry mobile arrangements. They are highly helpful for catching a break during long hikes in the Wadis of Arabia.

  • Swimming and Water sports

Keshta on the beach is the perfect space to relax after the thrill of swimming and water sports in the Oceans of the Arabian peninsula. Lounge on the soft sand, surrounded by the warm glow of lanterns and the gentle sound of waves.

  • Musical Soirée

Some desert gatherings are an extravagant affair of live music and cultural dance performances. Move along to the beats or just sit around the bonfire singing together to the tunes of an old Arabic song.

  • Stories & Stargazing

As the night sets in, the true intimacy of the Keshta experience unfolds. Share stories and listen to tales of the land around the light of the hearth. In the dark night, lie down on the soft rugs and look up at the brightness of stars.

When and Where Can I Do Keshta?

keshta-at-saudi-wadi

Keshta can vary from a small personal pit-stop setup to an extravagant well-planned resting space – suiting intimate events, business meetings, celebrations or romantic proposals. A wild day in the desert, a dhow ride, or relaxing in the city, take your Keshta along with you.

Qatar Inland Sea

Elevate your experience of Qatar’s secret treasure by opting for an Arabic open air picnic setup – Keshta. Rely on a restful retreat on your own Keshta after an intense swimming in the waters of Inland Sea.  Refill your appetite with delicious Arabic coffee and Bedouin barbeque, as the conversations continue.

Red Sand Dunes of Saudi Arabia

Immerse into the Arabian way of gathering with friends in the vast sand dunes of Saudi. Dune bashing and sand boarding, got you tired? No worries! Come relax in your personal Keshta as you warm yourself with traditional Arabic coffee or tea or maybe some barbeque.

Jumeirah Beach in Dubai

Create intimate memorabilia sharing stories with friends and family in a curated Arabian-style outdoor picnic setting near the pristine blue waters of the United Arab Emirates. Sink into deep relaxation on your personal Persian rugs laid out on the beach for you.

Read: How to spend a day in a Dubai Souq

The Wadis of Oman

Savour a rustic Middle Eastern gathering after a day of intense hiking across the mountainous terrains of Oman.

365 Adventures Keshta Set-Ups – Customized with care

365-adventures-keshta-set-up

From the hand-woven sadu fabric to the gahwa cups you hold, each element of the Keshta experience is a retelling of the stories of Arabian cultural heritage. We invite you to Our Gathering Place to hear this story, and share cozy conversations around a bonfire.

Here are some of Keshta offerings available in Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Oman.

Book a Keshta experience 

Keshta Experience
Ali Baba’s Fortune

Set-Up Details
Ultra luxurious setup with our choicest rugs, bohemian fur, hand-picked brass-ware, fire pits and table decor, experience of the truly luxurious Arabia. Combine it with a high-tea experience for your guests, and it’s a full-course endeavour.

Capacity
10 persons+(perfect for big groups and corporate events)
Keshta Experience
Genie-ous Luxury

Set-Up Details
This whimsical set up is a massive tent adorned with traditional decor. Perfect for a pit-stop in the desert to give the magical feeling of finding solace in the desert.

Capacity
8 persons+(perfect for big groups and corporate events)
Keshta Experience
Jasmine and Aladin

Set-Up Details
An Arabian set up can indeed be a magical experience as it takes you on a journey to a world full of wonder and enchantment. The exotic ambiance, and ornate decorations all come together to create a truly unforgettable experience.

Capacity
Ideal for couples (2 persons)
Keshta Experience
Solo Sultan

Set-Up Details
Our Solo Sultan Set up is the perfect setting for solo travelers and small groups of friends to experience a culturally indulgent experience. To achieve the stunning decorative details, every element has been carefully curated to transport you to another world.

Capacity
1-4 persons
Keshta Experience
Open Sesame

Set-Up Details
The Open Sesame setup is an extraordinary setting that truly hones the gathering atmosphere. It offers the perfect blend of relaxation, breathtaking scenery, and quality time with your dearest.

Capacity
6 persons
Keshta Experience
Sinbad the Sailor

Set-Up Details
A keshta set amidst the sea. Get on board a traditional dhow, take in some fresh and salty air, and indulge in a cultural atmosphere with music, and traditional decor.

Capacity
10 persons+ perfect for big groups and corporate events)
Keshta Experience
Keshta on Wheels

Set-Up Details
Our Keshta on Wheels is a keshta on the go! Parked near the serene mangroves, to offer the perfect setting for friends and families to gather, relax, and have a great time. With delightful snacks and refreshing drinks, it’s the recipe for a fun-filled day surrounded by nature. Experience the joy of togetherness, creating unforgettable moments at Al Mafjar Mangroves.

Capacity
4 -6 persons
Keshta Experience
Tasweeri Picnic

Set-Up Details
Gather your loved ones, pack your favorite snacks, and prepare for an unforgettable day and bask in the breathtaking views of the Inland sea. Whether you’re looking to unwind by the waters, build sandcastles with your kids, or simply enjoy the company of friends, this is the perfect daily life and enjoy a scrumptious picnic by the beach.

Capacity
4 – 6 persons

Keshta is an adventure that connects you with community & culture

From foraging in the wild for woodfire to setting up the table & feasting together, Keshta is the endurance of human community. Reliving this ancient adventure in the contemporary era, is a chance to disconnect from the Metaverse and forge genuine friendships amidst the setting of the rich Arabian heritage.

For the yearnings of the human being are truly simple – a warm beverage, unhinged adventure, and joyous companionship.

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