In this Jan. 27, 2016 photo, a woman orders Iranian food from Shayah restaurant in Kingdom Center Mall in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (AP Photo/Aya Batrawy)
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Iran and Saudi Arabia's rivalry has played out in proxy wars across the region, and escalated further after the two severed diplomatic and trade ties last month.In the 1990s, inside steaming kitchens in Riyadh, Iranian chefs taught their counterparts how to season and cook Persian dishes for a Saudi-owned Iranian restaurant called Shayah. The food proved so popular that nearly 20 years later, Shayah is a chain with 13 outlets in the kingdom, 11 of them in Riyadh.The bold signs on their storefronts proclaiming the restaurants as the "House of Iranian Cuisine" are daring in a country where Iran is now viewed as an existential threat.The United Arab Emirates has long been a haven for Iranian businessmen, who have established an Iranian hospital, business council and club for Iranian families living in Dubai.Today, that would be unthinkable, said the general manager of Shayah restaurants, Mohammad Farhat – for a start, they wouldn't be granted work visas. He said the last of Shayah's Iranian employees left Saudi Arabia five years ago.According to Iran's Ministry of Industry and Trade, Iranian exports to Riyadh for the first half of 2015 stood at $132 million, and Saudi imports accounted for $40 million.
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