From an early age I associated dates with a dry and unpleasant “thing” (not even a fruit!). Wherever I was offered them in Europe, I either refused them straight away or pretended I was pleased to but then spat it out right after….
It was just not my style – at all. Then I moved to the UAE and to my (back then) distaste, those bloody “things” were offered on EACH AND EVERY CORNER… Either for check-in at the hotel lobbies of the sumptuous 5* hotels; at face-to-face meetings with partners or for trial in the supermarkets/souks.
..LESH? (“Why?” in Arabic)..
Rather than ignoring this active presence over here I decided to investigate a little more about it. This is what I found out:
The dates are widely seen as a tradition which have been kept for generations and therefore belong to the UAE’s heritage as well as identity. First and foremost, dates are the nourishing source – supplementing today’s diet – the foundation of “life” for more than 5000 years. The classic “Bedouin” diet consists of dates and camel milk, which keeps them going for miles and miles. The combination of those two is just everything a human body needs: The flesh of the date consists of 70% of sugar (invert sugar), is easily digestible, provides instant energy, restricts harmful bacterial activity, little fat and rich in Vitamins A, B & D. However, camel milk rounds it off with fat and Vitamin C.
Despite the nourishing facts, date palms were the shelter and shade giver nr. 1. You can make almost anything out of palm leaves – such as: food covers, baskets, fans, boats etc..
Contrary to popular belief there is not just a single date “category” but a couple of different sorts. There are over 44 million date palms in the UAE that can be grouped under 199 different varieties and together produce ca. 75,000 tonnes of fruit every year.
Khalas, Bari, Dabbas, Lulu, Fard are some of the names of those cultivated in the UAE; on the international market you will have heard of Ajwa, Madjool and Khalas.
The Middle Eastern climate is one of the best in the world for date cultivation, yet humidity levels are the most important aspect, and low humidity is required to grow larger dates. The different physical and chemical properties play a vital role in the price of dates, in addition to the different nutritional properties and the size, colour, thickness, softness, and sweetness.
Once in the UAE definitely give them a try since the amazing taste and huge diversity will definitely surprise you!
During Ramadan you will have even more access to them but also for the National Day eg. You will be able to sample some at the Emirates Palace.
For more information and a “live experience”, feel free to attend the annual Date Festival in Liwa.
On another note: In case you are still looking for a souvenir – UAE Dates will definitely surprise your family and friends.
Either you check Carrefour for their regular or stuffed dates OR you spoil yourself with a luxurious date selection at “Bateel”.
For baking purposes help yourself with the “date syrup”; there is also “date sparkling” (no alcohol) and all kinds of different stuffed or chocolate-dipped dates!
Give them a try! It’s definitely worth it! 🙂