Saudi Dates

No, I’m not talking about that kind of dates, because as I’ve previously said on this blog, dating in Saudi Arabia is a risky business which I prefer not to get myself involved in. What I’m talking about here is those nice little things you find at the top of palm trees; dates that you can actually eat.

On the recently revived Jeddah Food blog I found this link to an article from the July/August 2004 issue of Saudi Aramco World magazine by author and photojournalist Eric Hansen. In the article, we follow Hansen in his journey to chronicle the history of dates production in the US, and later on his trip all the way to Saudi Arabia in order to compare the quality of dates between the two countries.

Al-Hasa, my hometown, is well-known for producing some of the best dates in the world. One type in particular, khlas, has a legendary reputation for its sweet taste. Reading through the two parts of the article made me feel proud, but it also made me feel a bit sad because growing dates has become a dying profession. The process consumes huge amounts of water, and as most of the natural water springs in the region have dried up, the costs have been rising to a degree where production for commercial purposes is becoming less and less profitable.

One point the writer gets right though, and I’m certainly glad that he does, is that most Hassawis don’t buy their dates from the market but rather from farmers they know directly. Not to mention of course that most families receive amounts of dates as gifts from friends and relatives. Actually, in many years we get more than what we need of dates that we end up giving away some of it and freeze some of it to enjoy later in the year.

21 thoughts on “Saudi Dates

  1. being a dates addict myself and more specifically “khlaas” … i found this article quite amusing and informative … going through the article i found out that we do share common names for dates.. although some i never heard of … some of the things he mentioned such as Khalal and busr, to us, are totally different kinds of dates..yest both are not ripe yet but each is different …

    the article is indeed in my fav bookmarks ! thanks ahmed

    oh kel 3am w inteh b5air

  2. Just wondering: have these dried up springs anything to do with the Aramco habit of pumping water in while they pump oil out? Not sure if they still do that, but they used to.

  3. Sorry to hear that growing dates is a dying profession. Fresh dates are nothing less than manna from Heaven, so maybe the country will have to find new ways of doing it without losing too much profit.

    I’ll never forget my first experience of eating a melt-in-your-mouth, honey-caramel fresh date! When my friend started giving me dates from her trees, I pitted them, mashed them and baked wonderful desserts for my family, after eating as many as we could, that is!

  4. Skender, some people say the water situation has worsened due to Aramco practices but I can’t recall any scientific documentation for this claim. Aramco has stopped doing that few years ago, but I suspect that what they have done in the past has left lasting negative effects on agriculture in the EP.

  5. The first thing that came to my mind wère dates! And not dating! What does that say?
    I looove dates!
    So, just incase you have too many and need to get rid of them, contact me!

  6. Before I was muslim we’d always have these little boxes of hard, sticky Tunisian dates at Christmas. They are like Christmas must-have in the UK for some reason. I never knew how nice dates really are until I converted to islam and ate dates during Ramadan in particular. I tried some amazing soft, dark dates from Iran, the pale, honeylike Deglet Nour from Algeria and now in Saudi the delicious Khalas dates. I like the selection bags you can find which contain a variety of different types of Saudi dates.

  7. Ahmed, my riends from Qassem/Gassem swear they have the best dates. So who has the best ?

    I personally prefer the big juicy dates in America, that I rarely find here. I can’t think of the name of them, they are black and start with an ‘M’ (warning DO NOT PUT ‘JUICY BLACK DATES’ in the search engine!).

  8. Thank You. Broke Saudi (please you know there’s an oil well in your backyard! lol) and Umm Ibrahim…those are the ones! I’ve found them in Tamimis and splurged once because they are very expensive (my comma key is stuck forgive my run on sentences).

  9. ummadam, it is not strange that the people of each region would claim that their dates are the best out there, but most neutrals agree that khlas is in a league of its own. However, I think it is a matter of personal taste in the end.

  10. Ahmed,

    Thank you for making me hungry and missing some good dates from back home. Sadly here in the US, we are very limited to California dates. The madjool dates has origins from Iraq and two types are available here. They compare nothing to dates from KSA (al ghat and al hasa, though in my view al ghat is much better than al hasa for dates).

    You can always send me a container Ahmed from al hasa and I can send you a review of the al hasa region dates…:)

  11. hehe , you got me with that headline!
    nice article , dates should make a fortune for this country i dunno why they don’t export it seriously!
    the market of dates estimated by 90 million riyals a year! and thats only inside the country! they should reconsider this issue.
    cya ^^

  12. Your headline reminded me of something that happened not long ago when I was chatting with my Syrian friend. He told me one of his friends recently came back from Mecca, and they were going to visit Ahmad and they would get dates. My Western mind is puzzled…”Hmmm, women? Really?” No, no, no … a different kind of date. Ohhhhh. :-D

    See why your headline rang a bell? ;-)

  13. anyone know what *sheeshi* sposed to be? my dad’s friend gave us those dates from al-hasa. at least that’s what was advertised on the carton they came in!

  14. Salams to all

    As an American married to a Saudi man from Al-Ahsa I am quite spoiled to have khlas tumr on a regular basis………khlas malaki to be exact. they are amazing. And you’re right. Hasawi’s do go directly to the farms to buy them as my husband does. I wish we could have our own Nakhl there.

    As for what are sheeshi they are another type of date grown there. They are a little more firm than khlas and not quite as sweet as them. None the less they are tasty. I wish I could find khlas here in the States but even if i could i would probably have to pay a handsome fee. I even notice the huge mark up on them when i’m in Dubai. But, to me, they are well worth it.

    Its quite a spiritual moment to be able to eat khlas tumr with Saudi qahwa :) these two things are sacred to me since i can’t get either in the states. I have to bring them back from overseas and they are on strick ration. To those who can have them on a regular basis; consider yourself blessed :)

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