Saudi Arabia and Its Tamr

Saudi Arabia is known for many things: oil, desert, camels, gold….and among other things, also for its tumer otherwise known to non-arabic speakers as dates. Of course during Ramadan the dates are showcased and available in so many sizes, styles, varieties and types as they are used to break the fast during the holy month of fasting. Dates are also very important for Saudis when showing their traditional hospitality. On arrival at a Saudis home one will likely be offered Arabic kawa (coffee) and dates. Therefore I thought it was high time I wrote a post discussing more about the kinds of dates one may find in Saudi Arabia with the help of this useful and informative website.

I have learned that not only is Saudi Arabia the home for the date palm tree but this tree goes back to more than 10,000 years of age and is indeed one of the oldest trees in the world. Saudi Arabia is the second largest producer of dates in the world. There are more than 300 different types of dates grown in Saudi Arabia each having its own different taste and texture.

Dates are a seasonal product and therefore the supply of fresh dates is limited. Processed dates and dried dates are available to consumers year round. Dates can be classified as soft, semi-soft and dry. For those not aware, dates also freeze very well.

Three main Cultivar Groups of date exist:

1. Soft e.g. Khalas Qassim ( تمر خلاص القصيم ) and Khalas Kharj ( تمر خلاص الخرج )

2. Soft or Semi-Dry e.g. Ajwa ( عجوة ), Anbara ( عنبرة ), Mabroom ( مبروم ), Medjool, and Barni ( برني )

3. Dry e.g. Ruthana ( روثانة ), Nabtat Ali ( نبتت علي ), Segae (صقعي) and Sukkari ( سكري )

The type of fruit depends on its nutrition, shape and taste. Dates ripen in four stages, which are known throughout the world by their Arabic names kimri (unripe), khalal (full-size, crunchy), rutab (ripe, soft), tamr (ripe, sun-dried). Dates come in the following four forms in the market:

1. Press Pack such as Khalas Qassim ( تمر خلاص القصيم )

2. Plain Dates when they are fresh

3. Dried Dates such as Sukkari ( سكري )

4. Date Paste such as Soft Date Paste ( تمر معجون )

Dates are an important food for travelers in desert or in the mountains because they provide them with a complete nutritious meal. Besides that, dates are easy to carry and no cooking is needed to prepare them for eating because dates are often eaten out-of-hand.

Dates can also be used for cooking. They can be chopped and used in a range of sweet such as cakes and other dessert dishes and other savory dishes.

Dates are also processed into paste and date syrup called ‘dibs’ which most likely are used in some recipes.

Recent innovations include chocolate-covered dates and date juice.

Date palm leaves are used for making huts, mats, screens, baskets, brooms, large hats, and fans.

I was never a big fan of dates myself until I came to Saudi Arabia. Personally I do not care for the fresh dates which remind me somewhat of grapes in their size and texture. I am partial to the Khalas Qassim dates which are soft and to me, more like a chewy candy. I find after exercising, having a few dates is a great and fast energy booster.


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