Monday, August 15, 2011

Why I Love Ramadan: Palm Trees and Dates

What dates look like before they ripen! (Thanks to
You may have gathered that I'm a big fan of the Middle East, giddily embracing customs and traditions and trying to find out as much as possible about my home.  But over the last three years, there's something that I just can't get to grip with: dates.  Not the kind involving men and wine (that's a whole different topic!) but the foodstuff.

Dates may sound like a stereotype, but they are embedded into the culture here.  Back in the days when the glittering cities were just sand, the bedouins relied on the date palm for food, shelter, fuel and much more. I've never been a huge fan - memories of slimy boxes of inedible mush being passed around when I was a child at Christmas - but I have to say, this Ramadan, they've started to grow on me.

Dates are very popular during the Holy Month as they are used to break the fast at Iftar.  Their natural sugar helps to ease the headaches that can be brought on my hunger and dehydration and are a great way to ease your body into eating a full meal when you've been fasting for over 12 hours.  They're also packed with nutrients inclining potassium and a good source of fibre.  There's over 800 different types - who knew!

Whilst I can't claim to have been fasting this month, I have been eating less, especially when out of the office and travelling.  So dates have actually been quite handy for a slow release sugar fix before the gym, or whilst waiting patiently for dinner later in the evening.  I'm not rushing to buy them by the cartload, but I've started to appreciate them a bit more.  And after my recent weekend in Al Ain, where we picked fresh, fat, juicy dates straight from the beautiful palm trees, I'm just a little bit more of a convert....

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