By Fadzli Ramli
MADINAH, July 16 (Bernama) -- The Madinah’s Central Dates Market at King Faisal Road here is a must stop for pilgrims and visitors visiting the holy city to buy dates, desserts, sweets and locals produce.
The market, located near the Nabawi Mosque or the Prophet’s Mosque, is bustling with pilgrims and visitors from all over the world to buy dates as traditional gifts as Madinah is well known for high quality dates.
Abu Yahya, 48, owner of the Al-Zohiri Shop, one of booths selling dates at the market fondly known to locals as Souq Al Tumor, said almost 200 types of dates sold at the market and shop owners could arrange the dates to be packed and couriered to the buyers’ home countries.
“This market has been here for as long as I can remember, I don’t know the exact date (the market established) some says around the 1940s or much earlier but it began as a farmers market and grows in line with the dates industry in Madinah.
“It opens around 5 am and most shops close around midnight but some shops stay open longer. Indonesians and Malaysians are among visitors to come here to shop as well as those from Turkey, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh,” he said to Bernama.
Bernama’s survey found dates ranging from the high quality Ajwa and Anbar, priced between SR30 (RM33) to SR100 (RM110) per kilogramme; or mid range Safawi and Suqae costing around SR15 (RM16.50) to SR28 (RM30.80) per kilogramme.
Asked about how to pick the best dates, Abu Yahya said the best way was to taste it ourselves and the shops at the Central Dates Market would give potential buyers testers to attract sales.
“Everyone’s taste is not the same. Some prefer the fruity Ajwa or ‘paradise dates’ while others like the soft Safawi dates, and when you taste the best dates that fits you just buy it,” he said.
From the writer’s experience tasting different dates in the market, it was obvious that all dates have very fresh taste as well as sweet and fruity.
For this writer, Ajwa dates is the best, costing SR40 (RM44) for each kilogramme to be packed and sent home.
It is reported that there are nearly 18,000 date palm farms in the country, with more than 3.5 million palm trees producing around 360 types of dates.
Of these, 20 types of dates contribute up to 70 per cent of Madinah’s annual production, which reaches up to 300,000 tonnes, representing 32 per cent of Saudi dates and generating around SR9 million in revenue annually.