Dates: A Middle Eastern delicacy

Medical research has found eating dates after fasting has great nutritional and health benefits. (AFP)
Updated 13 May 2018

Dates: A Middle Eastern delicacy

  • Fasting can cause mild health issues such as headaches, low blood sugar and lethargy
  • Date palms are now grown extensively around the world

RIYADH: Dates are a staple food in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East, both in their own right and as a common ingredient in local dishes. In particular, they form an important part of the diet of Muslims during Ramadan, when they are traditionally eaten every evening to break the fast.

The Kingdom is the second-largest producer of dates in the world. The UN World Food Program (WFP) and 30 countries around the world will this year receive 7,000 tons of dates donated by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) in Riyadh. This was announced recently by Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of KSRelief, as part of a government aid program.

“The aid includes 4,000 tons of dates donated to the WFP, and another 3,000 tons will be sent to more than 30 countries,” he said.

In the Islamic tradition, dates are the food Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ate when he broke his fast. The date palm, called “nakhl” in Arabic, and the fruit, called “tamr,” are mentioned more than any other fruit-bearing plant in the Qur’an, and are symbols closely associated with Islam and Muslims.

There are several Prophetic traditions asserting the significance of the fruit, which has been cultivated in the Arabian Gulf for thousands of years. For example, Prophet Muhammad once said: “Break your fast by eating dates as it is purifying.” However, it is not mandatory to break the fast with dates, as in another Hadith the Prophet said: “If you have a date, break your fast with it. If you don’t have it, break the fast with water as it is purifying.”

There are many health benefits associated with eating dates, especially during Ramadan. They are rich in natural sugars and so raise blood sugar levels almost immediately after fasting, helping to rebalance the body’s systems. The high carbohydrate content slows the digestion process, leaving you feeling fuller for longer. It is advisable to have soup or salad after the dates to help your body get started again after fasting, and it is best if you wait for at least 20 minutes before having your main meal.

Fasting can cause mild health issues such as headaches, low blood sugar and lethargy. To help minimize the problems, it is a good idea to carefully plan and monitor your eating habits when fasting for the day. Dates are an excellent source of important nutrients such as fiber, sugar, magnesium, potassium and carbohydrates, so taking advantage of the benefits of the fruit during Ramadan is very important.

Dr. Hassan Mehdi, a doctor at a clinic in Riyadh, said that as well as providing much-needed minerals and energy to help you stay fit and healthy, dates prepare the stomach to receive food after being inactive due to fasting by activating the release of digestive juices.

Date palms are now grown extensively around the world. There are many varieties, with Amir Hajj, Saidy, Khadrawy and Medjool dates some of the finest, known for their rich flavors and superior quality.

The Ajwah variety, however, has particular religious and medicinal significance. The Prophet said: “Ajwah dates are from Paradise.” 

Researchers at King Saud University in Riyadh found evidence that the Ajwa date from Madinah contains active elements useful in the prevention of diseases such as cancer, and has anti-inflammatory properties similar to those of drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin.

The study, published in the US-based Journal for Agriculture and Food Chemistry, also found that dates contain many flavonoid glycosides, which have anti-oxidant properties. The inhibition rate in Ajwa dates is equal to commercial anti-oxidant supplements. Another benefit is that the sugars in Ajwa dates are monosaccharides, which makes them suitable for people with Type 2 diabetes. They also contain folic acid, sulfur, protein, copper, iron, fiber and potassium.

Seven Ajwa dates have about 120 calories. People who eat five to seven  every day have been found to be less susceptible to carcinoma and circulatory diseases.

Around 300 varieties of dates are found in Saudi Arabia. Of the total production of dates, only about 6.8 percent is exported.

Pilgrims stone Jamrat Al-Aqaba

Muslim pilgrims cast stones at the huge stone pillar in the symbolic stoning of the devil during the annual Hajj pilgrimage on the first day of Eid al-Adha in Mina, outside the holy city of Makkah, Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018. (SPA)
Updated 10 min 36 sec ago

Pilgrims stone Jamrat Al-Aqaba

  • Pilgrims from around the world have expressed their gratitude for the services provided to them by the Saudi authorities
  • Hajj is now easier than ever; the Jamarat Bridge, the services and everything

MINA: Hajj pilgrims threw pebbles in Mina on the first day of Eid Al-Adha, and stoned Jamrat Al-Aqaba with seven pebbles.
Pilgrims expressed happiness with the ease of throwing pebbles, security, health and ambulatory services, cleanliness and their ease of movement.
They moved gradually and safely toward Jamarat Bridge and the squares surrounding the area, then returned to their residences.
Road traffic in Mina flowed smoothly, and security personnel and scouts offered advice and directions to pilgrims.
Guests of King Salman’s Hajj and Umrah program, whom he hosted at his own expense, settled in Mina after throwing the first stones.
Some 2,500 men and women from Palestine and Egypt reached Mina after being joined by pilgrims from Guinea-Bissau, in addition to 5,400 guests from 94 countries worldwide.
Abdullah bin Medlej Al-Medlej, undersecretary at the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, congratulated the guests for arriving safely and performing the pilgrimage ceremonies.
He thanked the king and crown prince for their constant efforts to serve Islam and Muslims worldwide, and commended the Hajj and Umrah program.
Pilgrims from around the world have expressed their gratitude for the services provided to them by the Saudi authorities, and praised the quality.
“Despite the small size of the holy sites area and the massive gatherings of pilgrims coming yearly to this place, Saudi Arabia has succeeded in managing the huge crowds,” said Jihad Obaid, an Iraqi pilgrim performing Hajj for the first time. The only thing he does not like is the hot weather, but the water sprinklers installed along the way have been a great help, he added.
“These sprinklers reflect how caring the Saudi government is,” he said. “We all know that man can’t control weather challenges, but the preparations made to protect pilgrims is a sign of the great efforts to help pilgrims carry out their rituals comfortably.”
Mas’ood BuHadji, from Algeria, thanked the security guards for the work they do for pilgrims.
“I would like to extend my thanks and appreciations to the security men who spare no effort in assisting the pilgrims to easily complete their rituals,” he said. “Although I am not Saudi, I feel proud of these Muslim security men, whose job here is not only to secure pilgrims a safe Hajj, but also offer them bottles of cold water.
“Hajj is now easier than ever; the Jamarat Bridge, the services and everything.”

Aviation security
The General Security Aviation Command has increased the number of daily sorties over the holy sites during this year’s Hajj.
The aim is to monitor security plans and pedestrian traffic, and to prevent illegal entry to the sites.
As of Monday, the command is flying on average 10 daily sorties, said Col. Mizali Abdullah Abed Al-Wahab.

Transport Hajj pilgrims
Transport Minister Dr. Nabil bin Mohammed Al-Amoudi affirmed the success of the plan to transport Hajj pilgrims from Mount Arafat to Muzdalifah by bus.
The success is due to cooperation between the ministry, the Public Transport Authority and other agencies participating in the Hajj season, he said.
Al-Amoudi congratulated King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the successful movement of pilgrims to Muzdalifah.

OIC praised
The secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) congratulated the Muslim world on the occasion of Eid Al-Adha.
Dr. Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen appealed to Allah to accept people’s Hajj pilgrimage, reward them for it and return them safe to their loved ones.
He congratulated King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, thanked the Saudi government and people for their services to pilgrims, and lauded development projects at the holy sites to better serve them.