Publication Date: 
Tue, 2011-08-02 05:07

The advent of Ramadan brings with it major date festivals in the date growing areas of the Kingdom. Buraidah, Madinah, Riyadh, Jeddah, Al-Hassa, Unaizah, Al-Kharj and other cities in the Kingdom will host their respective festivals.
The Buraidah Date Festival is the largest date festival in the world. Buraidah boasts of hosting the largest field in the world with more than 5 million date palm trees, 20 percent of the Kingdom’s total.
The festivals, with their accompanying sideline events and activities,  draw a large number of shoppers, traders and exporters from the neighboring GCC states as well as from further afield.
Organizers of the festivals prefer the timing to be between the harvest time and the fasting month of Ramadan although this year the harvest season comes just before the advent of the holy month.
The fairs are proving popular not just to the retail visitor but to commercial concerns coming forward to display their products. The Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA) is holding several tourism and marketing programs and activities as part of the festival.
Statistics suggest that Saudi Arabia is the biggest producer of dates in the word. A few years ago a delegation of  international experts from European organizations that specialize in date farming and production visited the Al-Batin Project in Buraidah that belongs to the Saleh bin Abdul Aziz Al-Rajhi Endowments Administration.
The visit was made after Al-Batin’s winning entry into the Guinness Book of Records as the largest date palm project in the world.
The delegation praised the project after an inspection tour of all the facilities at the project, which consists of about 50 finest varieties of dates. They were greatly impressed by the modern technology and machinery being used to develop the project and increase its production.
It is customary that a portion of Al-Batin dates is being distributed among Umrah pilgrims and visitors to the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah during the month of Ramadan.
The annual per capita consumption of dates in the Kingdom is about 30 kilograms. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “A house without dates; hunger for the households” (reported Muslim). Almost all Saudi families are keen to put into practice the spirit of this Hadith in every sense of the words.
Saudi Arabia is one of the leading date producing countries in the world with about 25 million date palm trees under cultivation. They produce more than 360 varieties of dates with some 200 popular in the commercial marketplace. Qassim tops the date producing regions in the Kingdom. The most popular of the many varieties include: Sukkari, Ajwah, Rothan Al-Madinah, Maskani, Mabroom, Khlass, Barhi, Shabeebi, Saqiy, Nabbout Saif, Muneefi, Shaishi, Shaibi and Nabbout Ali and the much prized Ajwah date from Madinah.
With an increase in the varieties of dates, there has also been a subsequent increase in the products made from them. These include Maamoul Saudi dates, produced by Halwani Brothers.
Of all the gifts that visitors to the Kingdom take home, dates in some form or others are the most popular. A strategic resource and national symbol that appears on the nations crest, the simple date occupies a central position in the Kingdom’s culture.

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