Malaysian festival celebrates Durian fruit

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Most Malaysians have a deep affinity for the durian, partly because it reminds them of their childhood eating the fruit. (AN photo)
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Most Malaysians have a deep affinity for the durian, partly because it reminds them of their childhood eating the fruit. (AN photo)
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Most Malaysians have a deep affinity for the durian, partly because it reminds them of their childhood eating the fruit. (AN photo)
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Most Malaysians have a deep affinity for the durian, partly because it reminds them of their childhood eating the fruit. (AN photo)
Updated 14 July 2019

Malaysian festival celebrates Durian fruit

  • Many Malaysians enjoy durians during the season — eating them at the open-air market

KUALA LUMPUR: Love it or hate it, with its green thorny spikes and pungent yellow-custardy flesh, the Durian fruit is a national treasure in Malaysia.

Most Malaysians have a deep affinity for the durian, partly because it reminds them of their childhood eating the fruit.

With growing local and international interest in fresh durians and durian products, many enthusiasts and traders are holding festivals to celebrate the fruit throughout the country.

One was the recent Durian Festival and Awards at the Bangi Golf Resort, about one-hour from the city center. The peak months for durians are between June and September.

“Durian is our culture, most older people would remember growing durian trees in their village,” said the organizer of the festival, Tan Ban Keat, fondly known as the “Durian Guy.”

“It reminds them of their childhood, eating durians with their family and friends. It is a very social activity when eating durians,” Tan said.

It is a uniquely Malaysian event. Many Malaysians enjoy durians during the season — eating them at the open-air market or paying a visit to the durian farm during the weekends or purchasing durian-based products.

The is the second year of the durian festival hosted by the Bangi Golf Resort, which has embraced a durian-focused ecosystem to attract tourists and locals. Tan has a long-term vision to grow and expand the durian market locally and globally.

This year’s festival theme centered on “everything durian” — it had a huge array of activities and events. These included a “world durian championship,” a “durian fun run” at the golf course, an open-air bazaar-style market and a trade fair for durian enthusiasts and farmers.

The event was packed with families bringing their young children. Many were intrigued by the taste and smell of durians at the market, while others enjoyed the relaxing open-air atmosphere.

Thean Lim, 68, came to the durian festival with his partner because of his love of the fruit. “Durian is quite expensive now as it is still the beginning of the season, but I enjoyed coming here because I can get good durians at a cheaper price than in the city center.”

Tan, the “Durian Guy,” was most proud of the durian championship and durian fun run as he said it brought out the Malaysian love of the fruit. Farmers from all over Malaysia brought their best and freshest produce to be judged by a panel of judges, which even included a few durian enthusiasts from China.

After the durians were judged and the winner was announced, the durians were given to people to taste. “It was such an amazing sight with hundreds of Malaysians looking at people mesmerised by and eating durians for four hours,” Tan said.

For the durian fun run, participants were given one durian each and had to run a distance of 4.5 kilometers. “There are no fixed rules, you can wrap the thorny durian with newspaper or put it in a supermarket cart — the goal is to just finish the run,” Tan said.

He told Arab News that the reward for the ones who finished the run was to eat the durian they were holding. “This is the first durian run in a golf course! We hope to continue next year because everyone loves it.”

Eric Chan, 34, managing director of Dulai Fruits, was the winner of the durian championship. He told Arab News that the win was unexpected as he took up the durian business only a decade ago.

“I did not expect to win the best durian award because this year many farmers came from all over Malaysia to display their durians, even one Musang King durian from Thailand!”

“We are the first batch of durian traders to export frozen durian to China,” he said. “To be honest I did not know how to do business, but along the way we learnt how to get things done.” He added that he had to learn to speak Mandarin from scratch to be able to trade durians in China.

He told Arab News that he had a bumpy start to his business as many people from China did not know about durian from Malaysia. “Many from China thought that durians are from Singapore instead of Malaysia; also most of the imports were from Thailand.”

However, he said the global interest in durians really took off in 2013, and his business started to expand rapidly. “The Musang King durians were all over the news in China at that time,” Chan said. He is currently exporting durians to China, Australia, Europe and other countries.

“Malaysian durians are of premium quality. I am glad that nowadays Malaysian durians are gaining popularity worldwide,” he said.


US Embassy in Kabul warns of extremist attacks against women

Updated 18 September 2020

US Embassy in Kabul warns of extremist attacks against women

  • The “Taliban don’t have any plans to carry out any such attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said
  • Peace negotiations underway in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, are in the initial stages

KABUL, Afghanistan: The US Embassy in Afghanistan is warning that extremists groups are planning attacks against a “variety of targets” but are taking particular aim at women.
The warning issued late Thursday doesn’t specify the organizations plotting the attacks, but it comes as the Taliban and government-appointed negotiators are sitting together for the first time to try to find a peaceful end to decades of relentless war.
The “Taliban don’t have any plans to carry out any such attacks,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press on Friday.
Peace negotiations underway in Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, are in the initial stages with participants still hammering out what items on the agenda will be negotiated and when.
Washington’s peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said at the start of negotiations last weekend that spoilers existed on both sides. He said that some among Afghanistan’s many leaders would be content to continue with the status quo rather than find a peaceful end to the war that might involve power sharing.
According to the embassy warning, “extremist organizations continue to plan attacks against a variety of targets in Afghanistan, including a heightened risk of attacks targeting female government and civilian workers, including teachers, human rights activists, office workers, and government employees.”
The embassy did not provide specifics, including how imminent is the threat.
The Taliban have been harshly criticized for their treatment of women and girls during their five-year rule when the insurgent group denied girls access to school and women to work outside their home. The Taliban rule ended in 2001 when a US-led coalition ousted the hard-line regime for its part in sheltering Al-Qaeda, which was responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
One of the government-appointed peace negotiators, Fawzia Koofi, a strong, outspoken proponent of women’s rights, was shot last month in Afghanistan, but escaped serious injuries and attended the opening of negotiations last weekend. The Taliban quickly denied responsibility and Khalilzad again warned of the dangers to the process.
The United States has said that perhaps one of the most dangerous extremist groups operating in Afghanistan is the Islamic State affiliate, headquartered in the country’s east and held responsible for some of the most recent attacks. The IS affiliate has declared war on minority Shiite Muslims and has claimed credit for horrific attacks targeting them.
The United Nations as well as Afghanistan’s many international allies have stressed the need for any peace deal to protect the rights of women and minorities. Negotiations are expected to be difficult and protracted and will also include constitutional changes, disarming the tens of thousands of the Taliban as well as militias loyal to warlords, some of whom are allied with the government.
The advances for women made since 2001 have been important. Women are now members of parliament, girls have the right to education, women are in the workforce and their rights are enshrined in the constitution. Women are also seen on television, playing sports and winning science fairs.
But the gains are fragile, and their implementation has been erratic, largely unseen in rural areas where most Afghans still live.
The 2018 Women, Peace and Security Index rated Afghanistan as the second worst place in the world to be a woman, after Syria. Only 16% of the labor force are women, one of the lowest rates in the world, and half of Afghanistan’s women have had four years or less of education, according to the report, which was compiled by the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. Only around half of school-aged girls go to school, and only 19% of girls under 15 are literate, according to the UN children’s agency.
Nearly 60% of girls are married before they are 19, on average between 15 and 16 years old, to spouses selected by their parents, according to UNICEF.
Until now, parliament has been unable to ratify a bill on the protection of women.
There are also Islamic hard-liners among the politically powerful in Kabul, including Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who is the inspiration behind the Philippine terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a US-designated militant who made peace with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in 2016.