Dates — beloved jewels of Saudi Arabia

Special Dates — beloved jewels of Saudi Arabia
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Different regions in the Kingdom are renowned for specific types of dates, each with its distinctive flavor and characteristics. (Supplied)
Special Dates — beloved jewels of Saudi Arabia
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Different regions in the Kingdom are renowned for specific types of dates, each with its distinctive flavor and characteristics. (SPA)
Special Dates — beloved jewels of Saudi Arabia
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Different regions in the Kingdom are renowned for specific types of dates, each with its distinctive flavor and characteristics. (Supplied)
Special Dates — beloved jewels of Saudi Arabia
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Different regions in the Kingdom are renowned for specific types of dates, each with its distinctive flavor and characteristics. (Supplied)
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Updated 19 March 2024
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Dates — beloved jewels of Saudi Arabia

Dates — beloved jewels of Saudi Arabia
  • A symbol of Saudi hospitality, dates hold special significance during Ramadan and play pivotal role in economy
  • Asmaa Al-Harthi: Dates provide the body with essential energy after long hours of fasting

JEDDAH: In the holy month of Ramadan, the tradition of breaking fast with dates is deeply ingrained in the fabric of the Muslim society, making this iconic fruit a staple on the iftar spread.

Prophet Muhammad said: “When one of you breaks his fast, let him break it with dates, for they are a blessing; and if he cannot find dates, then with water, for it is pure.”

This practice not only carries religious significance but also offers numerous health benefits. Asmaa Al-Harthi, a clinical nutrition specialist, told Arab News: “Dates provide the body with essential energy after long hours of fasting, thanks to their rich content of simple sugars that replenish blood sugar levels depleted during the day’s fast.”

She added: “Dates are a nutritious and light snack, packed with vitamins and minerals that aid in preparing the stomach for food intake by stimulating the secretion of digestive enzymes, thereby facilitating the digestion process. Furthermore, their high fiber content promotes satiety, preventing overeating and fatigue.”

Dates also play a pivotal role in the Kingdom’s economy, with increasing demand both domestically and internationally.

The date markets in Saudi Arabia have experienced active trading activity and a noticeable turnout from citizens and residents as they seek to purchase the finest varieties available.

This has been seen across date markets and stores. Given that dates are a staple component of the fasting table during Ramadan, these commercial establishments compete to supply all varieties.

Different regions in the Kingdom are renowned for specific types of dates, each with its distinctive flavor and characteristics.

Bashaar Al-Kureai, CEO of Zadna Dates Co., told Arab News about the types of dates that distinguish each region in the Kingdom.

The Qassim region is known for sukkari, khalas, majdool, saqai and berhi varieties, while Madinah offers ajwa, safawi, barni and mmberiah.

Al-Ahsa, the southern region, is known for khalas and ruzziz, and the northern region, Hail, and Jouf are known for Al-Helwah.

The varieties of khalas, sukkari, ajwa, Al-Helwah and safri are in high demand during Ramadan due to their exceptional taste and availability in certain cities.

Dates are a key ingredient in many popular dishes during Ramadan. The Qassim region is particularly known for being the largest producer of dates and for various dishes that incorporate them. For instance, dishes such as hanini and date syrup in kleeja pastries are specialties of the region. Additionally, qashd and areekah are also commonly enjoyed during Ramadan.

Qashd is a dish made from dates and wheat flour, often served during sahoor or iftar. It is a staple dish during winter and Ramadan, known for its thick, porridge-like consistency that provides a high-calorie content, ideal for energizing and warming the body.

Similarly, areekah is made from dates, barley flour, honey and ghee, and some brands have developed it to resemble the preparation of ma’soob, a popular dish in the Makkah region.

The significance of dates goes beyond local consumption, as the Kingdom is a major exporter of dates, with a notable increase in exports in recent years. The National Center for Palms and Dates in Saudi Arabia reported recently a 14 percent increase in the Kingdom’s date exports, reaching a value of SR1.462 billion ($390 million), compared to SR1.280 billion in 2022.

By the end of last year, Saudi Arabia’s date exports reached 119 importing countries, achieving a 152.5 percent increase since 2016, totaling SR1.462 billion by the end of 2023, compared to SR579 million in 2016, with a cumulative annual growth rate of 12.3 percent.

Saudi date exports witnessed significant increases to various countries, including China, which saw a 121 percent rise in date exports in 2023 compared to 2022, and France with a 16 percent increase.

Date exports to Singapore recorded an 86 percent increase in value during 2023 compared to 2022, while Korea achieved a 24 percent increase in value.

As part of King Salman’s gift program, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance is coordinating the distribution of dates in 93 countries and organizing iftar banquets in 60 nations.

In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Saudi Envoy Osama Al-Ahmadi, Bosnian Grand Mufti Husein Kavazovic, and other officials, attended programs for the delivery of 10 tons of dates to more than 30,000 people during Ramadan.

In South Africa, Mohammed Ashour, the religious attache at the Saudi embassy, launched two programs to allocate 40 tons of dates for distribution to accredited cities and countries, benefiting at least 90,000 Muslims.

In Indonesia, programs inaugurated by the ministry, with the presence of Saudi Ambassador Faisal bin Abdullah Al-Amoudi, Indonesian Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs Saiful Rahmat Dasuki, and envoys from Arab and Islamic countries, will provide iftar to about 40,000 people and distribute 20 tons of dates and copies of the Holy Qur’an.

In Senegal, the ministry will oversee the distribution of 15 tons of dates to families, Islamic centers, orphanages and mosques throughout the West African country.


Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia
Updated 24 May 2024
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Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

Hajj pilgrims from Uzbekistan, Morocco, Niger and Iraq latest to arrive in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH: The first group of pilgrims from Uzbekistan, 950 in total, arrived in Makkah on Thursday ahead of Hajj.

Several expressed “gratitude to the Kingdom’s government for the services and facilities that have been provided to make their pilgrimage safe and reassuring,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Meanwhile, the Saudi ambassador to Morocco, Sami Al-Saleh, attended a farewell ceremony at Rabat-Sale Airport as the first group of Hajj pilgrims from the country set off for the Kingdom. He was accompanied by the Moroccan minister of endowments and Islamic affairs, Ahmed Toufiq, and other senior government officials.

Similarly, the Saudi ambassador to Niger, Zaid Al-Harbi, saw off the first group of Nigerien pilgrims as they departed from the capital, Niamey. The country’s prime minister, Ali Lamine Zeine, was also present.

Closer to home, a second group of Hajj pilgrims from Iraq arrived at the Arar border crossing in the Northern Borders Province on Thursday, where authorities said they received a warm welcome and benefited from a range of services and procedures designed to streamline entry procedures.

The Iraqi pilgrims expressed their thanks and “commended the Kingdom’s leadership for the generous hospitality and exceptional services provided by the authorities responsible for Hajj affairs,” SPA reported. 

They also praised the facilities at the crossing, which officials said will operate around the clock throughout the Hajj season to provide the best possible pilgrimage experience.


Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

Saudi FM discusses Gaza, West Bank with Palestinian PM

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Thursday spoke to Palestinian Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed Mustafa by telephone, the Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry said.

They discussed developments in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and its surrounding areas.


Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority issues statement following Riyadh food poisoning incident

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
Updated 23 May 2024
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Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority issues statement following Riyadh food poisoning incident

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April. (File/Shutterstock)
  • Nazaha says royal directives mandate the holding of all responsible officials accountable

RIYADH: Following the recent food poisoning incident at a Riyadh restaurant, the Kingdom’s Oversight and Anti-Corruption Authority has said anyone found to be negligent in ensuring public health and safety will be held accountable.

The authority, also known as Nazaha, added on Thursday that measures will be taken against anyone found to have obstructed the investigation into the incident and concealed crucial information regarding the cause of poisoning.

Riyadh experienced a wave of food poisoning cases caused by clostridium botulinum at the end of April.

The outbreak was linked to the consumption of food from a Hamburgini fast-food restaurant and led to several hospitalizations and one death.

The Ministry of Municipal, Rural Affairs and Housing later announced that a Saudi Food and Drug Authority laboratory test found clostridium botulinum in the Bon Tum mayonnaise brand used by the food chain.

As a result, the distribution of the mayonnaise product was suspended and it was withdrawn from markets and food facilities across all cities in the Kingdom.

Operations at the Bon Tum factory producing the mayonnaise were halted in preparation for implementing statutory procedures.

Initial investigations by Nazaha “revealed attempts to conceal or destroy evidence, suggesting potential collusion by a small number of unscrupulous food establishment inspectors who prioritized personal gain over public health and safety,” the authority said on Thursday.

Nazaha said that royal directives mandate the holding of all responsible officials accountable, regardless of position.

“This applies to those who neglected or delayed fulfilling their duties, actions which may have contributed to the poisoning or hindered response efforts. Consequently, a high-level committee has been established to verify and oversee the implementation of these directives,” Nazaha said.

Nazaha added that comprehensive reports detailing the circumstances, causes, and those potentially responsible for the poisoning were produced around the clock after the incident.

The reports encompassed laboratory analyses of samples from various establishments and details of medical care provided to suspected victims, it said.

Precise laboratory testing, conducted by local and international foodborne illness specialists, swiftly identified the type and cause of the poisoning, the authority said.

Nazaha said the incident was contained and has been resolved.


Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

Saudi Arabia secures membership in International Transport Forum

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia secured membership in the International Transport Forum on the sidelines of the event held in Leipzig, Germany.

Saudi Minister of Transport and Logistics Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said that the membership symbolizes the Kingdom’s commitment to addressing transportation challenges through innovative and sustainable solutions. It also supports the Kingdom’s established role in developing the transport and logistics sector, he added, highlighting the Saudi Vision 2030 goal of benefiting from the country’s strategic location to become a global logistics center.

Al-Jasser said that the Kingdom has made significant strides in logistics, jumping 17 places to reach 38th place globally in the logistics services performance index. Additionally, the Kingdom achieved 13th place globally in the IATA’s international air connectivity index and 16th in the maritime navigation network connectivity index. He also noted the launch of a new air carrier, Riyadh Air, aimed at connecting the Kingdom to more than 250 international destinations.

The Kingdom is committed to enhancing the resilience of its transport infrastructure, promoting sustainable mobility and ensuring equitable access to transport services for all, Al-Jasser said.

Saudi membership of the ITF confirms its prominent position in the global transport sector, the minister added. This membership will enable the Kingdom to contribute to enacting legislation and regulations that improve and develop transportation on an international scale, he said.


Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan
Updated 23 May 2024
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Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan

Italian shipbuilding giant floats Saudi Arabia partnership plan
  • Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, says CEO

RIYADH: One of the world’s biggest shipbuilders will work in partnership with Saudi Arabia to strengthen the Kingdom’s maritime sector, with a focus on sustainability and the development of “green shipping.”

Fincantieri, an Italian company and Europe’s largest shipbuilding group, highlighted its commitment to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 agenda at a conference under the theme “Where Vision Meets Maritime Excellence” held in Riyadh on Wednesday.

Saudi decisionmakers from related sectors in Riyadh joined Italian officials in a range of sessions at the forum.

During the event, Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero outlined the shipbuilder’s plans to collaborate with Saudi companies in line with Vision 2030.

“Our commitment to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is steadfast,” he said.

Fincantieri stands out in the shipbuilding industry for its innovation, and has a leading role in the naval, cruise, and oil and gas sectors, Folgiero said.

The CEO highlighted the importance of developing green ships, designed to minimize the environmental impact of maritime operations, as part of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to achieving net-zero emissions by 2060.

Digitizing shipyard operations through innovations such as AI also aligns with the goals of Vision 2030, Folgiero said.

“Today, the shipping industry and the maritime industry, in general, is coping with environmental regulation. For us, it is not only a source of compliance, but also a source of distinctiveness. So, we believe that in the maritime sector, in the shipbuilding sector, mastering energy transition and new technologies will be a source of competitiveness and distinctiveness,” he said.

“That is why we are engaged in all the solutions (regarding) energy transition at sea. We are a new engine. We are in biofuels. We are in methanol. We are in LNG. We are in ammonia. We are in hydrogen. We are everywhere there is innovation at sea.”

Maria Tripodi, undersecretary of state for foreign affairs at the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, discussed the significance of keeping operations and businesses sustainable.

Fincantieri’s ships are built to produce zero carbon emissions, which helps to protect the environment and marine ecosystem, she said.

Khalil Ibrahim bin Salamah, deputy minister for industry affairs at the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources, said: “Localization for us is a key factor. Key components are crucial, but the whole supply chain is equally important.”