Buraidah Date Festival

Celebrating the most iconic delicacy of Arabia

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Saudis like to break their fast with dates (photo courtesy of kufarooq12)

Saudis like to break their fast with dates (photo courtesy of kufarooq12)

Dates. Wherever in Saudi Arabia a person is they cannot be avoided. They are in supermarkets, in corner shops, in service stations. They are available fresh, dried, soaked in molasses, red, brown, white, filled with nuts, covered in chocolate, just to name some of the options.

Dates: A valuable natural resource

Date palms in the wadi by Diriyah

Date palms in the wadi by Diriyah

Dates are possibly the Kingdom’s second most valuable natural resource, though unlike the resource that tops that list, they are not locked away, protected behind high walls and barbed-wire fences, with access being denied by armed guards. Dates are everywhere. The date producing palm trees grow in people’s gardens, on compounds, line roads, as well as there being enormous farms dedicated to their cultivation.

A date palm orchard on the Diplomatic Quarter

A date palm orchard on the Diplomatic Quarter

Largest date festival in the world

Befitting the ubiquity of this gift of nature, there is an annual festival dedicated to dates, held in the agricultural heartland of Saudi Arabia, Buraidah, in the Qassim province. It is the largest festival of dates in the world, records the Guinness Book of Records, and is opened each year by the princely Governor of the region.

Traders at the Buraidah Date Festival (photo courtesy of the Arab News)

Traders at the Buraidah Date Festival (photo courtesy of the Arab News)

The event lasts for up to 90 days, and sales exceed 1 billion Saudi Riyals, according to the Arab News, although other sources have claimed a figure in excess of 2.5 billion Saudi Riyals in other years. In terms of volume, that’s more than 300,000 tons.

Buraidah Date Festival Facts

The governor awards prizes for the best farm; outstanding service to dates and date palms; scientific contributions, amongst other awards.

There is a whole area of the city of Buraidah which is designated specifically for the festival’s market, and used for nothing else during the year. It is known as Date City.

The date festival has helped improve the economy of dates, by preventing fraud and increasing quality, as well as showcasing improved cultivation practices.

Khawaja Umer Farooq blends culture and facts into an interesting post about Saudi Arabian dates.

Checking the produce at Buraidah Date Festival (photo courtesy of King Saud University)

Checking the produce at Buraidah Date Festival (photo courtesy of King Saud University)

Eager to buy at the Buraidah Date Festival (photo courtesy of islam.ru)

Eager to buy at the Buraidah Date Festival (photo courtesy of islam.ru)

If you would like to visit the festival, which was officially inaugurated in 2002, although has been held in one guise or another for over 50 years, it is in mid August each year, but be prepared for a crowd, as over 1000 vehicles loaded with dates arrive every day.

For more information about Buraidah dates festival check out the website of the Culham Research Group. or watch a short documentary about the 2012 Buraidah Date Festival.

Please contact our friends at Haya Tours if you would like to arrange a visit as part of a group.

Please share your experience of the Buraidah Date Festival in the comments section below.



Celebrating the most iconic delicacy of Arabia (author: Andy Conder)

About the Author

Andy Conder has lived in Saudi Arabia for over six and a half years. During that time he has travelled to the north, south, east and west of the country, over the sand dunes and under the water. "Whilst Riyadh is the place to be for work, it is only when people get out to the more provincial and desert areas that they will see Saudi Arabia in its true splendour. Most people who arrive for the first time have no idea of the variety of life in the kingdom." Having been involved with restaurants in London, and having reviewed establishments in Cape Town and Dubai, Andy is knowledgeable about what people want when they go out to eat, and he is happy to guide people through the confusing array of restaurants that are found in Saudi Arabia.

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