Celebrating the most iconic delicacy of Arabia
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)