Dates, a Cause of Survival

Due to the extremely dry weather in in the Arabian lands, the date palm has been a native plantation in the peninsula for thousands of years. Spreading out from the Middle East, date palms were carried far and wide by Arab traders and travelers.

Dates, however, go much further back in time. Remains of dates have been found on a number of Neolithic sites, particularly in Syria and Egypt. This means that they were being eaten by man as much as 7,000 to 8,000 years ago. Experts disagree about the origin of the date palm but it probably came from the Fertile Crescent between Egypt and Mesopotamia. They followed trade routes to Spain and, historians said, reached Mexico and California by the mid-1700s.

Besides its beauty, the date palm's vital importance to the pre modern economy of Arabia - and indeed to early life on the peninsula because for the nomad it meant survival with its very high nutritive value and long life after drying. The high sugar content provides high supply of energy, essential minerals while maintain a sense of fullness. Hence, for Bedouins and inhabitants of these dry vast lands, were counting heavily on this fruit for getting much done with the least amount of food.

The FAO noted that the date palm provided a high-energy food that could be easily stored and carried, while its towering trunks, some reaching 36 metres, offered shelter from the tough desert climate. The organization stated that had the date palm not existed, the ancient expansion of the human race into these hot lands would have been much more restricted.

Now, the date palm and its traditions have been included on UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The agency congratulated the 14 Middle Eastern countries that put forward the nomination and praised the date palm’s role in civilization.