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WAM Feature: Surviving through ages, date palms a bountiful symbol of Emirati heritage.

AL DHAFRA, 30th July, 2019 (WAM) -- Despite its arid climate, the United Arab Emirates has a remarkably diverse flora and fauna, of which the date palm holds a paramount standing in Emirati society. The date palm is intricately woven within the region's social fabric and cultural lexicon. It continues to be an important symbol of bountiful giving, glorified in numerous religious texts, including the Holy Quran.

The Phoenix dactylifera, commonly known as the date palm, has been a staple food source of the Middle East and Indus Valley region for thousands of years. Archaeological evidence, via radiocarbon dating, shows date cultivation dating between 5530 and 5320 BC.

Locally, the earliest evidence yet identified of human consumption of dates was recorded, with date palm seeds dating back to 5110 BC found on Abu Dhabi's Dalma Island.

According to the UAE University's Date Palm Research and Development Unit, the number of date palm trees within the country has surpassed 40 million, 8.5 million of which are found in Al Ain.

The late Founding Father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan once said, "Give me agriculture and I will give you civilisation."

Sheikh Zayed played an instrumental role in ensuring the cultivation and development of date palm agriculture within the country. The UAE has become one of the world's leading producers of dates, and its share of the global dates export market reached over five percent last year, according to 'TradeMap.' The country's volume of date production and re-exports exceeds 345,000 tonnes per year. Currently, the UAE exports date fruits to over 48 countries, and is among the top ten producing countries, accounting for 30 percent of global trade.

Over 120 date gene pool varieties are found within the UAE, and with new introductions from Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Iraq, the country produces 250 varieties of dates, including the Khallas, AbouMaan, Hallawi, Khissab, Khenezi, Nabut Saif, Jabiri, Hillali, Lulu, Chichi, Khadraoui, Sakii, Sultana and Barhi varieties.

In 'The Emirates A Natural History', editors Peter Hellyer and Simon Aspinall highlight the journal of Captain Atkins Hamerton, the first European known to have visited Al Ain Oases in 1840, in which he notes, "The Brymee dates are considered superior to any produced in the province of Oman."

It is no wonder that ancient cultures called the date palm "the tree of life."

The date palm was not only a vital source of sustenance for local peoples, but virtually every part of the tree was put to good use. Dried date-palm fronds, known as "arish," were used to construct houses, shelters, and windbreaks in the desert. Dried and split palm leaves, known as "khooss," were woven to make floor mats and storage containers.

Keeping the focus on the humble date fruit and local traditions, the Liwa Date Festival in Abu Dhabi's Al Dhafra region highlights the date palm's importance within Emirati culture and heritage.

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Publication:WAM - United Arab Emirates News Agency
Geographic Code:7UNIT
Date:Jul 30, 2019
Words:557
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