Containing sugar, fats, proteins and many essential vitamins, dates have numerous health benefits and because of also being part of a tradition during the holy month of Ramazan they are available abundantly in the market these days.
“Basically, there are four or five kinds of dates available here. The ones from Balochistan, the ones from Khairpur and Sukkur in Sindh and the Iranian dates.
“There is also the dates from Saudi Arabia called ‘Ajwa’, but they are extremely expensive, Rs1,600 a kilogram, as even if you plant their seeds here, they will not sprout for some strange reason God Almighty knows best. They only grow in Saudi soil,” says Naqueeb Khan as he prepares and weighs a huge plastic bag full of the fruit for a customer.
“There are dates to suit every pocket,” says Naqeeb. He says that the dates he is packing are from Iran. “But the best, in my opinion, have to be the ones from Balochistan,” he adds. “Still, customer is always right,” he shrugs.
The customer whom he is trying to sell the dates from Balochistan smiles at that and inquires from Naqeeb, if he also hails from Balochistan by any chance and the shopkeeper nods as the customer smiles knowingly.
“I have been coming here to buy more and more dates for the last three or four days now,” the customer, who introduces himself as Abdul Baseer, says. “I buy for my household ahead of Ramazan but end up presenting my dates to this relative or that soon after. Then I come back to get more for myself. For this purpose, today, I’m getting extra,” he says laughing.
“The Iranian dates sell for Rs220 to Rs280 a kilo depending on their quality. They are soft and juicy in nature. Most are from Zahedan in Iran. They come nicely packed in boxes, too. And one can also buy the open variety as well,” says another seller of dates, Izhar Khan.
There is also a heap of lighter colour dates among the various types at the shops. “Those are dried khajji,” explains Mussavir Khan Kakar as someone picks out one from the heap in front of him for tasting. “Khajji are unripe dates and when they are dried this is what they look like,” he says.
“The dried khajji is sold in quantities of 2kg and they are prices at around Rs360 per 2kg,” says Mussavir. For those who like dried dates there are also the chuharay, which people like to distribute at ceremonies.
“It is a good thing that people come to buy these dates now if not the entire year. At least they can reap health benefits associated with dates this way for the fruit is known to prevent even heart diseases and cancer among other health problems,” the shopkeeper says.
Originally published in Dawn, May 28th, 2017