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Saudi Arabia’s ‘date city’ hosts annual festival dedicated to delicacy

BURAIDAH, Saudi Arabia: Amid rows of pick-up trucks loaded with crates and boxes, vendors cry out prices at Saudi Arabia’s Buraidah Dates Festival, a huge seasonal market dedicated to the sweet golden-brown fruit.

Farmers, traders and consumers descend on the town, known locally as “the city of dates”, in the central Qassim region, one of the most conservative parts of the country, for the 45-day event, which organizers say is the largest of its kind in the world.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, is also a leading producer of dates and the area around Buraidah is known for its large swathes of date palm trees.

“The city of dates sells annually about 300,000 tonnes. Every day, 1,500 cars (carrying dates) enter the city and come to this market at the peak season,” Khaled al-Nukidan, general supervisor of the Buraidah Dates Festival, said.

“We are talking about a large quantity of dates in the largest market for dates in the world.”

Various kinds, shapes and sizes of dates are up for sale but a particular delicacy is the reddish-yellow Sukari date, worth between 20 riyals ($5.33) for a 3kg carton to 250 riyals ($67) for rarer types.

“The best dates are the ones that are shiny and yellow, indicating moisture,” trader Abdulatif al-Wahaibi said.

“Dates that are half and half and are not tasty are paler. Stay away from these ones.” ($1 = 3.7504 riyals)

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