x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Shop that sells a date for every occasion

August is poor month for the fruit but Ramadan started earlier this year and popularity has grown among for the expatriates.

A plane streaks across the sky under the waning moon that signals the approach of the last quarter of Ramadan. Many people will be travelling abroad for the Eid holiday.
A plane streaks across the sky under the waning moon that signals the approach of the last quarter of Ramadan. Many people will be travelling abroad for the Eid holiday.

SHARJAH // As you enter Khlas Malaki Dates, the air is thick and pungent with the scent of the fruit. The dates are piled everywhere, stacked waist-high in front of glass displays that contain yet more of the vacuum-packed delicacies. Some are plain, some paler than others, and others have nuts inside them. Around the large window are handmade, glossy boxes and next to them lie presentation trays laden with more dates.

According to Yasir Waheed Mariani, the manager of the shop, sales this August are 50 per cent up on the same period last year. But that is because Ramadan started earlier in the calendar month, he said. In general, "this year is not so good for a few reasons", he said. "There are not as many people buying. August is usually a bad time because the dates are not in season yet. "There are fresh dates but they are very soft and we don't want to eat into the year's supply."

Jane Sanidad, who has worked at Khlas Malaki Dates since 2008, said there has been an increasingly diverse range of customers in the store in recent years. "Some people know what they are looking for when they come in, while others need the differences explained to them," she said. "We have our regulars and some drive from all over the UAE. Our customers are not only Emirati or Arab but are also from Europe and Russia."

As expatriate customers have become more used to buying and eating dates, their tastes have become more sophisticated. Mr Mariani compared the skills needed to fully enjoy different dates with those employed to distinguish types of chocolate. "If they don't know what it tasted like before, and they like their first taste, how can they then tell the difference between Italian chocolate and Swiss chocolate?"

He has watched the popularity of dates grow among the expatriate community. "A few years ago, nobody outside the Middle East knew much about dates. They may have known what they were, but they didn't know there were different kinds," he said. "We would have had some expatriates who came in who bought gifts for the family at home and then they would learn about it." Ahmed Mohammad, 36, from Dubai, was trying to choose between minifi dry, umkibar, Khadri choco and Saghi dates.

"I work here in Sharjah and have always got my dates here," he said. "My family ask me to pick up dates when I pass by. I usually call in about once a month." @Email:eharnan@thenational.ae