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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Selling Dates During Ramadan:
July 18, 2013





This background should help you understand the article below:

Shortly before Ramadan in 2013, the Egyptian people revolted against the rule of President Mohamed Morsi, who had held power for just one year. They secured millions of signatures on a petition demanding an end to his Presidency, which led Defense Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to remove him from office.

In the U.S., President Barack Obama responded to this leadership change by criticizing the Egyptian army for ending the "legitimate" presidency. The U.S. froze its foreign aid to Egypt. This and other missteps by the U.S. government infuriated many Egyptians toward President Obama, his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Ambassador Ann Patterson.

Such was the mood in Cairo as Ramadan 2013 approached.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: In Egypt, these lanterns are traditionally used during Ramadan. In the month of Shaaban, which immediately precedes Ramadan, many merchants in Cairo operate shops that sell large numbers of these lamps. Click on the photo to see more detail.

The article below originally appeared in Arabic in July 2013 on the web site. It is summarized here — this is not a complete translation.



Sisi and the Revolution Are the Most Expensive Types of Ramadan Dates in Egypt

The names merchants in the markets of Cairo and Al-Manib in Giza gave to the dates they were selling during Ramadan reflected their feelings and opinions about the political events in Egypt.

The name of Defense Minister General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was the most popular name for dates, especially since he became very popular. The Egyptian people had felt a deep level of anger toward President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood. They appreciated al-Sisi's courage in making the historic decision to depose President Morsi and turn the matter over to the President of the Supreme Constitutional Court Chancellor Adly Mansour.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: This portrait shows Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In this year's market, poor-quality dates were named after former President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, along with the name of U.S. President Obama and the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt, Ann Patterson. This expressed Egyptians' rejection of the position the U.S. government took in support of the Muslim Brotherhood after Morsi was deposed June 30.




Quality and Sweet Taste

Ahmed Hassan, 52, a date seller and member of the Chamber of Commerce in Cairo, said: "The names of celebrities on different dates in the Egyptian markets at this time of year are considered a popular indicator of whose names are trending."

He explained that date dealers met in the last week of the month of Shaaban [the month before Ramadan] after the calm that arose on June 30 by removing Morsi, which allowed people to return to the streets and markets freely and safely. They decided to use the name of Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi on the luxury varieties of dates. A kilo cost 35-40 Egyptian pounds and was characterized by its yellowish brown color in addition to the quality and sweetness of the taste. The price of the dates named "revolution" was 33 Egyptian pounds, as a nod to the role played by the protest movement in the face of The Brotherhood's dictatorship.

The name "Tammarod", which was the name of the 2013 grassroots movement petitioning for the removal of President Morsi, was given to a type of luxury dates that sold for 30 Egyptian pounds per kilo. Dates named "Tahrir Square" cost 28 Egyptian pounds per kilo. There were also varieties named Hamdan Sabahi, the Salvation Front, and the Constitutional Court. The prices of these items ranged from 20 to 26 pounds.

Date Sellers



The Story of Jimmy Carter

Egyptians have been assigning attractive names to the varieties of dates since the historic visit by U.S. President Jimmy Carter to Cairo in the late 1970's. Merchants celebrated the visit by using the name "Jimmy" for the luxury dates. Since then, naming dates has become a kind of promotion and publicity year over year.

The names assigned to the varieties of traditional dates are not chosen randomly or individually, but rather through consulting the largest traders of dates in the market. Each name is designed to attract people.



This Year's Prices [In 2013]

As for the high prices of dates this year, Hassan said that prices have all increased in the past three months due to the conditions experienced by Egypt before President Morsi was deposed, especially related to the shortage of diesel and gasoline. This led to high prices of transporting dates from the storage places in the oases, Sinai, and Aswan to shops in different markets. The fruits for this year are not yet ripe, and the harvest and drying season will be at the end of August. Therefore, the currently available dates were harvested last year and stored. They dried out during that time in storage, which makes them lighter weight. Traders try to compensate for this by increasing prices.

Hassan says that there are about 20 varieties of dates produced annually in Egypt, from Sinai in the east to Siwa in the west. Dates from Luxor, Aswan and Nubia are known by traditional names such as "Malakabi", "Sakouti", and "Bartmoda". Most of them are characterized by the sweetness of the taste and the large size and beauty of the body. Some people find it difficult to remember those traditional names of dates and their specifications, so using the names of celebrities is a way to make it easier for the customers.

He said that the quality of the names applied to various date varieties this year give the general impression that the changes in Egypt have reached the names of dates. Last year, the names for dates were dominated by the names of religious political parties such as freedom, justice, and light after the victory of Mohamed Morsi.

This year, a great change in the scene arose before Ramadan. The names of the Islamist political parties disappeared completely from the date market, and Morsi's name moved from luxury items to the worst types of dates.

He added that there are other types of poor dates of small size, dry, less sweet, and damaged due to the poor storage and survival of last year in storage. Other factors include the type of the palm tree itself and the soil it was planted in. The prices for these are much less. Their customers are poor people who can not afford to buy premium items. The price ranges from 4-7 Egyptian pounds per kilo.

Traders are keen to announce the names of controversial people and ridicule them according to the status of the dates named after them in the market. The poor species were named for The Muslim Brotherhood, U.S. President Barack Obama, and the U.S. Ambassador Ann Patterson.





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