Saturday, 11 February 2012

Dates...they grow on trees!

I've been back in Dubai a little over a week promoting my book, @Home in Dubai, and I'm staying in my old compound with a very dear friend.  She still uses Mohammed, the same gardener we both used while I lived in Dubai and it reminded me of a little story I wrote about one day when I pulled in my driveway and he was up in the palm tree in the front yard.  I thought I would share it for a little change of pace!

Dates...They Grow on Trees!
Our first summer living in Dubai brought with it the harvesting of dates.  What a novel idea.  I had never really thought about where dates come from.  I’m not a big date fan so I never had a burning desire to find out...and then one day…
I drove into the driveway on hot and steamy day and saw Mohammed the gardener up on a ladder on one of my palm trees in the front yard.  I adore Mohammed.  He has a great smile and infectious laugh.  Every day he would come to take care of my yard he would greet me with a hand over his heart and we would always exchange a word or two and a laugh.  I’m not sure what we laughed about since his English was limited but we always seemed to be able to make ourselves understood and often ended our conversations with a high five.  Anyways, I got out of my car, waved and smiled.
“Hi Mohammed.  Looks like you’re working hard today.”  It looked to me like he was cutting down these nasty looking pods at the top of my beautiful palm trees that had gone to seed (or so I thought).  He had a plastic grocery bag in his hand that he was putting the pods in.
I was expecting his usual broad grin but he hurried down the ladder, looked at me very sheepishly, hung his head and said, “Sorry madam.”
Puzzled, I asked, “Sorry about what?” 
He handed me the bag of nasty green seedy pod thingys and said sorry again.
“No, no.  That’s fine.  These needed to be cut down.  They look terrible,” I said pushing the bag back at him.  “I’m so glad you went ahead and did it.”
Then I finally got the familiar big grin as he realized that I had no clue what they were.  “Here,” he pushed the bag back at me.  “It’s dates madam.”
I looked at him confused, “Dates?”  They were green!  But then as I looked more closely there were some that were a golden yellow and others that were a light brown.  To my untrained eye they looked like they were rotten.
He nodded enthusiastically and handed me one and then bit into another one.  I wrinkled up my nose in mock disgust but he made mmm-mmm noises and pushed my hand, encouraging me to taste mine.  Now, as I said before, I’m not a big date fan but things usually taste better right off the vine, so to speak, so I was willing to give it a try so I bit into it.  I won’t say that I was blown away by the taste but I had to admit that it wasn’t bad.  I smiled at him and nodded.  “You’re right.  They are edible and they do taste like dates.” 
It took me a minute but it eventually dawned on me then that he thought I would be mad that he was “stealing” my dates.  I reassured him that I wasn’t mad at all and he could have all the dates he wanted.  I would keep just a few for my husband to try but insisted he take them all.  You would have thought I had given him the moon he thanked me so profusely.  You just never know, do you?
Dates are actually a very special crop in the UAE and there in my front yard were two DATE PALMS.  Who knew?  Good thing I didn’t cut them down as apparently I would have received a hefty fine.  I learned that there are even date growing competitions and an annual date festival held in the summer.  There are numerous varieties of dates as well.  There’s actually an International Date Palm Conference held every year in the UAE where date palm scientists and experts from all over the world share their knowledge and experience to the benefit of date lovers everywhere.





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