Taste and See
It gives me a real buzz to call in at an apiary to see how honey is processed and get a taste of honey that is dripping out of the comb.
Similarly, I love calling in at the cellar door to see how grapes are selected, squashed and bottled. Tasting the variety and knowing that you have some fruit of the vine directly from the vineyard is hard to beat.
This is why in the Emirates I love calling in at the Al Hashmia Date Factory for an ample supply of dates. At harvest time (June to September) it is a total experience tasting and buying fresh dates directly from the farm.
Calling in at a date farm is so much fun because you usually come in contact with some fascinating people.
Syed Asad Abbas is the supervisor of the Al Hashmia Date Farms and Factory. He hails from Islamabad and has been managing Al Hasmia for the last five years. He oversees the 15 workers that do different jobs on the two farms and in the date factory.
Syed is one of the most enthusiastic people I have met. He is not only knowledgeable about date production but he is absolutely passionate about the date culture.
Make a Date
When you are driving from Dubai or Sharjah to Fujairah (or the other way) you will probably be passing right by Al Hashmia, on the Fujairah side of Dhaid in the emirate of Sharjah.
Call in (before Syed goes off duty at 2.00pm) to see how dates are washed, cleaned and dried on great drying racks in the drying room (some were also being dried outside on my last visit).
You will see the different varieties, classes and colors of dates. If you thought grapes and wine were complex, wait until you see the different types of dates and the names that have been given to them for centuries.
You may see how the core is removed (by hand) and how the dates are bagged, weighed, sealed and affixed with the famous Al Hashmia sticker.
Ask if you can go into the cool room. From 44 degrees outside to minus 26 inside it is a significant temperature transition that will leave your glasses fogged up upon exiting. Inside the cool room are the raw, undried dates that Emiratis love to eat prior to Ramadan.
The Best Dates
I love the ‘khlas’ dates (from the Arabic ‘khalasah’ meaning quintessence). These dates are soft, sweet and sensual. But you need to try for yourself and come up with your own favorite. Then, you’ll want different dates for different occasions—with coffee, with milk, with special food, as a pick me up or to break the Ramadan fast like the Prophet Mohammed.
What’s your favorite date?
Is Al Hashmia the source of the best dates in the Emirates? That’s my judgment but John Paul Jones in his book, ‘If Olaya Street Could Talk’, taught me an important lesson. Visiting a date palm grove in Qassim, Saudi Arabia he learned this tip about date protocol: “Always praise the quality of the dates from the inhabitant’s town and always say they are the finest in all of Arabia.” (p75)
Check my Directions from Dubai to Fujairah (at the 69 kms mark) to pinpoint the exact location of Al Hashmia.
If you need to contact the office to say you are coming, the phone number is: (06) 5748888. Syed’s mobile phone number is: 050 8843993. Tell him you read about him and his date farm from ‘Experiencing the Emirates’.
Date Palm, Wikipedia.
The Arabian Date Palm by Frances LaBonte, RBM, 30 May 2008.
Imbibing the Emirates, ETE, 1 April 2007.
On Related Sites
Boat Building Industry Sinking in Fujairah, Fujairah in Focus, 4 September 2009.
Coming Second or Losing in the America’s Cup, America’s Cup in the UAE, 4 September 2009.
Dr Geoff Pound
Geoff can be contacted by email at geoffpound(at)gmail.com on Facebook and Twitter.
Ask him for details about advertizing and links on his sites.
Image: Syed Asad Abbas and some scenes from Al Hashmia.
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