A Saudi man inspects dates at his farm in Buraydah, 400 kilometres northwest Riyadh. Fayez Nureldine / AFP
A Saudi man inspects dates at his farm in Buraydah, 400 kilometres northwest Riyadh. Fayez Nureldine / AFP

How Saudi Arabia is building the date trade

Saudi Arabia has another highly exportable commodity – dates. However, unlike its crude oil which is marketed around the world, its date produce is primarily exported closer to home, to the UAE.

Saudi Arabia is among the top three global producers of dates – and production is steadily on the rise in the kingdom. The world’s annual date harvest is estimated at more than 6 million tonnes by the Food and Agriculture Organization. The kingdom produced in excess of 1.1 million tonnes of dates in 2014 and has over 25 million palm trees, the then-deputy agriculture minister Khalid Al Fehaid stated. Egypt produces the most with a 19 per cent global share and about 1.5 million tonnes. Iran and Saudi Arabia each have about 14 per cent of the overall market.

Productive date palms cover 157,000 hectares of national land and Saudi Arabia grows over 300 types of dates. Not only do date palms hold a prominent position in the Saudi emblem or coat of arms, the tree and its fruit both hold a distinct honour in the tradition, culture – and economy of the country.

The fruit remains high in demand at home, however, and only about 6.8 per cent of date production is marketed externally according to 2013 figures.

And the UAE is the main export market for Saudi dates – importing about 61 per cent.

Omar AbuElSoud, part of the AlQasim-based ElBawardy Dates sales team at the Saudi pavilion at Dubai’s Global Village says that events in the Emirates offer an opportunity to market his produce to an international customer base. “We come here to advertise our products – 15 types of dates and 20 types of mamoul,” Mr AbuElSoud says, referring also to the popular traditional buttery cookies stuffed with a smooth date filling.

“We get to know a lot of people here, we learn how to deal with every kind of nationality – we don’t get this in other places”. The company has several outlets across the UAE.

Demand for dates, especially Saudi dates, will remain almost inelastic to a degree because of the fruits’ prominent role in Ramadan fasting tradition and Islamic culture overall. For example, the most fabled, and revered, of all oases are in Islam’s second most holy city Medina, where the ajwa date grows. Also called the king of dates, it offers particular health benefits.

Unsurprisingly then, wherever there are Muslim populations there is a particular demand for dates.

Adnan Al Bahrani, chief executive of Investment Opportunities for Trading, exports a significant amount of its date produce to the Indian market.

The date processing company exports almost all its 7,000 tonnes of annual production and related products such as date syrup, vinegar and paste.

Mr Al Bahraini’s company operates in the kingdom’s Al Ahsa region – which is said to be home to the world’s largest oasis – with ideal climatic conditions and an abundant water table, it alone boasts over 10 million palms.

The gourmet date segment is a growing “fringe” of the existing market offering a more traditional substitute for gifts and attracting a wider customer base with enticingly presented value added products like chocolate-dipped or coffee-laced dates.

At its Al Ghat – Arabic for the sound of running water – date groves, the prominent date brand Bateel draws on tradition to ensure gourmet-standard produce with cultivation techniques emphasising natural methods over chemical intervention. Its 50,000 date trees produce more than 20 varieties – with some trees as old as 70 years.

“Dates encapsulate the heart of desert life: endurance, persistence, patience and hospitality. Dates have been part of the culture of this region for centuries,” says Ata Atmar, managing director at Bateel International. The company also seems poised for strong expansion beyond its core markets in the Gulf – endorsing robust export potential for the industry.

The farm-based team hand-prune, thin, wrap protective bagging on maturing fruit and hand-harvest the produce in multiple stages. Cumulatively, they scale the palm trees a dozen times every season to facilitate a high quality yield – avoiding the use of pesticides.


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Abu Dhabi traffic facts

Drivers in Abu Dhabi spend 10 per cent longer in congested conditions than they would on a free-flowing road

The highest volume of traffic on the roads is found between 7am and 8am on a Sunday.

Travelling before 7am on a Sunday could save up to four hours per year on a 30-minute commute.

The day was the least congestion in Abu Dhabi in 2019 was Tuesday, August 13.

The highest levels of traffic were found on Sunday, November 10.

Drivers in Abu Dhabi lost 41 hours spent in traffic jams in rush hour during 2019


Company Profile

Company name: Hoopla
Date started: March 2023
Founder: Jacqueline Perrottet
Based: Dubai
Number of staff: 10
Investment stage: Pre-seed
Investment required: $500,000

Our family matters legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.


Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5

Bundesliga fixtures

Saturday, May 16 (kick-offs UAE time)

Borussia Dortmund v Schalke (4.30pm) 

RB Leipzig v Freiburg (4.30pm) 

Hoffenheim v Hertha Berlin (4.30pm) 

Fortuna Dusseldorf v Paderborn  (4.30pm) 

Augsburg v Wolfsburg (4.30pm) 

Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach (7.30pm)

Sunday, May 17

Cologne v Mainz (4.30pm),

Union Berlin v Bayern Munich (7pm)

Monday, May 18

Werder Bremen v Bayer Leverkusen (9.30pm)

Women’s T20 World Cup Qualifier

UAE fixtures

25 April – Ireland v UAE*
27 April – UAE v Zimbabwe**
29 April – Netherlands v UAE*
3 May – UAE v Vanuatu*
5 May – Semi-finals
7 May – Final
UAE squad: Esha Oza (captain), Al Maseera Jahangir, Avanee Patel, Heena Hotchandani, Indhuja Nandakumar, Kavisha Kumari, Khushi Sharma, Lavanya Keny, Mehak Thakur, Rinitha Rajith, Samaira Dharnidharka, Siya Gokhale, Suraksha Kotte, Theertha Satish, Vaishnave Mahesh.

*Zayed Cricket Stadium

**Tolerance Oval

The Specs

Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 118hp
Torque: 149Nm
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Price: From Dh61,500
On sale: Now

Dengue fever symptoms

High fever (40°C/104°F)
Severe headache
Pain behind the eyes
Muscle and joint pains
Swollen glands

The Boy and the Heron

Director: Hayao Miyazaki

Starring: Soma Santoki, Masaki Suda, Ko Shibasaki

Rating: 5/5

The specs+

Engine: 2x201bhp AC Permanent-magnetic electric

Transmission: n/a

Power: 402bhp

Torque: 659Nm

Price estimate: Dh200,000

On sale: Q3 2022 


Director: Nikhil Nagesh Bhat

Starring: Lakshya, Tanya Maniktala, Ashish Vidyarthi, Harsh Chhaya, Raghav Juyal

Rating: 4.5/5

Company profile

Company name: Ogram
Started: 2017
Founders: Karim Kouatly and Shafiq Khartabil
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: On-demand staffing
Number of employees: 50
Funding: More than $4 million
Funding round: Series A
Investors: Global Ventures, Aditum and Oraseya Capital

Most polluted cities in the Middle East

1. Baghdad, Iraq
2. Manama, Bahrain
3. Dhahran, Saudi Arabia
4. Kuwait City, Kuwait
5. Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
6. Ash Shihaniyah, Qatar
7. Abu Dhabi, UAE
8. Cairo, Egypt
9. Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
10. Dubai, UAE

Source: 2022 World Air Quality Report


1. Chad
2. Iraq
3. Pakistan
4. Bahrain
5. Bangladesh
6. Burkina Faso
7. Kuwait
8. India
9. Egypt
10. Tajikistan

Source: 2022 World Air Quality Report

The biog

Family: He is the youngest of five brothers, of whom two are dentists. 

Celebrities he worked on: Fabio Canavaro, Lojain Omran, RedOne, Saber Al Rabai.

Where he works: Liberty Dental Clinic 

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

The years Ramadan fell in May





Switching sides

Mahika Gaur is the latest Dubai-raised athlete to attain top honours with another country.

Velimir Stjepanovic (Serbia, swimming)
Born in Abu Dhabi and raised in Dubai, he finished sixth in the final of the 2012 Olympic Games in London in the 200m butterfly final.

Jonny Macdonald (Scotland, rugby union)
Brought up in Abu Dhabi and represented the region in international rugby. When the Arabian Gulf team was broken up into its constituent nations, he opted to play for Scotland instead, and went to the Hong Kong Sevens.

Sophie Shams (England, rugby union)
The daughter of an English mother and Emirati father, Shams excelled at rugby in Dubai, then after attending university in the UK played for England at sevens.


Juventus 1 (Dybala 45')

Lazio 3 (Alberto 16', Lulic 73', Cataldi 90+4')

Red card: Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus)


Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

Try out the test yourself

Q1 Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2 per cent per year. After five years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow?
a) More than $102
b) Exactly $102
c) Less than $102
d) Do not know
e) Refuse to answer

Q2 Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1 per cent per year and inflation was 2 per cent per year. After one year, how much would you be able to buy with the money in this account?
a) More than today
b) Exactly the same as today
c) Less than today
d) Do not know
e) Refuse to answer

Q4 Do you think that the following statement is true or false? “Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.”
a) True
b) False
d) Do not know
e) Refuse to answer

The “Big Three” financial literacy questions were created by Professors Annamaria Lusardi of the George Washington School of Business and Olivia Mitchell, of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. 

Answers: Q1 More than $102 (compound interest). Q2 Less than today (inflation). Q3 False (diversification).


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Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5