Few fruits can boast the historical significance, cultural heritage and nutritional benefit of the Dactylifera – more commonly known as the date! The sweet crop of the Phoenix is thought to have originated in the lands of Iraq, and known to be cultivated in Eastern Arabia circa 6000 BCE. Truly a magnificent plant, the Phoenix Dactylifera – for evidence shows it has been around for at least 50 million years. Dates are one of the most popular food items in the Makkah region, but also in the whole of Saudi Arabia and the Arab World. They are available in most markets, with many names and in various forms. From sweet and gooey Sukkary dates to larger fruity Anbary dates, simpler varieties to the most expensive Ajwah dates from Madinah there are endless choices to discover and sample. You will find pastries filled with dates, date bars, even McDonald’s offers a date pie as an alternative to its apple pie! Explore, if you wish, the rich varieties and flavours of this special fruit. They can be found in many vendors’ shops and supermarkets, yet as a personal recommendation; I suggest a trip to Talah Al Jood. By far, Talah has dates of the most delicious flavour and superior quality in the whole of Jeddah. In addition, their customer service is truly unparalleled. Upon entering the store, customers are greeted and served piquant dates – completely free of charge – to dip into a rich chocolate fountain. Also, a cup of the finest Arabic coffee to accompany your chocolate date – poured fresh from the Dallah. Inside, a vast variety of dates awaits, ranging from as low a price as SR35 per kilo, upwards. Staff are friendly and extremely generous with their samples, and offer whatever the customer may ask to try. If you feel at all adventurous and are keen to excite your taste buds beyond just the fruit, try their caramel dates, dates with coffee beans (a coffee explosion in your mouth), cappuccino dates, pistachio dates, dates packed with hazelnuts, rolled in sesame seeds, filled with chocolate, covered in chocolate and many, many more. They even sell confectionery (I spied a round ‘chocolate panda’) and tiny bite-sized crunchy deserts. Date cakes are also on display. My personal favourites are the delectable caramel kind and the distinctively delightful coffee dates. For relatively small orders, dates can be packed in gift boxes or gift plates, however for larger orders; parties or corporate buyers: Talah has a variety of elaborate arrangements. There are many branches of this irresistable store, but the one I visit most frequently is the branch on Sari Street (from Prince Sultan Street, head past Jarir, and it’s on the right-hand side). It’s a definite must-visit for anyone living in Jeddah. If you’re an expat, try taking some home with you. There will surely be dates to satisfy every palate. What’s your favourite date? Be sure to tell us in the comments, happy date-shopping!