New book explores various aspects of bride of orchard

Anjana Sankar
Filed on July 24, 2004

ABU DHABI - Hospitality, the virtue of the noblest, would have taken a different turn in the Arab world if not for the presence of the date palm. Like manna from heaven, this dry fruit has been the prime source of livelihood for the desert dwellers well before oil surfaced and brought new riches.

Today manifesting itself in various tempting delicacies likes cakes, jams and sweets, the 'bride of orchard' is very much in the economic limelight thanks to the special attention it received from the President, His Highness Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Cultivation has been encouraged and the number of date palms has increased tremendously, from less than two million at the beginning of the UAE Federation, in 1971, to more than 40 million today. Annual date production in the UAE has jumped from less than 6,000 tonnes in 1961 to 318,000 tonnes in 2001, an increase of about 5,200 per cent. And efforts are still under way to produce the fruit in more commercially viable numbers through tissue culture and techniques acknowledging the social and economic necessity to produce this versatile tree at a rate faster than nature can provide through seedlings or offshoots.

The Abu Dhabi based Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) has recently brought out a book The Date Palm From Traditional Resource to Green Wealth, from a collection of papers presented by experts during the International Date Palm Forum hosted by ECSSR in Abu Dhabi on September 15 to 17, 2002. The book has undertaken a comprehensive study of all aspects of Phoenix dactylifera - as the scientific name of date palm goes - from its archaeological significance to the need for further research and exchange of information to enhance its production.

"The book represents a solid foundation for readers wanting to explore the various aspects of the date palm, the science of its cultivation and its considerable economic potential," writes Jamal S. Al Suwaidi, Director-General of ECSSR in the foreword of the book.

The 433-page book comes with five six sections, under each are various subchapters peppered with pictures and statistical illustrations. In addition, the keynote address of Mr Hama Arba Diallo on the subject 'The Role of Date Palm Culture in Combating Desertification' serves as the introduction of the book. 'Archaeology and the Date Palm' delves into the early archaeobotanical and archaeological evidence dating back to the bronze age and the research into the origins of date palm domestication; 'Date Palm Production' deals with the latest techniques of cultivation, irrigation, research activities and propagation; 'Date Palm Protection - Diseases and Pets' examines the various diseases and pests; 'Date Palm in the United Arab Emirates' traces the history and the environmental aspects of its cultivation; 'Date Palm Culture: Country Case Studies' examines the date cultivation in South Africa, India and Sahel; and the last is 'Storage, Marketing and International Cooperation'.

While the expertise and experience of the authors like Mark Beech, Mohamed Aaouine, Mohamed Djerbi, Samir Al Shakir and Michelle McCubbin to mention a few, lend the book the status of an academic masterpiece, the book with its simple and succinct narration also makes an interesting reading for those who would like to know a little more about their calorie-rich daily diet.

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