UAE: 'Tastier, healthier' half-ripe dates flood markets; cost, varieties, what you need to know

They are very popular both locally and internationally



By SM Ayaz Zakir

Published: Wed 13 Jul 2022, 10:27 AM

Last updated: Wed 13 Jul 2022, 10:41 PM

Summer is the season for dates! These delicious fruits start ripening as temperatures rise. The beginning of summer brings half-ripe dates called Rutab, which are very popular among UAE residents. Markets in the country are flooded with various varieties of Rutab dates.

Khaleej Times visited Jubail Souq, a popular market in Sharjah, to understand the variety of dates available in the market.

The seventh edition of Souq Al Jubail Dates Festival, which started on July 1, has nearly 15 different varieties of locally produced Rutab dates, and is in much demand both in the UAE and in other countries.

As many as eight stalls at the souq have varieties of half-ripe dates on offer. Ibrahim Abdul Rahman, the sales executive at stall number 6, is overjoyed with the response it has been receiving.

Ibrahim has been in this business for nearly 32 years and sells over 300 kilograms of these tasty and healthy Rutab dates every day. “We presently have about 8 varieties of Rutab at the exhibition and the varieties increase by the end of the season,” said Ibrahim.

The dates presently available at the Market are Sultan, Shakri, Shishi, Khaneeji, Khalas, Barkhi, Buman, and Ambar. “In the near future, we are expecting Majdool, Khudri, Mujbal, Zamli, Nimishi, Khubra, and many more,” said Ibrahim.

The Rutab season

The season for half-ripe dates begins from early May and until the end of November, said Arfadul Arif, salesperson at shop 4 in the market.

“We start selling Naghal and Khallas Rutab from May 10th. These dates are from Oman. In the beginning (of the season), the price of these dates from Oman is as high as Dh250 per kilogram, and gradually reduces until the Emirati dates flourish on the counters at the markets.”

By the end of June, Omani dates are available at just Dh10 a kilogram.

Every 20 days, the price of a few varieties of Rutab decreases and presently, the price of Emirati Rutab dates is:

- Naghal: Dh35

- Sultan: Dh35

- Shukri: Dh30

- Shishi: Dh30

- Khaneeji (Crimson red Rutab): Dh25

- Khalas: Dh30

- Barkhi: Dh30

- Buman: Dh30

- Amber (crimson red dates): Dh30

The vendors say that these prices fluctuate every 20 days as a new Rutab variety is added to the shelf. “Each variety lasts for a month,” said Ibrahim.

These Emirati dates are produced in Al Ain, Dhaid, Ras Al Khaimah, and interior parts of the country, from where they are delivered to the market in three trucks. “These eight stalls sell about 2,500 kilograms each day, and one stall has a capacity to sell nearly 300 kgs,” said Ibrahim.

The vendors say that there are no leftovers for the next day due to the dates' popularity in the region.

Most in-demand Rutab

“Khalas is the date which is most in-demand and is a priority for locals. Emiratis also like the Shakri and Shishi varieties,” said Arif.

The vendors say that the preferences of expats and Emiratis differ. “Expats have different tastes. People from Asian and African countries take home more of the Buman and Barkhi, and Egyptians prefer Majdool over other dates,” said Arif.

The size and colour of these Rutab depend on each variety. “Shakri is the biggest in yellow colour and Ambar is the biggest in Crimson red,” added Arif.

These Rutab will be available until the end of November and the rates will be gradually reduced until the first week of October, before they rise again.

“By the second week of October, we can expect rise in the rates of Rutab up to Dh50 for one kilogram,” said Arif.

Why is Rutab in demand?

Mohammed Kunni, vendor at shop number 2, who has been in the business for a while now, wondered about the health benefits of Rutab. He posed this question to a doctor who came to his stall.

“The doctor told me that Rutab dates have high sugar content and can be used as natural sweeteners,” said Kunni. "He also said that this stage of date is an excellent source of nutrients and has a lot of health benefits.”

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