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Kashmir Reader – Want to make a statement this Ramadan? Get choosy with dates

SRINAGAR: Asifa Naeem scans the market with a hawk’s eye. From roadside kiosks to posh stores she fondly picks out from a wide range of mouthwatering dates that have flooded markets across this summer capital of the state.

“It’s important you buy only the golden or dark ripened dates,” says the 30-year-old homemaker from uptown Hyderpora. “You can’t find a sweeter and a healthier thing to break your fast with.”

Like Asifa, shoppers are making a beeline outside dry fruit stores here for dates which have become a quintessential part of the holy month of Ramadan in the Muslim majority Kashmir.

Muslims across the globe prefer breaking their fast by eating dates at iftar prior to anything else believing it to be a tradition handed down from generation to generation by Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) himself, who used to break his fast with dates.
“Having dates at iftar is a relatively new phenomenon among Kashmiris,” Noor-ul-Amin of Amin-bin-Khalik, a famed dry fruit retail outlet at the posh Poloview market told Kashmir Reader on Monday. “Few years back this was not the case, but now people have learned the Islamic as well as nutritional importance of breaking fast with dates.”

At the Amin-bin-Khalik, sale of dates remains brisk round the year but with the advent of the holy Ramadan month there has been a visible spurt in the sales. To meet the demand, the outlet has imported more than dozen exotic varieties of dates from the Middle East.
“Ajwa-al-Madinah from Saudi Arabia is the most popular,” says Amin. “Besides, dates like Safawi, Mabroom and Ambera are also flying off the shelves.”

Apart from popular varieties, Amin says dates covered with chocolate, honey and saffron from Jordan, Tunisia, UAE, Iran, Amman and Muslim nations are also becoming favourites among the buyers.

“The dates range between Rs 500 a kg of low end to high end exotic varieties which cost around Rs 4,000 a kg,” Amin said.
At busy Koker Bazaar market, clusters of wholesale dry fruit shops are thronged with customers.

Kousar Abdullah, one of the wholesale dealers of dry fruits, says he sells hundreds of kilograms of dates every day during Ramadan.
“Even the dealers of faraway districts such as Anantnag and Sopore are booking orders for dates,” Abdullah said. Besides dates, nuts, apricots, and figs, have also become popular among the buyers.

Another wholesaler, Mohammed Rafiq said, “Khajoors (dates) is also becoming a Ramzan gift for people as many buy them to gift their friends and colleagues. This trend has gained momentum in past few years.”

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