If you’re imagining a romantic stroll along the beach at sunset or a candlelit dinner for two, stop right there! The dates we’re talking about today are the kind that are green or brown, slightly wrinkled, and grow on palm trees. These happen to be one of the staples of an Omani diet and are a popular souvenir to take home after a visit to Oman. Read on to learn more about these deliciously sweet fruits!
People have been eating dates for thousands of years in the Arabian Peninsula. These fruits can be eaten dried or fresh, and are a healthy source of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein. Many people in Oman enjoy dates on a daily basis; they don’t view dates as simply a tasty, healthy food, but as part of their religious culture as well.
Dates are typically enjoyed in Omani households with qahwa (strong Arabic coffee) to create a balance of sweet and bitter flavors. During the month of Ramadan, dates will be eaten with a glass of cold milk to provide the energy for a day of fasting.
Dates or date honey are important ingredients in many Omani sweets. One of the most well-known in Salalah is qatmeem. It’s a mixture of dates, nuts, and local butter cooked together and spread into a pan. This sticky confection is then eaten with a spoon as a special Ramadan treat.
How to Eat a Date
Typically in Oman, dates are enjoyed after the midday meal or around the time of sunset. To eat a date appropriately in public, put the whole thing in your mouth and remove the pit using your teeth. Then, spit the pit into a tissue and keep it beside your plate.
You can use your fingers to remove the pit before putting the date in your mouth, but this is typically only done in the presence of family and friends. If there are strangers present, it’s more appropriate to keep everything contained in your mouth and a tissue.
Be careful when eating dried dates because sometimes hard stem pieces will stay connected to the top of the date and can hurt your lips or mouth.
In Oman, dates are eaten in odd numbers as a religious practice. To be especially culturally appropriate eat 1, 3, 5, or more dates at a time! Local observers will be impressed by your cultural awareness.
Buying Dates in Oman
The most popular kind of date enjoyed in Oman is called a khalas date. The word khalas means “finished” in Arabic. Once you try these dates, your search for a perfect variety is finished! Khalas dates typically come from Saudi Arabia and are medium-sized, reddish-brown colored, and sticky. They are sold dried, in sealed packages with date honey, or with sesame seeds for a unique flavor.
You want to look for dates that are not too light or dark in color. If you’re buying dates by weight, you can ask the shopkeeper for a taste to find the flavor you like best. Some people like the added sticky sweetness of date honey, while others prefer drier varieties of khalas dates.
You can also buy fresh dates, known as rattab. These are picked in early summer in Oman, and are considered an acquired taste. Look for ones with soft, brown sections for more sweetness, or all-green ones for more tartness.
To preserve dates at their peak flavor, Omanis usually keep them in sealed glass containers at room temperature. They will last longer if stored in the fridge (and can even be frozen), but will lose some flavor quality.
In Oman, dates are considered good for about a month after purchase and then they will be discarded or used for animal feed. You won’t get sick eating dates that are older than this, but in a land of date palms like Oman, people tend to be more particular about the flavor of their dates.
Don’t take our word for how delicious dates are. Contact one of our travel experts today and come see for yourself how many unique varieties of this fruit can be found in Oman.
By Shanae Eddy
Shanae is a freelance writer from the USA. She has lived in Salalah, Oman since 2015. When not writing content for Experience It Oman, Shanae enjoys learning Arabic from local friends, exploring the Dhofar mountains during Khareef (monsoon season), and drinking tea.