An old Egyptian proverb once said that a date palm is the only creation of God that resembles man. Unlike other trees, a date palm gives more as it grows older.
From the isolated lands of Siwa and Bahariya, where the parched desert mixes with the giant green palm groves, the world gets some of its finest dates. In small factories, the people of Siwa and Bahariya Oases earn their living by preparing the dates to be exported to the other side of the world, in a long process, from harvesting to final packing.
Siwa has over 14 million palm trees, from which many thousands of date boxes are exported to the Middle East and Europe. There are 220 kinds of dates worldwide, yet only 20 types are commonly known among people.
The Siwa date is one of the kinds that require a long period of time until it sweetens. After harvesting a large number of dates, workers spread them under the sun in large areas for around 20 days, until they are all evenly dried and brown in colour.
Later, the dates are transferred to factories, where they are carefully washed before being subjected to high heat in large ovens.
“The heat is to re-dry the clean date again, and it helps in strengthening its sweet taste, as heat gets the sugar of the date from its core to the surface,” one of the workers said.
Afterwards, they are categorised by thousands of female workers according to the quality of each piece.
According to a report by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in 2017, Egypt produces 17.7% of the world’s date production, which equals 1.5bn tonnes annually.
All photos taken by Mohammed Omar.