CAIRO: Egyptians are known for giving new names to different types of dates. During the past two years, dates known as Mohamed Salah, named after the Egyptian football star playing for Liverpool, have cropped up.
This year is no different. One kind of date, the Corona, is now available in the market for 25 Egyptian pounds a kilogram ($1.58).
“We are used to giving various types of dates new names every year,” said Ahmed Amin, a merchant in a wholesale market in Moqattam.
“The names are usually trendy. One year, (Mohamed) Aboutrika, Egypt’s former football superstar, was trending. Aboutrika dates were the most expensive,” he said. “Other years, Egyptian actor Mohamed Ramadan was trending. Other times there was belly dancer Sofinar and pop star Shakira.”
Amin said that merchants have also named their dates after the Egyptian actress Laila Elwy and El-Shabah (the ghost), as well as giving other names which dealers believe attract a large number of customers.
Amin said that the Corona was the most significant name to date because of the coronavirus, not only in Egypt but also across the world.
He laughed when he said that customers were buying the Corona dates in bulk, pointing out that customers are amused, too, when they buy them.
Mohamed Kamal, manager of a market affiliated to the state-owned Al-Ahram Consumer Complexes Company, said: “Huge amounts of Ramadan dates are now on the shelves while other large amounts remain in storage.”
He said that 200 kilos of dry dates are available in markets at prices ranging from 11 to 16 Egyptian pounds.
“Another fine type of dry dates costs 26 pounds per kilo. As for half dried dates, they are sold in 700 gram packages for 15 pounds and 400 gram packages for 30 pounds.”
Kamal called the half-dried dates “best-sellers.”
In the run-up to Ramadan, the Chamber of Commerce in Cairo published a list of prices for dates. But Kamal said the list showed much disparity in the cost of dates. Ebrimi dates ranged from 12 to 22 pounds per kilo. The price of Syrian dates ranged from 6 to 16 pounds a kilo.
White Ghazal dates reached between 11 to 23 pounds a kilo. Merkaby dates were going for from 6 to 18 pounds. Ayenat dates were between 11 to 23 pounds. Alban dates ranged from 12 to 24 pounds. Wards dates recorded 11 to 25 pounds. Bertmoda dates were between 15 to 25 pounds. Skouti dates registered between 15 to 25 pounds. Aswani dates stood at 6 to 16 pounds. El-Gondeila dates were 15 to 25 pounds. And Qarn El-Ghazal dates were being sold at between 20 to 35 pounds per kilo.
Despite the “Corona” dates tag, market merchants have also introduced the slogan “No Corona among us,” fighting the virus by wearing gloves and face masks, while attempting to maintain social distancing and avoiding crowds. They underlined their determination to remain open in order to make a steady income.
And they added one more refrain: “Ramadan is incomplete without dates.”