Siwa Dates Egypt
Once an important stop on the ancient date trade route, the large Siwa oasis is situated in a deep basin in Egypt’s northwestern desert zone, just a few kilometers from the Libyan border. Today it is know for its archaeological remains from the time of the pharaohs, its embroidery industry and the rich agricultural traditions that are continued by the population of ten Berber tribes across 13 villages.
About 5,000 hectares of land are cultivated in the oasis, subdivided uniformly into gardens and further partitioned into smaller hattia (plots) that share irrigation wells. The well water is brackish and suitable only for the cultivation of certain crops, including dates (the most important), olives, mint and sorrel. In the majority of cases there is a palm or olive tree planted in the middle of each hattia, although sometimes other fruit essences are present. To create a new plot, the land must first be reclaimed. To do this, the top-soil is removed and the soil underneath substituted with a mixture of sand and manure and repeatedly flooded with fresh water. Medicinal herbs are planted first, followed later by palm and olive trees and other crops.
The Siwa Oasis producers offer both fresh dates and dried dates for commercial use. The three most important varieties are the local Siwi, Frehi and Azzawi. Another three varieties are highly valued for their qualities, but are produced in such small quantities that they are at risk of extinction: the Ghazaal (semi-firm flesh), Takdat (very soft flesh) and Amnzou.
Date palms start to produce fruit after around 10 years, and reach their maximum production between 10 and 25 years of age. On average, each plant produces about 50 kilograms of dates per year (up to 70-100 kilograms and around 30-40 kilograms for the oldest plants). Maturation periods vary: the Amnzou bears fruit first in September, the Siwi and the Azzawi at the beginning of October, the Ghazaal at the end of October and the Takdat between December and January.
Producers harvest the dates by hand, climbing the trunks with the aid of a belt made of palm fibers. Dates that aren’t eaten fresh are oven-dried at around 70 degrees Celsius.
Dates are used in many local dishes, such as Elhuji (egg, olive oil and dates), Tarfant (bread, olive oil and dates) and Tagilla (flour, olive oil, water and dates). During Ramadan, they are eaten in the evening to break the fast.
Production and commercialization of the dates is currently organized by the SCDEC (Siwa Community Development Environmental Conservation), established by the Italian Development Cooperation’s “Siwa Environmental Amelioration Project”. SCDEC has a council of 13 members, representing and elected by each of the 13 villages, and is directed by an executive committee of four people. Besides developing agricultural activity in the oasis, SCDEC sponsors education and training programs.
The Presidium’s goal is to promote the oasis’s highest quality dates on the national and international market, protect heritage date varieties at risk of extinction and assist growers to control the entire production chain – from planting to export - and to certify the product as fairtrade and organic. To this end, Presidium producers learn processing and packaging skills (now done by a third party) and a suitable drying facility will be developed.
Siwa Oasis, Matruh Governatorate, Western Egyptian desert
Presidium supported by
87 producers members of Siwa Community Development Environmental Conservation (SCDEC)
To purchase dates in Italy please contact:
tel. +39 3488741515
Anwar Youssef Sahran
Siwa Community Development Environmental Conservation
tel. +20 464600010