Cairo: The US President Barack Obama is making inroads into the dates market of Egypt, where the premier quality and the most expensive dates are named after him.
Dealers in dates, which is a popular fruit during the month of Ramadan, say they have named the finest variety of dates after Obama because of his popularity since his visit to this predominately Muslim nation last June.
"Since becoming the president of the US, Hussain Obama has been making sincere efforts to erase the ugly legacy of his predecessor George W. Bush," said Abdul Enein Madkour, a dates merchant in Cairo, referring to the Muslim background of Obama.
"The man respects Islam and Muslims. So he deserves to have this superb variety of dates named after him," Madkour told Gulf News. According to him, the Obama dates sell for 27 Egyptian pounds (Dh18.355) per kilogramme.
Egyptian traders have the tradition of naming dates after politicians and celebrities to woo customers during Ramadan when the demand for dried fruits usually surges. Muslims in this country usually break their dawn-to-dusk fasting with either dried dates or dates soaked in milk.
Egyptians consume an estimated 500,000 tonnes of dates during Ramadan, but traders expect higher consumption this year.
"Due to economic difficulties, many Egyptians cannot afford to buy nuts such as hazelnuts and dried figs, which are among traditional Ramadan goodies. So they buy dates instead," said Mahmoud Abdul Rahim, a herbs trader in northern Cairo.
"Depending on their grades, prices of dates range from 5.5 Egyptian pounds to 27 Egyptian pounds," he stated.
For the third consecutive year, Egyptian soccer wizard Mohammad Abu Treika, who plays for Egypt's Premier League champions, Al Ahli, figures prominently on the list of the top grade of dates.
A UAE club was interested in signing Abu Treika for this season, but his Egyptian club, which is vying for continental titles, convinced him to stay in Egypt. The Abu Treika brand retails for 22 Egyptian pounds per kilo.
The lowest quality of dates is, however, named after Israeli far-rightist Foreign Minister Avigador Lieberman, who is infamous for his anti-Arab racist slurs. Liberman is unpopular with many Egyptians for once threatening to bomb the High Dam in southern Egypt and insulting President Hosni Mubarak.
"The Lieberman dates are in low demand and sells for 5.5 Egyptian pounds," said Abdul Rahim.
1. The finest variety of dates are named after Obama because of his popularity. They sell at 27 Egyptian pounds a kilo Mohammad Abu Treika
2. The second best variety named after Abu Treka, the Egyptian soccer wizard, sells at 22 pounds Avigdor Lieberman
3. The worst variety of dates named after Lieberman, Israeli foreign minister, sells at 5.5 pounds