These men in a date shop in Algiers are smiling because I had just been chatting to them and had remarked how advantageous it was to be of short stature in a date shop because I couldn’t see the heads of the shopkeepers in amongst all the bunches of dates. The men told me they were from Lebanon and were shopping for dates because Algerian dates were the best in the world (which I am sure will be strongly disputed by any Tunisians reading this). Actually both Tunisia and Algeria (which are the world’s lagest and second largest producers of dates in the world) export mainly the Deglet Nour variety which is regarded as the ‘Queen of Dates’. This variety is also grown in smaller quantities in California, Arizona and Texas. I know we have quite a few TE members from Iran (the world’s third largest producer of dates), and I expect they will also dispute Algeria’s claim to fame, but I don’t know enough about the taste difference between the different countries’ varieties of dates to buy into that debate.
What I do know is that there are more than three hundred varieties of dates, and apart from Deglet Nour, the main varieties that are produced for export markets are Ftimi and Akhouat. The others don’t travel so well so are usually grown for local consumption.
Whilst doing a little research into dates on the Internet, I discovered that there were many organisations that were expressing concern about date farmers in North Africa moving towards producing just one variety – Deglet Nour – because it is suspectible to a fungus disease that is destroying many plantations. The International Plant Genetic Resources Institute has published several papers on the “stampede towards a single variety”. On its website it explains: “(Deglet Nour) has taken over in much of the region and represents more than 90% of the trees in some places. While Deglet Nour, because it is favoured by export markets, has helped farmers make a better living, it brings problems that make date growing unsustainable. Not only is it crowding out the hundreds of locally adapted varieties, with their myriad good qualities, it is also highly susceptible to bayoud. This is a fungal disease that is marching eastwards across the Maghreb devastating date plantations as it goes. The prevalence and vulnerability of Deglet Nour give bayoud a toehold from which it attacks other varieties. Deglet Nour has another interesting property: it needs more water than almost any other variety. That represents an inefficient use of a very scarce resource”.
I love fresh dates (100 per cent better than those dried up things in packets) so I hope this doesn’t reach a crisis situation and result in a world shortage of dates.
Usual PP: adjusted levels, cropped, then some minor adjustments to contrast, saturation and USM.
(PS: The Maghreb, for those who may not be aware, comprises Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Western Sahara and Mauritania).
Critiques | Translate
klennon79 (0) 2006-01-19 9:27
Great composition. I never knew dates were so special :). Great note! Nice lighting on the dates hanging overhead. Nice soft colors.
gaby (19819) 2006-01-19 11:33
David great and very nice - I like your compo and the smiling faces of the clients -
super shot and thanks for the note
kensimage (8561) 2006-01-19 11:35
A classic image, David--men out on the town, checking out possible dates, choosing the best-looking ones (and avoiding those susceptible to fungus disease.)
The men's smiles make this a nice daily-life shot. I like how you've got heads blocked by the dates, to show how they dominate the scene. Regards, Ken.
RGatward (20062) 2006-01-20 4:10
Hi David, I've just come upon your impressive portfolio for the first time. Amazing amount of yellow on your world map, I wonder if 37 countries is a record, a real TEer!
Nice shot here, in your generally daily life style with an intereting note to add context to it. I'll try catch up with more of your stuff later.
Spent out today.
aloyho (6798) 2006-01-20 7:35
I hope you enjoyed your trip to Kuching and hoping to see some shots from Cat City.
The dates certainly look delicious and the yellow lights from the top makes it more appealing. I find the atmosphere interesting with those smiling faces but can't imagine the reaction of the stall owner. Thanks for the informative note. Well done!! Have a nice day.
roconnell (327) 2006-01-20 10:28
This composition does tell the story of the importance of dates in Algeria and other N. African nations. I've never seen them hung up before, so this is nice candid market shot. The smiles are great. Well done.
capthaddock (28790) 2006-01-20 10:59
Hi David - there you go again documenting life in another unfamiliar country with a restrictive visa policy, the position of the dates is ideal and goes well with the excellent note. Im headed to Yemen, Oman and the UAE next month, I heard of chocolate covered omani dates, I can't wait to sample some.
magiqa (1292) 2006-01-20 20:28
Lots of dates on this picture, but we eat much dates here in Sweden, you know! (just joking... we are 8 million and everybody probably dont like dates...)The latest years we have tried dates from Iran, too, and they were excellent. And Syrian date juice is delicious!
Good and nice picture, showing the atmosphere well!
richtersl (3546) 2006-01-23 12:50
A superb note, David! I love the expressions on the mens' faces and the humourous appearance of the clerks. Those bunches of dates look like some bizarre hats.
I guess all these gentlemen were looking for was the perfect "date". ;-)
Aspirin (278) 2006-09-19 21:29
Intersting photo and very informative..
dilane (861) 2007-06-03 3:43
i like this compo, because it's original
you cut many heads and the picture is always very good
and my wife was born in algeria, one more!