On a sunny Saturday morning, visitors gathered at Fagnoon Art Village on the outskirts of Cairo for the third annual Mahragan El-Nakheel, or date palm festival.
The organisers wisely held the event at the art centre on Marioutiya Road, far away from the city centre, meaning that even the most restless city-dweller could not just drop by for a minute.
Having come so far, we visitors had no choice but to slow down, enjoy the natural tempo of life and celebrate the rich gifts of the palm tree - which was exactly the aim of the event, organized by Slow Food Cairo in collaboration with Nawaya environmental initiative.
The slow food movement is a part of a global trend that seeks to oppose the “fast food” approach. “Food is good when you know where the ingredients come from and you are fair to the producers,” stated the organisers of the festival.
Their main goals are to raise awareness of the organic food production process and to build a community which shares the ideas of fair trade, sustainable agriculture and healthy nutrition.
To plant these ideas into the minds of city folk, events such as Mahragan El-Nakhl are held. On Saturday, simple pleasures like climbing the date palm tree, creating ropes and furniture, riding a swing made of a palm trunk and, of course, tasting and cooking dates in all forms kept expatriates and Egyptians, kids and grownups occupied from 10am until the evening.
The palm is a great example of a full-cycle organic production. It has a lot to offer apart from the fruit. Trunk, palm fronds, leaves - all parts are traditionally put into use, and there still is scope for new inventions.
Rayhanna Naturals, Ma7ali, Ma7sool productions, Eish and Malh, Reefy, Habiba Organic Farm and other local producers presented their ideas at the festival, ranging from date-based natural cosmetics to home accessories embellished with coloured date pits.
“I came to the conclusion that anything cooked with dates - be it a milkshake or a pizza - tastes like dates,” - says Layla, who was attending the event. This is very true. One exception may be date coffee (rich colour, no caffeine, a lot of sugar and spices), but that is made of crushed date pits.
The date is not your multifunctional soya bean, an edible substance with no character which can disguise and hide itself in any food. Rather, the strong sweetness of this palm fruit overpowers any spice or taste.