- Life Style
It seems nothing can escape politics nowadays, even Ramadan nuts. During my pre-Ramadan shopping this year, I noticed that traders have named some types of dates after the two bitter enemies on Egypt’s political scene: “feloul,” remnants of the regime of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, and “Freedom and Justice,” the Muslim Brotherhood’s political arm.
“Everyone is talking about the country’s political circumstances these days. So it is a way to grab the customers’ attention through their concerns,” says Rabeai Sobhy, a nut trader with 10 years of experience.
A few weeks before welcoming the holy fasting month, it is common to see a wide array of nuts piled up in markets and outside street stalls, displaying price tags. However, the politicization of nuts and dates is a new phenomenon, with dates given names such as 25 January, the Muslim Brotherhood, Freedom and Justice, and The Martyrs. The latter is distinctly more highly priced than the rest, costing LE15 per kilogram.
Sobhy points out that the names are not chosen randomly.
“We have chosen the name ʻfeloul’ for the unwanted dates that usually fail to meet the demand of customers,” Sobhy says.
Eventually, the feloul dates are rated as the cheapest on the market, ranging from LE3 to LE5 per kilo.
“This is because we’re forced to cut down the price in order not to store them until the next year,” Sobhy says.
Nut prices are within reach this year, says Sayed al-Attar, another nuts trader, because most of the prices have held steady compared to last year. And the prices of some fruits and nuts are even being pushed down.
“Coconuts, walnuts and dried apricots have witnessed a reduction in price as a result of [the same types of nuts being imported] from different countries,” Attar says.
Naming dates is not a new idea. Prior to last year’s uprising, dates were often named after the most-watched Ramadan soap operas and famous actresses starring in them, such as Yousra, Leila Elwy and Nabila Ebeid.
“It is an age-old tradition that started with the great success of the TV series Layali al-Helmeya, followed by Hawanem Garden City. Since then, nuts have acquired their names according to recent incidents that succeed in becoming the talk of the town, which is undoubtedly politics this year,” Sobhy says.
This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent’s weekly print edition.