Finance crisis sinks price of Egypt 'Obama' date

Fruit-sellers nickname dates to reflect popularity ratings


Ramadan tradition dictates that Egypt's fruit-sellers nickname their dates to reflect unofficial popularity ratings, but this year the global recession has forced down the price of the 'Obama'.

Named after U.S. President Barack Obama who chose Cairo to deliver a landmark speech to the world's Muslims in June, the popular date was expected to sell for 25 Egyptian pounds (around $4.5) a kilogram (2.2 pounds).

"People can't afford dates this year, we had to bring the price down to 15 pounds ($2.7)," said Mohammed, a fruit vendor in the bustling Sayyeda Zeinab neighborhood.

Emulating the Prophet Mohammed, Muslims traditionally eat a date and drink milk to break the dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, whose beginning is set according to the sighting of the moon.

A savvy shopper knows that the good dates are light brown, shiny and sweet.

Competing with "Obama", the second-most expensive date on the market after the "High Dam" which sells for 18 pounds, are the "Abutrika" variety named after popular midfielder Mohammed Abutrika who plays for local team Al-Ahly, showing that politics and football are never far from Egyptians' minds.

At 10 Egyptian pounds ($1.8) are the "Columbo" dates, named after the 1970s American TV series starring Peter Falk as homicide detective Lieutenant Columbo, re-runs of which have played regularly on Egyptian television.