Breaking the Fast of Ramadan – A Date with Dates

date palm bw (2)

I cheated on WordPress.  (They host this blog.) I don’t dabble in too many social networking sites, but tried one recently where you post a photo every day for a year. I love the idea of that! But then I only lasted for a couple of weeks.  Really weak, I know. During my brief affair, I kept finding myself photographing dates – date snacks, date trees pregnant with soon-to-be edible dates, packaged-up, beautiful dates.  I don’t think I had ever eaten a date before moving here so they will always remind me of our time here. They were a critical part of Bedouins’ diet in the desert since they were readily available, easy to transport, satisfying and nutritious, and they are still a popular snack in the region. Traditionally they are the first thing eaten when breaking the daily fast of Ramadan at sunset.  Stores here are brimming with piles of different varieties in preparation for the holy month. Since Ramadan starts on June 28th which is just around the corner, this post is dedicated to rich, satisfying and flavorful dates!

Date palms in Oman

Date palms in Oman


All of trees around town right now have netted bags of soon-to-be edible dates


Date palm leaves near my house framing the Burj Khalifa

Date palm leaves near my house framing the Burj Khalifa

date palm bw (1)


piles of dates at the Dubai fish souq

piles of dates at the Dubai fish souq


Dates are not the prettiest fruit around, but Bateel makes them look glamorous, and they taste amazing too!

Dates are not the prettiest fruit around, but Bateel makes them look glamorous, and they taste amazing too!

Who wouldn't want to receive this as a gift?

Who wouldn’t want to receive this as a gift?

Bateel chocolate covered dates

Bateel chocolate covered dates

Bateel dates

some of Bateel’s offerings are filled with nuts or candied lemon, orange peel or ginger

I saw this dessert online quite some time ago and have had this recipe lingering around my kitchen.  I finally got around to making it and they actually turned out great on the first try – amazing for me! Thank you Martha Stewart! (Apologies to any blog I read that may have featured this recipe – I couldn’t figure out where I initially found it to link.)

Martha Steward date bars (2)

Martha Stewart date bars

Here’s the recipe:

Martha Stewart’s Date Squares

  • 2 cups dates, pitted and diced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon (I omitted the zest, didn’t want them to be too lemony)
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda


Place dates in a saucepan with water, salt and lemon zest and juice.  Cook over medium heat until dates are soft, about 12 minutes.  Remove from heat; let cool before using.  This is the date paste.

Preheat oven to 350F (175C).  Butter an 8-by-8-by-2 inch baking pan, and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar and baking soda.  Add butter and blend with your fingertips until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

Transfer two-thirds of the crumb mixture into prepared pan, and press into bottom and up sides.  Spread date paste over bottom layer of the dough. Cover with remaining crumb mixture.

Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool completely. Invert onto a plate, then back onto a cutting board. (I made a gigantic mess when doing this because the loose parts of the topping went flying across the kitchen!).  Cut into two-inch squares.  Store in an airtight container for up to a week.


Visit this photo essay in Time to see ways people break the fast during Ramadan around the world.

Ramadan Mubarak to those who celebrate!



About Lynda

Longhorns and Camels is a blog about exploring Dubai from the perspective of an expat from Texas. It features stories about living in Dubai including descriptions of local culture and popular activities in the region. It also includes photography of the UAE and other countries abroad. It has been recommended by several well-known guides for expatriates: InterNations, ExpatWoman and Expat Focus.
This entry was posted in Day-to-day living in Dubai, Emirati Culture and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to Breaking the Fast of Ramadan – A Date with Dates

  1. I love seeing the date palms laden with fruit! Kind of like, for a northerner seeing an orange on a tree for the first time!! My favorite way to eat dates is stuffed with goat cheese, wrapped in bacon, broiled…not very suitable for Ramadan, though.

    • Lynda says:

      I know what you mean… something about seeing a fruit tree with fruit is exciting and brings a smile to your face! Your date concoction sounds decadent and super yummy! ps – I thought about you when I wrote that last post about the food tour – how come you didn’t warn me to take it easy in the early stages? 😉

  2. Kate says:

    Hi Longhorns and Camels, You and your readers may be interested in knowing that the Liwa Date Festival is scheduled for July 12-18, 2014. This year it is during Ramadan. No tastes until after sundown? Iftar in Liwa? I’ve attended once and it reminded me of what an agricultural fair (like county fairs in the U.S.) here in the UAE might be date judging, farm booths, etc. Here’s a link I found for this year’s festival. It gives a better description than I can!


    • Lynda says:

      Hi Kate – thanks so much for the comment and link! I have heard of this festival but unfortunately am never in the UAE when it’s going on. Sounds like a lot of fun though (aside from the heat). Lucky you to have gone!

  3. Judy says:

    Have you tried the fresh dates in the supermarket? They look a little gross as they need to be what appears to be over-ripe – really soft – but when you taste them they’re like honey. Mmmmm!

    • Lynda says:

      Yes – I agree- they are amazing! Dates were too rich for me at first but I’m growing to really like them, even though they look ugly – ha.

  4. Jo says:

    Never miss reading your blog as we miss you
    Jo xx

  5. Laura says:

    Datelicious! I think those chocolate ones would be irresistible to me! I had a vegan/raw friend who said that dates are utilizes as one of the main sweetener sources in that kind of cooking because they are blendable, filled with fiber, and contain lots of sugar! Great images…

    • Lynda says:

      The chocolate ones are amazing! I’ve discovered that taking pictures of food is a great way to get free samples 🙂 When I took the ones at Bateel the guy gave me a white chocolate covered date with almonds…. it was heaven!

  6. Diana says:

    I am all about the chocolate ones…..and why did you stop your 365 photo program!?!?

    • Lynda says:

      I missed a day b/c I was too busy and after it just made me mad b/c I felt like the whole thing was ruined! I’ve been thinking about getting back to it though…

      • Diana says:

        DO IT! DO IT!!!! And besides – – – you said some people don’t do every day and play catch up right? anyway….you will have some nice photo ops for the next months….

  7. Mitzie Mee says:

    The dates down here are truly amazing. I’ve never eaten dates before I got here either, as I didn’t like the taste, but the ones in Dubai are so delicious.

  8. spicyessence says:

    I love dates! And this date squares recipe is one of my favorites!! Ramadan Mubarak to you and your family!

    • Lynda says:

      Oh cool – you’ve made this recipe too? I thought they came out great! Will definitely add them to my Christmas baking list. Hope it’s not too unbearable in Kuwait with the heat!

  9. safia says:

    A very worthy topic for a blog post! A few weeks ago, I embarrassed my daughter by getting out of the car to photograph the dates hanging from a palm tree too … got one decent shot. Enjoy your holiday and the escape from the heat and humidity. 🙂

    • Lynda says:

      Ha! Very funny about your daughter. My kids aren’t really old enough to be embarrassed yet but I can’t count the number of times I’ve stopped the car with them in it to take a picture. They are mostly just really confused about what I’m doing, although they are becoming used to it and have learned not to question me. 🙂 Loved your date palm pic!

  10. It’s funny how sometimes you do find yourself taking photos of the same thing a lot. Last year I went a bit crazy taking photos of roses. Kris finally pointed out to me that I had photographed one rose bush at least fifty times – on different days though. But it was sooo pretty… Obviously different kinda pretty on every day 😉 Oh, my favourite way to eat dates is (usually during Christmas!!) just simply stuffed with blue cheese and wrapped in parma ham. Yum!

    • Lynda says:

      So funny about the roses! I certainly relate – dates are not the only thing I’ve gone overboard photographing – but in my opinion you can’t have too many pictures of something if it’s beautiful, right? Someone else above had a similar idea with the dates – sounds yummy and will need to try!

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