AL-AHSA, Saudi Arabiainfo-icon: Datesinfo-icon are a staple in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle Eastinfo-icon, both in their own right and as a common ingredient in local dishes. In particular, they form an important part of the diet of Muslims during Ramadan, when they are traditionally eaten every evening to break the fast.

Al-Ahsa, in eastern Saudi Arabia, is the largest date-palm oasis in the worldinfo-icon, with about 3 million trees spread across 30,000 acres. It is particularly famous for the khalasah date -- known in Saudi Arabia as khlas, a word that loosely translates as "quintessential" -- which is routinely named in polls as the best date in the world.

In the Islamic tradition, dates are the foodinfo-icon the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) ate when he broke his fast.

The date palm, called "nakhl" in Arabic, and the fruit, called "tamr," are mentioned more than any other fruit-bearing plant in the Qur'an, and are symbols closely associated with Islam and Muslims.

Date palms are now grown extensively around the world. There are about 240 to 360 varieties, and the flavor of each is greatly influenced by the soil and weather conditions in the area where they are grown. Amir Hajjinfo-icon, Saidy, Khadrawy and Medjool are some of the finest varieties, known for their rich flavors and superior quality.

The Ajwah variety, however, has particular religious and medicinal significance. The Prophet said: "Ajwah dates are from Paradise."

Every year, Al-Ahsa hosts a dates festival in an area covering 3,600 square meters, featuring government agenciesinfo-icon and companies that grow and sell dates.

The strategic vision of the festival is for Al-Ahsa to become a focal point for the dates industry, by transforming them from simply being an agricultural item to a distinctive product for investment, tourism and the economyinfo-icon.

The festival aims to develop the concepts of agricultural marketing, quality production and communication between farmers and trader.