Palm Trees, Dates & The South Sinai Bedouin

Dates in South Sinia

“Wherever water falls, the Bedouin
will try to grow palm trees.”


My name is Hamid Soleman. I was born and raised in Dahab, South Sinai and I work with tourists. My family owns palm trees that have been passed down through generations in Dahab, Ein Hodra and Wadi Feran. I would like to tell you about their importance to our tribes.

Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East for thousands of years. They are believed to have originated around what is now Iraq, and have been cultivated since ancient times, possibly as early as 4000 BCE. The Ancient Egyptians used the fruits to make date wine, and ate them at harvest.

 Hamid Soleman

Hamid Soleman

How do we use palm trees?

Every single palm tree in South Sinai is owned by someone and they can live to be 200 years old. If we own land that is not being used for a house, we’ll usually try to plant trees.

There are 7 main oases in South Sinai – Ein Hodra, Wadi Gnai, Wadi Feran, Ein Omahmed, Al Tor, Wadi Sleh, and Wadi Nusb (this is a very big one with hundreds of trees).

They are vital to the Bedouin for many reasons:

  • They give us food – dates are a very nutritious fruit
  • They give us shade which comes from the tree itself or by using its leaves and trunk to make an ‘arisha’ or shelter
  • We can make small boats from them for fishing
  • We use the branches (once the dates have fallen from them) as a broom to clean the home
  • The leaves can be used to make rope or we weave them into bags
  • The trunks can make seating
  • The trunks can also be a water dam
Palm trees in Dahab South Sinai


Some facts about dates


  • Here in South Sinai we don’t tend to sell dates, we give them as gifts to family and friends. But in the North there are so many palm trees that dates are bought and sold for business
  • In the past the only way to have something sweet in South Sinai was to eat dates. We only used to grow palm trees, and there was no sugar until the English people came here and introduced us to it
  • The Bedouin still like to drink Arabic coffee with or without sugar and eat dates with it
  • When the Bedouin go fishing by the sea, dates are a good refreshment for when we are hungry. In places like Gabr Al Bint, rainwater comes down from mountain and goes to the seaside. This helps palm trees to grow there, and the dates from these are used by fishermen
  • Tradition is that the Bedouin spend winter in the desert, and summer near the sea.  In our time near the sea we’ll collect dates to take to the desert for the winter months
  • The Bedouin make a hole in the mountain to save dates as they last one year, and to keep them in good condition. We press them into the washed skin of a goat and seal it, then store it. No insects or pests eat dates so they keep very well
  • There are lots of different types of palm trees and climate systems across South Sinai, so the dates from Dahab, Sharm El Sheikh and Nuweiba are different to those in Wadi Feran and Ein Hodra
  • The best dates are from Wadi Feran, because there are lots of oasis there and water. This place is near St Catherine and it is a big centre for trade as it is in the middle of Sinai; each tribe has family there with palm trees. People doing Hadj used to bring seeds from North of Africa to Wadi Feran as they made their pilgrimage to Mecca, and so the variety of dates became mixed
  • If someone has 10 palm trees, two are usually dedicated to the poor. If someone has 100 palms sometimes 10 are given to the people who work with them, and 10 are given to the poor.  We mark the trees so that we know who they are for – the owner, the workers or the poor
  • One of our laws is that people should always ask for permission before taking dates from a tree. Each tree is owned by someone and many have been passed down through generations. This means that the fruit cannot just be taken by anyone
  • Dates are very healthy – it is very important in Ramadan to eat them for this reason. They contain dietary fibre, iron, potassium, B-vitamins, vitamins A and K, tannins, copper, magnesium, manganese, vitamin B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin
  • Across the Middle East though, many people think that Iraq has the best dates – Basra has millions of palms and is very famous for dates. There are many songs about them. Next comes Saudi Arabia where there are many different types of seeds - every year they have a festival near Mecca to celebrate who has the best dates


Dates in South Sinia

How we eat dates


Fresh ripe fruit – taken from the tree or when they fall to the ground

Aguwa – these are soft, mashed dates without stones, sometimes mixed with sesame seeds. They have the skin removed and are delicious

Shegig – these dates are dried without the stones, and they still have their skin on them


Palm trees are like us – male and female


Date palms are dioecious, which means that there are both male date palms and female date palms. We don’t know which is which until they are big.

Once a male date palm has reached maturity (usually at about 12 years old) it will form flowers in early spring. These male date palm flowers are the source of date palm pollen. The female date palm yields flowers which will become dates, if they are pollinated.

The wind sometimes takes the pollen from the male to the female or the Bedouin cut it and and take it to the female.


How to plant a palm tree


To plant a palm tree, the Bedouin make a hole in the ground half a metre deep, plant the seeds (the stones from the dates), and the palm tree will grow automatically as water flows down from the valley.

Another way to plant a palm tree is to take the ‘child’ or offshoots from strong male date palms, put them in a hole in the ground, cover the base with clay (as it is alkaline and not too salty) and then water it for 10 days. After that the roots will get water and the tree will grow easily.

If you would like any more information about Bedouin life, please feel free to contact us. We would be happy to tell you more.

Thank you to Eli Twinks for your beautiful photographs of our dates.


The Story Behind The Bedouin Way

This is a note from Sofian Noor, who founded The Bedouin Way earlier this year.


"I want to tell you why I make my business The Bedouin Way. The website was used by my cousin Nasser in Nuweiba from 2004 until he died too young. His pictures are on the right. Earlier this year I decided to build it again in his memory.

Nasser inspired me so much when I was a boy and he taught me everything I know about the desert, looking after camels, guiding, cooking and driving. The web address was available so I bought it. This was a good way to thank Nasser for everything he did for me and to wish him well in heaven.


My biggest dream for the Bedouin Way is to give work for the Bedouin I know and trust across South Sinai and promote our culture to people all over the world. Thank you to everyone for your support.


“Heartful and Graceful, and Beautiful Beyond Measure....”

 Sofian and Eli

Sofian and Eli

A few days ago we received a beautifully written Trip Advisor review that we want to share with you. Eli Twinks joined us as a guest for one of our first mountain dinners. She is a yoga and personal development mentor, photographer, and artist who has a deep rooted passion for travel and particularly the Sinai.

"I have made several desert trips in the Sinai since I began visiting over 25 years ago. Many day trips, mountain dinners and overnight trips too, all so wonderful. Yet something comes along only once in a few years, that sets what you know apart from all other experiences. Welcome, The Bedouin Way.

I am trying to find the words to convey just how beautiful this evening was. A mountain dinner arranged for perhaps 10 guests, all relatively unknown to one another. We were collected at sunset from our various hotels and locations, and taken by jeep to perhaps the most beautiful and pretty location I have ever been, so much so I wanted to live there! Absolutely stunning! The drive alone into the mountains is already something to behold, and we arrived to an opening with a jaw dropping mountain backdrop. This area was large enough to feel expansive and spacious and absolutely cosy enough to feel held. I described it as being hugged by the mountains. And with one one acacia tree in the centre of the desert ahead, it was just picture perfect. There was something very magical about this desert location, no kidding when I found out it was called Gate to Heaven. Of course!

 Mondi places the goat meat on hot ashes ready to be cooked for a few hours

Mondi places the goat meat on hot ashes ready to be cooked for a few hours

Having gone on this trip solo with a group of people I had not met before, the atmosphere was remarkably relaxed, and open, and within no time we were no longer strangers to one another as we sat around in a gorgeous circular area, fully cushioned and candlelit. And.....on came the food! I had been on an overnight trip with Sofian one time, and experienced how well he cooks, but this evening sets apart most other trips by their outrageously delicious speciality of slow cooked goat. Goat can be tricky to cook. It has to be cooked just right - and I have eaten it many times, but NOT LIKE THIS! WOW! Slow roasted in the ground over hot coals, so tender it fell off the bone. Incredible. And so incredibly flavourful too, it was really like nothing I'd ever had before.

We learned how they prepared it (earlier in the day), and Sofian and Mondi uncovered the pit while we were there, seeing first hand how this dish is cooked. The whole banquet, and I say banquet was extremely yummy, and it is totally made with love. Salads, fresh bread, rice and vegetable stew, so even if you are vegetarian you will be totally satisfied.

 Sofian removing the goat meat from the ground

Sofian removing the goat meat from the ground

But really something sets the Bedouin Way apart, and that has to do with who is behind it.

There is nothing you cannot ask Sofian and Mondi - they are open to listen and to teach the ways they have been raised in. The Bedouin culture is truly fascinating, the more I experience the more humble I become. The more I learn, the more I wish to learn. The more I uncover, the more there is to uncover. 25 years ago changed my whole outlook on life, and it continues to teach the most humbling ways. We have so much to learn from a culture relatively untouched in ways that we have lost sight of. Quiet, earthed, connected, and so graceful.

The evening was perfect. Not overly long but absolutely long enough, we were there for about 4 hours, but of course, it is possible to stay longer, or overnight too. Personally i could have stayed the whole week! Plenty of time spent talking, eating, and listening to the quiet, and stargazing! We were treated to a proper stargazing session with a professional telescope. I saw a planet! and it was a rainbow colour! My goodness, it took a while to focus and find one, but once I did I felt I'd seen treasure.

 Mondi tending to the fire

Mondi tending to the fire

So I urge anyone who is looking for a real genuine taste of the desert and of Bedouin life to join The Bedouin Way to experience something humbling, gentle and incredibly valuable by just being there in the presence of, and learning even by pure observation.

Not only is the Sinai alone a deeply quietening place, but the company you will be in by these incredible hosts is gold, pure gold. I would choose Bedouin Way every time, for so many reasons where words fail. If you want to give yourself something to remember, something to take home with you and take away in your heart, this is it. COMPLETELY.

Thank you Bedouin Way for all that you gave and all that you do. It is invaluable beyond measure."


If you would like to book one of our dinners, please click here. We would be happy to see you. :-)