“Welcome o ladies and gentlemen, feel free to taste our dates.” A shop keeper shouted from a small kiosk that provided instant noodles, tea, and coffee. As more buses parked in the white-sandy open field, he was even more excited, “Here we have any kind of dates; ajwa (the most expensive one), sukari (sticky and perhaps the sweetest one), ruthob (drier than sukari), and the young one. We have chocolates too.”
No wonder the pilgrims who had just come down from the red, blue, gray, yellow, black, or white buses were consumed with seduction. They went down the bus like ants coming out of the nest. The more people ‘agitated’ by his message the more confident he was. “Don’t worry o ladies, Real, Rupiah, or Dollar are available here.”
Smile appeared on the faces of each pilgrims, especially the ladies whom style were similar; White powder with large sunglasses to cover the gaze of ‘souvenir hunt’ that so blazing in the eyes.
“I’m looking for ajwa, a friend of mine request it.” Said a woman. Ajwa indeed one of the most sought after product even though the price is more expensive than other dates. This one is recommended by the Prophet,
مَنْ تَصَبَّحَ بِسَبْعِ تَمَرَاتٍ عَجْوَةً، لَمْ يَضُرَّهُ ذَلِكَ الْيَوْمَ سُمٌّ وَلاَ سِحْرٌ
“Whoever consumes seven ajwa dates in the morning, then on that day he will not be exposed to poison nor magic.” ( Al-Bukhari (no. 5769) and Muslim (no. 2047) (155), narrated from Sa’ad bin Abu Waqqash)
I could understand the desire those who bought souvenirs for the sake of their beloved one. I myself was no different the first time visiting holy land. But now, praise to Allah, almost every month I set out to guide the pilgrims; the passion to hunt souvenirs has drastically reduced. Instead of shopping, I would rather sit on old sofas under the shade of green date palms. While the ripples of water were heard from the creek between the brown tree trunks, some white swans were busy bathing in cold water.
I took a moment to peer into the market which full of various kinds of dates, chocolates, and Arab nuts. It‘s employers who mostly Indonesians were busy answering questions, “How much is this?” most of the questioner were ladies. Unlike the ladies, most of male pilgrims prefer to taste dates, smoking, or queue in small zinc-roofed toilets.
The plantation’s owner named Fahad and he is trully a businessman. High soaring in the white thob (cloak), the native of Medina answered the ladies, local guide, and bus drivers who asked for tips at the same time. The baby face man is only one of so many Madinah’s farmers who makes their plantation into shopping center.
The dates plantation and business are not something unfamiliar to the inhabitants of Madinah; instead those are old tradition lives since the time of their ancestors.
I sipped a cup of tea while empty cups sat silently on the tray. Brown water drops fall from the mouth of the kettle which color also brown, a sign that there is still tea that can be drink.
At the end of our visit all pilgrims were back to bus 47. Mrs. Erni and Mrs. Ema (we called her granny) so satisfied after buying two heavy boxes of dates. “Allow me, mam.” Wahyudi asked gently as he took the boxes.
I too, was also offer services to Granny who was eating a bowl of noodles, “May i bring the noodle, o dear granny?” All of us were laughed.