We went on a fun-filled roadtrip to Mecca, CA to enjoy their Annual Dates Festival (www.datefest.org) ! it sounds surreal, right!
As we drove south in California, we were surprised by two things: it was hot and dry, a LOT like Jordan
and from the middle of the desert, this Oasis of tall green palm trees emerges
Apparently, the spanish missionaries brought few Palm Trees with them as they travelled north in California. The palms needed hot weather and lots of water - making Mecca, CA a perfect place for it. But nothing major came out of that. The story goes that around 1900, a plant scientist who owned a planeterium, sent his sons to Iraq and North Africa to bring palm trees. They brought a whole bunch. These palm trees grew so well they were enought os tart several dates farms.
Later, as the Medjool date tree was nearing extinction from North Africa because of a disease called "Mbeidin", the French & US governments sent and brought 9 healthy offshoots. These offshoots, to their amzement, grew so well in Arizona & California. The Medjool date soon became the most expensive and sought-after variety of date. And I don't exagerate when I say that some are as big as apples, and they are very sweet and succulant (not dry). I was surprised when I had them during my first Ramadan in the US (back in 1998).
In February of every year, Mecca, CA throws its annual Dates Festival! The festival is both a celebration of dates, (everything dates! date-milkshakes, date-icecream, date-cake, date-with-rice, date-cookies, etc.) ....
and a typical farm-land county festival, complete with cowboy hats and cattle!
they even have Camel, Osrige, Alpaca, and pig races!
It was also great to get a feel of real California there (San Francisco is very different). The people looked Jordanian (well, Latinos ;-)) - and that's not a coincidence, since California used to be part of Mexico until it was forcebly bought by the US in 1846 (along with New Mexico). Interestingly enough, shortly after the Mexican War, the US got into its deadliest, most devastating war - the Civil War between the Northern Republicans and the Southern Confederates. General Ulysses S. Grant (of the north) said (scroll down):
"The Southern rebellion was largely the outgrowth of the Mexican war. Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions. We got our punishment in the most sanguinary and expensive war of modern times."Ah, if only they read history!