Apr 25, 2006

A trip to Mecca .... California!

Believe it or not, after driving for 7 hours only, we made it from Santa Clara to Mecca! :-)

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!


  1. that's interesting.
    a date show in mecca, california?!

    hehe. date cake is unbelievably good.

  2. Really enjoyed this post, so interesting! Had no idea they even had palm tress that bore dates in the States - just assumed they all bore cocunuts! ;) Sounds like ou guys had a great time...lovely!

  3. Thanks for the reminder of my homestate! I remember the first time I saw Oleander bushes in Petra and thought "Those are California freeway divider bushes...in Jordan!" Duh!

    Yes, Jordan's climate reminds me so much of Southern California...just wish the beach wasn't so far away.

  4. born and raised here and never knew there was a date festival. who knew!

  5. I like that , bs is it like a town ther or just a festivals name , i remember when i was there , i saw a town called damascus , another one lebanon , fa it sounds fun :)

  6. Officially cool :D

  7. I have been a resident of Mecca all of my life and now the Chair of the Community Council. I would like to correct your posting on Mecca. Yes, we do have a lot of date trees but do not host the annual date festival. The festival is in Indio, just 13 miles from Mecca. Please, if you have any question about Mecca please contact me at;

  8. Nice article! By the way, Spanish missionaries did not bring date palms with them. They were introduced at the turn of the last century to Southern California from Iraq. Just setting the record straight.