Kerry gets a date in Cairo, but Chirac loses his

15th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

CAIRO, Oct 15 (AFP) - Cairo fruit sellers have a Ramadan tradition of giving nicknames to their various selections of dates during the Muslim fasting month, and the "Jacques Chiracs" carried the highest price in town last year.

CAIRO, Oct 15 (AFP) - Cairo fruit sellers have a Ramadan tradition of giving nicknames to their various selections of dates during the Muslim fasting month, and the "Jacques Chiracs" carried the highest price in town last year.  

But France's controversial ban in state schools this year on the Muslim custom of women wearing headscarves, has seen the French president demoted.  

"Last year we had named the most expensive dates after Chirac, but this year we did not grant him this honour," said Ahmed Idriss, from the central Al-Sahel wholesale market where Egyptians, were shopping Thursday on the eve of Ramadan, which began here on Friday.  

"He fell from grace because of his position against the headscarf and also because he presented a resolution against Syria at the United Nations," Idriss explained, amid the din of shouting vendors and honking cars.  

The controversial law banning headscarves, which went into force last month, has sparked a barrage of protest in the Arab world, where the French government had enjoyed tremendous popularity for its opposition to the war in Iraq.  

Then, relations between Paris and Damascus were strained after France co-sponsored a UN Security Council resolution that implicitly demanded an end to Syria's political and military dominance of Lebanon.  

This year, Chirac's successor at the top of the Ramadan stall-holders' very unofficial popularity ratings was the less political choice of "Stealth", named after a moniker used by Egyptians for Mercedes' most luxurious model and selling at 30 pounds (USD 4.90).  

Meanwhile, the best-selling among the pricier dates were named "Palestinian Intifada" and "Iraqi resistance", selling at 14 and 13 Egyptians pounds (USD 2.26 and USD 2.10), respectively, per kilogram (2.2 pounds).  

Some of the most notorious figures of the Ramadan alumni such as "Yasser Arafat", "Osama bin Laden" or "Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction" were absent from the market, which lies on the banks of the Nile where merchants used to bring their products from Upper Egypt and Sudan.  

The cheapest dates for the third consecutive year were dubbed "Sharon The Butcher".   US President George W. Bush does not even make it to the Ramadan dates hall of fame.  

But with the US presidential elections less than three weeks away, Bush's Democrat rival John Kerry made a timid appearance, though at the lower end of the price range.  

"These are the longest dates. We chose that name because they are very elongated, like Kerry's chin, which stretches right down to his belly-button," stall-holder Tawfiq Azab explained.  

When asked why Kerry was placed in the bargain section at a lowly three pounds a kilo - only half a pound more than Sharon - Mamduh quipped: "Because they're all bastards who want to kill the Arabs".  

Dates are the favourite delicacy for Muslims when they break the daily dawn-to-dusk fast and sellers give them nicknames to attract the attention of clients.  

A shopping frenzy grips the bustling Egyptian metropolis during Ramadan, when consumption levels soar.  

According to a study carried out by the Egyptian chamber of food industries, meat consumption will double during Ramadan to 25,000 tons for the whole month, forcing the authorities to strike a deal to import cheaper Sudanese meat.  

The festive iftars - sundown meals families and friends share to break the daily fast - will also require 120 million chickens, 22.5 tons of yogurt, 75,000 tons of butter and 250,000 tons of sugar.

© AFP

Subject: French News

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