This article was originally posted on Arab America website.
Watermelon: the classic summer treat that will bring a smile to anyone’s face. In the Middle East, watermelon brings more than a smile. Arab obsession with the fruit is completely acceptable, which is why I will be taking a glimpse into the life of this juicy delicacy.
Watermelon is older than you think. Proof of the fruit’s existence was discovered at a 5,000-year old settlement in Libya, and in other historic sites. According to National Geographic:
“Seeds, as well as paintings of watermelons, also have been discovered in Egyptian tombs built more than 4,000 years ago, including King Tut’s.”
With time, watermelon moved from North Africa to the Mediterranean before making its way to the rest of the world. Nowadays, the fruit is grown in tropical or subtropical regions. Watermelon remains quite popular with Arabs, who find ways to incorporate it into daily life as much as possible.
When it comes to health benefits, watermelon is abundant with them. What’s more, the fruit’s high water content will leave you feeling full and hydrated. In terms of vitamins and minerals, watermelons are high in the following:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamins B1, B5 and B6
There’s also a good chance that the fruit can help prevent cancer, improve heart health and digestion, and lower inflammation. With all the benefits, why wouldn’t you want a juicy slice after a long day?
“Batikh”, the Arabic word for watermelon, is eaten in a number of different ways. Here is a list of tasty options should you be interested in a refreshing snack:
- Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint
A wonderful choice for a hot summer’s day. This recipe incorporates feta cheese, fresh mint, and topped with olive oil and lime juice. See the full recipe here: Watermelon Feta Salad with Mint
- Chargrilled watermelon with labneh and pomegranate dukkah
This dish puts a creative spin on the classic watermelon and labneh recipe. Click here for the full recipe: Chargrilled Watermelon with Labneh and Pomegranate Dukkah
- Watermelon Juice
If you’ve ever been to the Middle East, then you know just how good fresh juice can be there. Why not go big and grab yourself a cup of watermelon juice?
- Watermelon Bites
Sometimes simple is the way to go. Enjoy a delicious watermelon snack by scooping out pieces like Batateekh does: check out their innovative business in Amman, Jordan for more unique ways to serve watermelon! https://www.facebook.com/Batateekh/
Watermelon is more than just fruit in the Arab world. For places like Palestine, watermelon is a symbol of freedom and activism, as illustrated by an excerpt from Aracelis Girmay’s inspiring poem:
& in Palestine,
where it is a crime to wave
the flag of Palestine in Palestine,
watermelon halves are raised
against Israeli troops
for the red, black, white, green
of Palestine. Forever,
I love you your color hemmed
by the rind.
—Aracelis Girmay, “Ode to the Watermelon”
There have been many instances of watermelon being used to protest Israeli occupation and injustice in Palestine. Shockingly, some have even led to arrests. For more on this story and others revolving around the truth behind watermelon, see Why Watermelons Are a Symbol of Political Protest for Palestinians.
It’s hard to believe a fruit alone could hold so much value. For Arabs around the world, watermelon is crucial to everyday life. While the love of the fruit may be a borderline obsession for some, for others, its a sign of strength and unity. Regardless of what watermelon means to you, be sure to eat plenty of it this summer to stay healthy and refreshed!