The original recipe was my father’s. A brilliant self-made doctor with refined taste, he would pit dates with forceps (so typical of a doctor!), and fill them with almonds and his signature spice. My earliest memory of this delicious delicacy is as an 8-year-old kid, watching his every move, wide-eyed with fascination.
For centuries in the Middle East, dates have been a token of hospitality and a peace offering, a demonstration of sharing wealth and welcoming strangers into your home. With Ajwa, we hope to revive this tradition and bring the East one step closer to the West, blending the best of our original home and with the best in our new one.
My family arrived in the U.S. from Iraq in 2008 — me, a middle-aged woman with two kids, alone and looking to start a new life in Baltimore. We had left behind a war-torn country, bloodshed, pain, death and suffering. We also left behind what was once the cradle of civilization, innovation and wealth. It was a world of memories, of familiarity, of family traditions passed on through generations. But the feeling of safety in one’s home no longer existed.
At first I struggled to make a living and a life in my new country and to adapt to the different culture. When I started a career at one of the country’s most prestigious institutes, my family and I started to feel more secure here. Still, a part of me was missing. I found serenity in making food that brought my hometown back to life. Recipes that were unique to my family, when made in our little kitchen in Baltimore, the aroma, the taste and presentation just made sense.
Ajwa was born out of that memory with my late father, and my desire to re-embrace my culture and traditions. I’ve added to his date recipe with my own signatures, rejoicing in the comfort and happiness the process has brought.
Joining me in this business is my son and co-founder Abdullah, and my daughter Jood. To recognize the help we received to make it to this point in our journey, we are donating a portion of the proceeds from every Ajwa box towards helping women and children refugees like ourselves.
We are proud and honored to share our story — and our dates — with you. May we unite over food, and blend our traditions with yours for generations to come.
— Arwa Mustafa