Abu Dhabi: The 14th edition of the Liwa Date Festival officially got under way on Wednesday in Al Dhafra Region in Abu Dhabi, with the festival celebrating the UAE’s iconic and well-known traditional date fruit.
The festival — which runs for 11 days until July 28 — is expected to welcome tens of thousands of visitors from across the UAE after having established itself as one of the leading events in Al Dhafra Region. Last year’s edition attracted more than 70,000 visitors to the festival.
Held under the patronage of Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, and organised by the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Festivals Committee, the Liwa Date Festival aims to bring attention to the heritage and cultural significance associated with the date palm and Emirati history, and to also raise the standard quality of Emirati-produced dates.
“The festival is inspired by the vision of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE’s agricultural renaissance. In particular, the festival is aimed at safeguarding the legacy of the blessed palm tree, a historic symbol of Emirati heritage,” said Faris Khalifa Al Mazroui, chairman of the Cultural Programmes and Heritage Committee – Abu Dhabi.
“Over the years, the festival has managed to effectively restore palm trees and dates to their merited status within Emirati society, as well as renew interest in the fruit among locals and tourists from around the world,” he added.
Badr Al Amiri, an Emirati exhibitor at the event, said it was important to keep past traditions alive.
“The late Shaikh Zayed once famously said ‘Give me agriculture and I will give you civilisation’. The date is one of the most important foods in our history; it played a big role for our ancestors in the past, and even to this day it continues to be important in our lives and used for many different things.
“Festivals like this are very good in keeping such traditions and history alive, we must pass all of this on to the next generation, because a future that doesn’t know their past will be lost,” he added.
Al Amiri said it was also good for non-Emiratis to be able to visit the Liwa Date Festival, which would give them a good understanding and perspective about Emirati culture and how their forefathers used to live.
Khalid Al Kuwiti, another Emirati exhibitor at the event, also spoke about the importance of the date palm in Emirati culture, and said he wants to pass this heritage to his own children.
“The date palm is a part of our culture, it was as important as life at one point in history, and so we have to preserve this tradition. I learnt a lot about the history of the date palm tree from the older generations, and so I want to pass on that information to my own children.”
Just like in previous years, the Liwa Date Festival will also feature its popular competitions with a total cash prize of Dh6 million.
The competitions, which take place everyday, are spread over different categories such as the best date, the best heritage model, and the best farm. Other competitions include the best fruit basket, the best mangoes and the best lemons.
The festival will also have a traditional market area, giving visitors the chance to experience the real Bedouin lifestyle. Visitors at the market can also buy traditional Emirati handicrafts including many items made from palm trees.
A kids village will also be on hand during the festival to keep the little ones entertained with theatre performances, cultural activities, storytelling and art workshops.
Liwa Date Festival
Where: Liwa, Al Dhafra Region, Abu Dhabi
When: July 18-28
Timings: 4pm-10pm everyday
Total prize money: Dh6 million
Facts about UAE date palm trees
■ UAE has over 40 million palm trees.
■ UAE is among the top 10 date-producing countries in the world.
■ In 2015, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation officially recognised Al Ain and Liwa oases as agricultural heritage sites.