Liwa: Residents in the UAE and tourists were spoilt for choice while visiting the seventh annual Liwa Date Festival.
Date sampling, observing Emirati handcraft makers create traditional items using methods passed down generations, to gaining a more in-depth knowledge of dates and the date palm tree through interactions with farmers and experts, are just some of the activities that visitors enjoyed over the weekend at the festival.
"We're here on holiday and decided to visit the festival after seeing its advertisements... This is the first time we heard about a festival like this — dedicated to dates, and thought it would be interesting to see what activities, stands and other things it would have," Guillaume Delagmes, a 15-year-old French tourist, said.
His mother, Elizabeth, 52, noted that they enjoyed exploring the traditional souk and were amazed to learn about the many variety of dates that existed in the UAE.
"It's astonishing just how many date [varieties] there are... The [Emirati] stand owners were very friendly, encouraging us to sample and see what makes each variety different... They were so delicious that we even ended up buying some to enjoy later," she said.
Increase in numbers
This year, the festival saw increasing numbers of international visitors who were impressed by the level of interactivity present at the event, whether through speaking to participants or by enjoying its various competitions.
"Even though this is the first time we visited the Liwa Date Festival, it has been a wonderful experience. Everything is so well organised... And we were able to learn a lot about the UAE's culture, how important dates and palm trees are [to Emiratis]. I will definitely come back again before it ends and will even try to come next year," Tony Rimoldi, a 57-year-old Frenchman living in London, said.
Residents across the country also travelled to Liwa, whether to satisfy their curiosity about the festival or as a fun day out with friends and family.
"I moved to Abu Dhabi four months ago... I've been amazed by all the great concerts and events happening [in the capital]...so when I heard about the festival, I came with my friends to take a look around... It's been interesting... We were even able to talk to one of the date competition judges and learnt a lot about UAE dates and tried some, which were delicious," Alexander Wallis, a 33-year-old Australian expatriate who is a senior banking executive, said.
For Mohammad Hassan, a 43-year-old Egyptian expatriate based in Dubai, visiting the Liwa Date Festival has become a yearly tradition for his family.
"This is the second time we visit the festival...when I came last year with my wife Lubna, and our daughter, Laila, three years old, we weren't sure what to expect. But we were very happy with the diversity present in the festival and how well organised it is so we decided to come again this year," he said.
— With inputs from Sarah Hassan, Staff Reporter
What: Liwa Date Festival 2011
When: until Thursday July 21
Where: Liwa city in the Western Region