Shaikh Mansour and Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, at the festival. Image Credit: WAM

Abu Dhabi: More than 160 exhibitors from 18 different countries are taking part in the Emirates International Date Palm Festival which opened its doors on Monday morning as farmers, date experts and schoolchildren flocked to the event.

The festival was opened by Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE and Minister for Presidential Affairs.

Retired agricultural engineer, Abdul Hussain Nasser, came to the festival to nourish his expertise and to see what the UAE has to offer. “I come from the Diyala Province in Iraq which is famous for its palm tree farming. I have found the organisation and the products on display to be of great quality,” the 65-year-old said.

Visitors can plant date seedlings at any time during the festival paying a tribute to the Union Tree initiative recently launched by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

Apart from the tree climbing corner where children are invited to safely climb real palm trees using a harness, youngsters can also be entertained at the Children’s Area offering educational lectures, face painting and a magician among other activities.

“This is the third time for me and my kids to visit the festival,” said Khalid Dabbas, a Jordanian father-of-three. “The kids enjoy looking at the dates and they have especially shown interest in the handicraft items being made by the Emirati bedouin women. Moreover, this field is of great interest to me and I am seeing the festival progress each time I visit,” Al Dabbas told Gulf News.

Some of the major exhibitors this year include the Al Ain Dairy, the Date Palm Research and Development Unity at UAE University, the Khalifa International Date Palm Award and the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) which is also organising the event.

This year features a new activity called the Golden Ticket where on the closing day, one lucky winner receives gifts provided to the festival by its exhibitors following a raffle. Visitors can enter their names in the raffle every day as long as the festival is open.

Seminars based on three main topics; the date palm market and its penetration in the industry, date palm diseases and the benefits of dates, will run from 11am to 1pm until Thursday.

Celebrity chefs will be joining the Cooking Area, the newest edition to the festival, in live shows which will run from 7pm each evening. Guest cooks will include Palestinian chef Manal Al Alem who is widely recognised in the Arab region, and Romy Gill, India’s top chef who also has her own line of sauces, spices and recipes.

Visitors can receive up to 50 prizes from daily competitions such as the date palm climbing competition, photography competition and the best performance competition where students of different schools perform an act every day.