Shaikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, is accompanied by Mohammad Khalaf Al Mazroui, director-general of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, Mubarak Ali Al Qusaily, head of the judging committee of the Liwa Date Festival, and other officials during a visit to the date festival on Thursday. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: While the Liwa Date Festival has firmly established itself as a venue for all things date-related, two new competitions are adding a fresh new twist to the event this year.

The seventh edition of the festival, which runs until July 21, is also highlighting mangoes and lemons this time round.

"In addition to providing continued support for date palm farmers with our recognised Date Beauty Competition, this year it was decided to highlight that other produce is also grown in Liwa and so the Best Mangoes and Lemons competitions were introduced," said Engineer Mubarak A. Al Qusaili Al Mansouri, head of the judging committee.

Entries for the Best Mango competition were received on Wednesday, and the winners were announced yesterday evening. The Best Lemon competition opens today, with winning entries to be announced tomorrow.

"The number of participants for the mango competition alone was 20, with farmers from Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah in addition to Abu Dhabi. It is a good turnout, especially since it is the first time this event has been organised within the Liwa Date Festival," Dr Ahmad Fatah Allah Al Shaikh, a fruit specialist at the UAE Ministry of Environment and Water and a member of the judging commmittee, said.

According to Dr Al Shaikh, mangoes and lemons have been a part of the agricultural landscape in Liwa for many years but that fact is not well known so the competitions are a great avenue to begin raising more awareness about them.

"Mangoes are a tropical fruit so the climate here is perfect to grow them. But there are many farms that grow a wide variety of fruit and vegetables other than those in the festival's competitions so its great that the festival's organisers are helping to highlight the efforts of fruit farmers in such a unique manner," he said.

Video: A festival of dates

Al Mansouri agreed, noting that mangoes and lemons have been a part of Emirati culture and diet for many years and that mangoes have also played a role in cultural interactions among members of the community.

"In the past, when we wanted to present or send a gift to each other, we usually provide a basket of dates. When it was possible, one or two mangoes were also placed in the basket as a delicious and unique addition to the traditional gift," he said.

"Dates are fruit [and] mangoes are fruit...perhaps next year they'll even have a category for oranges," Dr Al Shaikh said.

Seven categories

There are seven competition categories this year: Dabbas, Akbar Azej [heaviest date bunch], Khnezi, Boumaan, Khalas, Al Farad and Al Nukhbah in addition to the Best Mango and Lemon competitions. Participants can register online or on the day of the specific competition.

— With inputs by Sarah Hassan, Staff Reporter